May 3, 2020: Fourth Sunday of Easter
Reading: John 10:1–10
(Translation from The Message – The Bible in Contemporary Language: Eugene H. Peterson)
“Let me set this before you as plainly as I can. If a person climbs over or through the fence of a sheep pen instead of going through the gate, you know he’s up to no good — a sheep rustler! The shepherd walks right up to the gate. The gatekeeper opens the gate to him and the sheep recognize his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he gets them all out, he leads them and they follow because they are familiar with his voice. They won’t follow a stranger’s voice but will scatter because they aren’t used to the sound of it.”
Jesus told them this simple story, but they had no idea what he was talking about. So he tried it again. “I’ll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good — sheep stealers, every one of them. But the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for will go freely in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.”
My first teaching assignment was in the farm country of Galesburg, in western Illinois. Farmers there grow corn and soy beans and some raise sheep as well. Born and raised in Chicago, everything about farming was new information for me; but I was most intrigued by the sheep.
We often visited Kerry Acres, the family farm of our Sister Ann Sullivan. Corn and soy bean fields surrounded the farm as well as pastures for sheep. Those sheep wandered and grazed contentedly in the grassy fields set aside for them. At times, Mr. Sullivan, Sister Ann’s dad, needed to round up those sheep. Sister Ann describes how he did it. “He would holler ‘sheeeep-sheep, sheep, sheep’, then bang on a bucket. He actually only needed to appear! They knew him and he knew them.” To put it plainly, Mr. Sullivan was a good shepherd. He cared for his sheep, kept them safe, and found good pasture for them. The sheep knew his voice.
Whose voices call you to be your best? Whose voices console you during rough patches in your life, make you feel safe? Say the names aloud and thank God for them.
Whom do you know who may need to hear a good shepherd’s voice right now — a voice of encouragement, of consolation, of friendship? Will you be that shepherd’s voice?