10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep.
14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”
When I was in England in February, I stayed with our close friends, the Kenny’s. They are great people, many of you have met their daughter, Georgia, who lived with us for about a year or so. We first met Georgia and her family several years ago when our kids were quite young. We bonded on a trip to England at a fundraiser for Oasis. After that night, we spent the next several days together and have tried to visit one another and keep in contact via Zoom.
On that trip several years ago, through a wild chain of events, our family ended up staying for several days at an English manor house on the Penshurst Estate outside of Tonbridge, UK. It was an amazing mansion overlooking an even much more expansive mansion/castle, the estate of the Sidney family since 1552.
Side note: the Kenny’s have since bought their own English manor house and castle…Embleton Tower.
At Penshurst, and Embleton, there are tons of sheep, all over the UK as you’d imagine…but, at Penshurst,
like four fields of sheep between our manor house and the estate house below…and Georgia, and her siblings Hannah and Phoebe, and our kids, McKenzie and Brennan, spent the better part of a day and night running through those fields trying to catch a sheep. They were not successful.
However, during the day, we’d notice someone opening up a gate from one field to the other, and those sheep would follow his voice.
I tell you this because our passages this morning are about sheeps and shepherds. I read once that you cannot very easily approach sheep…they are sheepish if you will. They aren’t easy to heard either, unless you are their shepherd. Shepherds, especially in Jesus’ time, spent a lot of time with sheep. Shepherds had a way of gathering sheep, by simply calling them out. Sheep will follow the shepherd because they recognize the shepherd’s voice. They trust that voice.
In this passage, we are sheep, you and I together. It’s obviously a metaphor, but much like the beauty of the landscape at Penshurst, we are live together in a beautiful world. We also produce a lot of smelly and messiness. Our kids found that out pretty quickly. Our relationships with each other are filled with craziness at times, we don’t always follow or lead each other well. There are dangers around us, and sometimes there are other forces out there, thieves such as depression, loneliness, selfishness, pride, or addictions, or folks not being the best version of themselves, or fully understanding themselves or others that come in the middle of darkness as it says in John 10:10 that kill and destroy the lives that we were called to live.
Yet, Jesus tells us that he has come to give us life. When we slow down, or get caught up in recognition of good things around us and the origin of that goodness, we can recognize the voice of the true shepherd, the voice of Jesus who has entered in the fields of our lives, who walks with us and towards us…walking through the messiness to call us towards new fields, new adventures.
We often recognize the voice of Jesus through others. Maybe we literally hear words from Jesus through others such as a speaker, or maybe even a preacher. Or maybe we recognize the voice of God through something we read, or a song we hear. Maybe it’s listening to our neighbors. Or, maybe it’s seeing someone else practice charity through actions or giving themselves away.
We know it when we see it and hear it though, especially as we train our eyes and ears to see and recognize the true shepherd and the voice of that shepherd.
Friends, we have said it before, we are living in a new place with church. The old forms simply don’t work anymore. The world is crying out for us, the church, to be an example of goodness, of the good shepherd, to be reflections of Jesus’ actions and to reflect and amplify the voice of the Shepherd who is calling us towards him, towards abundant life, towards being one flock. This shepherd has laid down his life for us, yet in doing so, has overcome all of the messiness in our lives and is creating something new and beautiful as he leads us into new fields, filled with beauty and relationship.
So, let’s listen to the voice of the Shepherd, let’s love each other well, and let’s play in the fields of our neighborhoods, and the world and be the diverse, yet unified flock God’s marked us out to be…we can do this, we can believe in each other as my grandfather did with me and God does with us, trusting each other, loving each other, and changing the world in the process.