There shall be one flock and one shepherd
12 May 2019
Preacher | Guest
There shall be one flock and one shepherd
Sermon 12 May Morning Worship
Penny Bird - Reader
The readings for 12 May, 9am
John 10:11-18 (not lectionary)
May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of all our hearts be acceptable to you, O God, our strength and our redeemer.
‘The Lamb at the centre of the throne
be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’
‘There shall be one flock and one shepherd.’
I’d like to begin with a little thought experiment. Look around you and mentally choose one other person. Say to yourself, ‘I am not like that person because …’ and finish the sentence in as many ways as you can.
Now say to yourself, ‘I am like that person because …’ and finish that sentence in as many ways as you can.
I wonder which you found easier?
It is said that we have a cultural mindset to distinguish things and people from each other, but find grouping them more difficult. In other words it is easier for us to say I’m different than to say I’m like.
I wonder if that was your experience.
In the passages of Scripture we have been hearing today it is clear that there is one flock and one shepherd. In John’s vision, recorded in Revelation, there is a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language. All worship Christ, the Lamb of God. In verse 17 we read:
Lamb at the centre of the throne
will be their shepherd;” - the shepherd of all of them.
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’- he will lead all of them.
‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”- he will do it for all of them
In verse 16 of our Gospel reading, Jesus says to his Jewish hearers; “16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”
St Paul writing to the Corinthians insists ‘The Lord is OUR shepherd’.
To the Galatians he says;
“You, all of you, are sons and daughters of God, now clothed in Christ, where there is no distinction between male or female, Greek or Jew, slave or free, but all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26-28).
This is a very different mindset from the one prevalent then or today.
On a global scale the havoc caused by division is easy to see. There is only one planet for us all. Inaction in combatting climate change affects us all. Climate instability caused by global warming produces extremes of weather, warmer seas and therefore stronger storms worldwide.
When it comes to sharing the limited resources of our planet we can co-operate or we can fight. That choice is stark. We can choose peace and learn to live together, or we can choose conflict. After the world wars, the League of Nations and then the United Nations were formed by those who had seen the appalling suffering and waste of life; and chose peace. The European Union was the result of similar choices.
It is a fact that our political system in this country is a conflict-based system rather than a co-operative one. Our parliament is adversarial, based on two parties, with benches facing each other across the chamber. That dichotomy seems to be breaking down at present. Perhaps there will be change for the better. Newer parliaments have a semi-circular chamber where coalitions of parties are more easily possible and they often have a voting system of preferences.
This is actually a choice of two mindsets. We can see ourselves as constantly threatened by ‘otherness’ and needing to combat it, or we can see ourselves as having multiple opportunities to co-operate.
We can see ourselves as threatened by ‘otherness’, or as having opportunities to co-operate.
The change from one mindset to another is what the Bible calls, metanoia, repentance.
Jesus constantly challenges the adversarial mindset. He sees no-one as excluded or ‘unclean’, although he was brought up in such a system - one based upon the Jews setting themselves apart from other nations.
Look at what Jesus did.
He ate without washing his hands - a forbidden practice. He healed on the sabbath - a forbidden practice.
He healed lepers and raised the dead, by touching them – a forbidden practice.
He healed the daughter of the Syro-Phoenician woman - a foreigner.
He cured the Gadarene demoniac, an excluded madman. He ate with prostitutes and tax collectors, the despised. He steadfastly refused to exclude anyone - except those who rejected him; and he constantly gave them second, and third, and umpteenth chances.
In this morning’s Gospel Jesus is teaching people, after he has healed the man born blind - and done it on the Sabbath! He incensed the Pharisees by doing so. He challenges their ‘Them and Us’, ‘In or Out’, dualistic way of seeing the world. He tells them ‘For judgement I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.’ In other words - your whole world view needs to change.
Perhaps our view of Jesus needs to change so that we can understand what he means when he says: ‘I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also.’ He is speaking not so much as Jesus the carpenter’s son from Nazareth, but as the eternal Christ. In our services at Christmas we read the preface to John’s Gospel, where we are told, ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.’ This refers to Christ, who became incarnate in Jesus, God’s Son, the second person of the Trinity. This is clear from what John 17 tells us that Jesus prayed on the night before he died:-
‘that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I have brought You glory on earth by competing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with You before the world began.’
His work is universal – throughout all time, for the whole planet, the whole of creation. He spoke it in to being, he loves it, nothing is to be lost. As we read in the familiar verse, John 3:16: ‘God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through him.’
God sent Jesus not to create more divisions but to unite all in him, so that there would be one flock and one shepherd.
St Paul frequently uses the phrase, ‘In Christ’, as he seeks to explain to those reading his letters what a difference the coming of Jesus Christ into our lives makes to us. He reminds the Corinthians that; “You are the very temple of God” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). and the Galatians that; “all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3: 28).
Later on in John 17 Jesus prays for all believers: ‘22 … that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.’
We are one flock. We have one shepherd, Jesus Christ.
What a tragedy that we constantly choose to boost our own ego by thinking of ourselves as different from and superior to other groups. What a tragedy that we are politically divided world wide. That the church has constantly split and split again.
I was talking after the World Day of Prayer service here on 1st March, to a Margaret Hodgskin, who died recently. She was a Roman Catholic, who came to this church for all kinds of events, and helped in all sorts of ways, who said that she found it painful, physically painful, to be forbidden by the Roman Catholic church to receive communion with us. I also find it painful, and I know many of you do too, not to be able to receive with them. What a tragedy that is.
What a tragedy that we sometimes fail to see those on the margins of our society as part of our one flock. When Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche communities, died earlier this week, the Archbishop of Canterbury wrote movingly about him. He said, “Jean Vanier lived the Gospel in such a beautiful way that few who met him could fail to be caught up in it.
His generosity of spirit and Christian hospitality embraced the whole world – supremely those with learning difficulties. His L’Arche communities were places for the so-called weak to teach the self-perceived strong.
His love for Christ overflowed into every relationship with abundant grace.
But how easily we slip into factions and fail to see ourselves as connected to one another in Christ. How easily we identify how we are different from others. How hard it is to remember how very alike we are.
What a tragedy it would be if we thought of those who attend the other service, which follows on from this one, as somehow, ‘not like us’. We have the opportunity of coffee between the services to socialise together and I hope we will all, from both services, take that opportunity. It is so important that we realise we are; ‘members together of the body of Christ.’ I hope many of us will worship sometimes at one service and sometimes at the other so that divisions do not arise between us.
The Lord is OUR shepherd.
We are one flock.
We have one shepherd.
I pray that we may learn, through prayer, to live in Christ as Christ lives in us and to see ourselves and all people as one in Him. Amen