Sermons 2009
Who's in? Who's out? Easter 4B, 3 May 2009, John 10:11-18

Home | Proper 17B, 30 August 2009, Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 | Proper 16B, 23 August 2009, John 6:56-69 | Pentecost 10 (Proper 14B) 9 August 2009, John 6:35, 41-51 | Pentecost 8B (Proper 12B), John 6:1-21, 26 July 2009 | Pentecost 7B (Proper 11B), 19 July 2009, Mark 6:30-34, 53-56 | Pentecost 6B (Proper 10B), 12 July 2009, Mark 6:14-29 | Pentecost 5B (Proper 9B) 5 July 2009, Mark 6:1-13 | Pentecost 4B (Proper 8B), 28 June 2009 | Pentecost 3B (Proper 7B), 21 June 2009 | Pentecost 2B (Proper 6B), 14 June 2009 | About Pentecost, Pentecost B, 31 May 2009, | On the Trinity, Trinity B, 7 June 2009 | Jesus and Prayer, Easter 7B, 24 May 2009, John 17:6-19 | How can we love? Easter 6B, 17May 2009, John 15:9-17 | 2 Sermons: Vineyard and a Baptism, Easter 5B, 10 May 2009, John 15:1-8 | Who's in? Who's out? Easter 4B, 3 May 2009, John 10:11-18 | Sacramental Meals, Easter 3B, 16 April 2009, Luke 24:36b-48 | Resurrection, continued, Doubts, and a Baptism, Easter 2 B, 19 April 2009, John 20:19-31 | He is not here, Easter B, 12 April 2009, Mark 16:1-8 | The Seven Sayings from the Cross, Palm Sunday B 2009 | We wish to see Jesus, Lent 5B, 29 March 1009, John 12:22-33 | For God so loved the world, Lent 4B, 22 March 2009, John 3:14-21 | Out with the money changers! Lent 3B, 15 March 2009, John 2: 13-22 | On taking up the Cross, Lent 2B, 8 March 2009, Mark 8:31-38 | News or the real Good News?, Lent 1B, 1 March 2008, Mark 1: 9-15 | Listen to Him! Epiphany Last B Transfiguration, 22 February 2009, Mark 9:2-9 | What do you mean, demons? Epiphany 4B, 1 February 2009, Mark 1:21-28 | Immediately and discipleship, Epiphany 3B 2009, 25 January 2009, Mark 1:14-20 | Right in front of your eyes, Epiphany 2B, 18 January 2009, John 1:43-51 | In the beginning, water and the Spirit, Epiphany 1B, 11 January 2009, Genesis 1:1-5; Mark 1:4-11 | In God we trust, Christmas 2B, 4 January 2009, Jeremiah 31:7-14; Matthew 2:1-12

Easter 4B 2009                                                   John 10:11-18


 In this week's gospel lesson, Jesus identifies himself as a shepherd, an image very familiar to Christians over the centuries.  The Old Testament sometimes uses shepherd as a metaphor for God, as in the 23rd Psalm.   But the Old Testament shepherd metaphor usually is used for human leaders who have responsibility for their followers when it doesn’t refer to actual shepherds with sheep.  The metaphorical references to human shepherds usually depict the shepherds as worthless and dangerous persons who harm those whom God has placed in their care and are more concerned for their own personal gain than for the good of their flocks.

 In the New Testament Jesus is a shepherd who is different from these other shepherds.  These others are  are just hired hands whose care of the sheep goes only so far.  They guide and protect the sheep in easy times, but when wolves threaten, they flee to safety, and abandon the defenseless sheep.  Jesus is the opposite of the bad shepherds; he does not, and did not, place his own life above the lives of his followers.

Jesus also said that he has other sheep who are not of this fold. There are other Christians who don't belong to the Saint John’s community of Christians and who may understand Jesus quite differently. These other sheep are still Christians, but Jesus will bring them into the one fold, so that there is one flock and one shepherd – as long as they conform to the belief set and practices of the Saint John community.   There is little ecumenical or pluralistic or inclusive vision here if taken too literally.

In today's hotly contested religious environment, many voices conflict over the issues of exclusivity and pluralism.   Some mainline religious groups  insist that Jesus is the only way, and insisting not only on the rightness of following Jesus but also to the wrongness of other ways, but also that any other way of being Christian is entirely wrong.  For these Christians, parts of Saint John’s Gospel and Acts of the Apostles are key rallying points for their restricted vision of the church and who can be included in it.

At the same time, other Christians are exploring broader interpretations and options, emphasizing the unity in diversity of God's church with its many differences and disagreements.   For these Christians, exclusiveness is seen as somewhat embarrassing for its refusal to embrace difference in order to focus on the singularity of Jesus.  

In the Gospels and in Acts of the Apostles, sides can be chosen and scripturally supported for both exclusion and inclusion.   Scripture holds up both models, but the church today has not grappled adequately with this tension.  (Adapted from Jon L. Berquist, Exegesis I, Lectionary Homiletics for John 10:11-18,

Two thousand years of Church history suggest that good and sincere Christians who are persuaded by one or the other of these two streams of thought have struggled with each other, resulting in denunciations of heresy and even torture and killing in the inquisition and in religious wars.  It is an aside comment on the human condition that this sort of struggle is not confined to Christianity.

The General Convention of the Episcopal Church meets July 8-17, 2009 in Anaheim, California.  Most of its deliberations will be the routine housekeeping business of the Church.  But the usual hot button issues will be there.  In particular, some dioceses will use General Convention to pursue social justice where it concerns human sexuality and same gender relationships.  I do not know whether General Convention will conclude its work on July 17 with something close to one mind on these recurrent issues.  I rather doubt it.

But these are the sorts of issues that divide us, like the Early Church and the Church through the centuries has been divided on various issues, many of which seem much less important now than then.

Our task is to keep our eye on the main thing that Jesus taught us almost two thousand years ago:  First of all, to love God with all that we are and have, and second, and following from the first, to love our neighbor as ourselves.  Looking at any disagreements we might have among ourselves through the lens of the Summary of the Law will see us safely through any storm that might come from action of General Convention – or anywhere else.    AMEN