Sermons 2007
"Numbers and Sheep", Easter 4C, 29 April 2007, John 10:22-30

Home | In the Beginning was the Word, Christmas Day, 25 December 2007, John 1:1-14 | What's Missing? Christmas Eve, 24 December 2007, Luke 2:1-20 | Joseph, the Forgotten One, Advent 4A, 23 December 2007, Matthew 1:18-25 | Come with Joy, Advent 3A, 16 December 2007, Matthew 11:2-11 | Darkness or Light? Advent 1A, 2 December 2007, Matthew 24:37-44 | What Kind of King is He? Proper 29C, 25 November 2007, Luke 23:35-43 | Predictions and the Horseman of the Apocalypse, Proper 28C, 18 Nov 2007, Luke 31:5-19 | Just passing through? Proper 27C , 11 November 2007, Luke 20:20-38 | Not like others? Proper 25C, 28 October 2007, Luke 18:9-14 | "We are bold to say", Proper 24C, 21 October 2007, Luke 18:1-8a | "The ten lepers", Proper 23C, 14 October 2007, Luke 17:11-19 | Proper 22C and Holy Baptism, 7 October 2007 | A taste of cool water, Proper 21C, 30 September 2007, Luke 16:19-31 | We hear what we want to hear, Proper 20C, 23 September 2007, Luke 16:1-13 | "Lost -- but found!" Proper 19C, 16 September 2007, Luke 15:1-10 | "Who is coming to dinner?" Proper 17C, 2 September 2007, Luke 14:1, 7-14 | Doors and narrow gates, Proper 16C, 26 August 2007, Luke 13:22-30 | "Fire to the earth", Proper 15C, 19 August 2007, Luke 12:49-56 | "Do not be afraid, little flock', Proper 14C, 12 August 2007, Luke 12:32-40 | "How much is enough?" Proper 13C , 5 August 2007, Luke 12:13-21 | "Lord, teach us to pray" Proper 12C, 29 July 2007, Luke 11:1-13 | "The Better Part?" Proper 11C, 22 July 2007, Luke 10:38-42 | The Good Samaritan -- the Summary of the Law" Proper 10C, 15 July 2007, Luke 10:25-37 | "Travel Light!" Proper 9C, 8 July 2007, Luke 10:1-12, 16-20 | "Independence Day" Proper 8C, 1 July 2007, Luke 9:51-62 | "Three Questions", Proper 7C, 24 Jun 2007, Luke 9:18-24 | "In or Out?" Proper 6C, 17 June 2007, Luke 7:36-50 | "On Grace", Proper 5C, 10 June 2007, Luke 7:11-17 | Trinity C, 3 June 2007 | Pentecost C, 27 May 2007 | "Unity and Diversity" Easter 7C, 20 May 2007, John 17:20-26 | "Come, Holy Spirit, Come" Easter 6C, 13 May 2007, John 14:23-29 | "What is this thing called love?" Easter 5C, 6 May 2007, John 13:31-35 | "Numbers and Sheep", Easter 4C, 29 April 2007, John 10:22-30 | Virginia Tech, Easter 3C, 22 April 2007 Revelation 6:8-10 | Thomas Doubter and Believer, Easter 2C, 15 April 2007. John 20: 19-31 | ""Why do you look for the living among the dead?" Easter Sunday, 8 April 2007, Luke 24:1-10 | Good Friday 6 April 2007 | Maundy Thursday 5 April 2007 | Why are we not surprised? Palm/Passion Sunday C, 1 April 2007, Luke 22:39-23:50 | Party or Pout? Lent 4C, 18 March 2007, Luke 15:11-32 | To Stand on the Mountaintop, Lent 3C, 11 March 2007, Exodus 3:1-15 | "Ways Not Taken", Lent 2C, 4 March 2007. Luke 13:22-35 | "Liminal Thresholds and Lintels", Lent 1C, 25 February 2007, Luke 4:1-13 | Ash Wednesday Meditation 2007 | "Transfiguration and Transformation, Epiphany Last C, 18 February 2007, Luke 9:28-36 | "Weal and Woe", Epiphany 6C, 11 February 2007, Luke 6:17-26 | "Who, me?" Epiphany 5C, 4 February 2007, Luke 5:1-11 | "Filled with rage!" Epiphany 4C, 28 January 2007, Luke 4:21-32 | "The Spirit of the Lord is upon us," Epiphany 3C, 21 January 2007, Luke 4:14-21 | "Weddings and Miracles," Epiphany 2C, 14 January 2007, John 2:1-11 | Schism and Epiphany, Epiphany 1C, 7 Dec 2007, Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

Easter 4C 2007 John 10:22-30

“There is an old story of a census taker who was making his rounds in the lower East side of New York, who interviewed a woman bending over her washtub.
“Lady, I am taking the census. What’s your name? How many children do you have?”
She replied, “Well, let me see. My name is Mary. And then there’s Marcia, and Duggie, and Amy, and Patrick, and...”
“Never mind the names,” he broke in, “just give me the numbers.” She straightened up, hands on hips, and with a twinkle in her eye, said, “I’ll have ye know, sir, we ain’t got into numberin’ them yet. We ain’t run out of names!” (1)

“Numbers. Our lives are filled with numbers. Each year we file our income taxes. That's an exercise in numbers to end all numbers games, and not a pleasant geme either. Pages upon pages of numbers: earned numbers, spent numbers, invested numbers, and saved numbers. Finally we send it off to the Internal Revenue Service with our Social Security number on it. Then the IRS takes all those numbers and puts them into a computer, along with the numbers of thousands and thousands of other people. To them, we’re just and only a number.

