Saturday, April 18, 2015

Picture look familiar?

I wonder how many of you, like me, grew up with a picture like this in the front of your sanctuary. The picture of the good shepherd, and the trusting (or worried?) mother sheep walking alongside while the shepherd carries the lamb certainly looks familiar to me.

The 4th Sunday of Easter begins a series of 6 Sundays in the Gospel of John, with this week's text being John 10:11-18.  It comes in the middle of a controversary story about who Jesus is, vis a vis the giving of sight to the blind man.

Given that this story is surrounded by a controversary about Jesus' identity it is no surprise that this story is about who Jesus is, namely the good shepherd.  So, to our questions:

1) How does the Word function?  The Word - in this case, Jesus - functions to tell us who Jesus is, and it seems to emphasize the fact that a good shepherd lays down his/her life for the sheep.

(One word here:  If you haven't yet read my book, Afflicting the Comfortable, Comforting the Afflicted, you may not realize that one of the foundational tenets of Law and Gospel preaching is that in our preaching we must do what the text does.  In this text that means that our sermon must reveal to our listeners who Jesus is, and what a good shepherd does.  This task ought to be at the top of the first page of our manuscript.)

2)  How does the Word not function in the text?  There is little hint of the Law here - a word that says, "You need Christ." Also, the call to obedience is hard to find.

3)  With whom are you identifying in the text?  We must identify with the sheep for whom the shepherd lays down his life.  As pastors we might be tempted to think that this is a passage that instructs us in how to be "good shepherds."  Resist that move.  We are never Jesus in a text.

4)  What, if any, call to obedience is here?  The call to listen to the shepherd's voice might be a subtle call to obedience here.

5)  Law/Gospel couplet?  Here's some ideas:  Unknown/Known, Abandoned/Rescued, Uncared for/Died for.

6)  Exegetically it might be interesting to compare this text to Ezekiel 34.  Lots of stuff there about good and bad shepherds.

7)  The Crossings community offers an interesting model this week.  If you go to the archived models on the website you will find a model by Steven Albertin for the 4th Sunday of Easter, 2012.  He structures it around his meditation on the difference between a "hireling - one paid to care for the sheep" and the good shepherd.  Interesting.

8)  This week would be a great work to follow Henry Mitchell's advice and really celebrate the work of the Good Shepherd.  Mitchell is always pushing us to be the first to experience the ecstasy of the Gospel.

Blessings on your proclamation this week!

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