“The government knows us by our tax number. The Commonwealth of Virginia knows us by our driver's license account number and social security numer. The bank knows us by our account number. And when we retire, we'll be remembered by our Social Security number.” And on and on. Maybe I’ll just put my social security number on my grave stone!

And that's why this morning's Gospel reading is so significant, because it tells us that Jesus knows us. He knows us intimately, in fact, better than we know ourselves. The beloved 23d Psalm puts it well: "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want." And Jesus told us, "My sheep hear my voice. I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish." (2)

Most of us have no experience with sheep and shepherding sheep. “What was it like to be a shepherd in the days of Jesus? Earlier in John’s Gospel, Jesus says, "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep." In Jesus' day, shepherds were literally the doors of the sheepfold. The typical sheepfold was located in a cave or cave-like shelter in fields where sheep were grazed. The shepherd would construct two walls up to four feet in height leaving a narrow opening for an entrance into the sheepfold. On top of these walls the shepherd would place vines with thorns to deter wolves or any other predatory animals that might attempt to steal one of the lambs.

“When preparing to bring the sheep into the sheepfold, the shepherd would stand in the opening and allow the sheep to enter through his legs. As the sheep entered the shepherd would inspect their bodies for insects or vegetation which might irritate the sheep. Once they had been cleaned they were allowed to enter the sheepfold. After all of the sheep were inside the sheepfold, the shepherd would squat and or lie down in the opening -- literally becoming the door of the sheepfold. “Interestingly, in Jesus' day the shepherds usually did not own the sheep entrusted to their care. The sheep were usually owned by a wealthy land owner or master. Yet, the sheep would respond to the voice of the shepherd, the steward of their care, and only him.” (3).

“In her book The Preaching Life, Barbara Brown Taylor tells of a conversation she had with a friend who grew up on a sheep farm in the Midwest. According to him, sheep are not dumb at all. "It is the cattle ranchers who are responsible for spreading that ugly rumor, and all because sheep do not behave like cows. Cows are herded from the rear by hooting cowboys with cracking whips, but that will not work with sheep at all. Stand behind them making loud noises and all they will do is run around behind you, because they prefer to be led. You push cows, her friend said, but you lead sheep, and they will not go anywhere that someone else does not go first-namely, their shepherd-who goes ahead of them to show them that everything is all right."

He went on to say that "it never ceased to amaze him, growing up, that he could walk right through a sleeping flock without disturbing a single one of them, while a stranger could not step foot in the fold without causing pandemonium." (4)

" Sheep seem to consider their shepherds to be part of their family. They develop their own language. A good shepherd can distinguish a bleat of pain from a bleat of joy. Sheep learn that a certain click of the tongue means it’s time to eat and a certain whistle means it’s time to go.” (5)

There’s a story about a farmer who had just rescued a lost sheep. When asked how the sheep got lost, the farmer replied, "They just nibble themselves lost. They go from one tuft of grass to another, until at last they've lost their way."(6)

We live in a world that seems to be increasingly more scattered and scared. From Columbine to Blacksburg, from 9-11 to Baghdad, evil and chaos and mindless death are afoot in the world. We in our little flock here can almost feel and fear the wolves stalking us, circling around us, moving in closer.

But we cannot let fear overwhelm us. We cannot think of ourselves as only sheep. Our work as Christ’s Church is to translate and transmit the voice of the Good Shepherd to all those who are lost, hurting, and alone, regardless of race, gender, orientation, sect, or whatever. It’s also about following Jesus’ example and welcoming everyone into the fold. We may be the only voice of the Good shepherd that someone may ever hear, the only Bible that they will know, the first real Christian that they meet. It is our job to light the holy fire that drives the wolves, real or not, from the door.


1. Donald B. Strobe, Collected Words,, eSermons Illustrations for Easter 4C
2. Lee Griess, Taking The Risk Out Of Dying, CSS Publishing Company, Ibid.
3. Dr. Charles R. Page, Dean of the Faculty of the Jerusalem Center for Biblical Studies, Ibid.
4. As quoted in eSermons Illustrations
5. Haywood D. Holderness, Jr., Belonging to the Flock , Ibid.
6. David Beckett, Sheep Language, Ibid