Signpost for 11th May 2014, 4TH Sunday of Easter: Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 23; 1 Peter 2:19-25; John 10:1-10.
“I am the gate for the sheep”: one of several (seven?) of Jesus’s “I am” sayings that run through John’s Gospel. When Jesus speaks in this way he is making a direct connection with the divine name YHWH (in itself a verb) “I am who I am”, in order to identify himself as the one in whom God is made known.
Why oh why does our lectionary reading have to stop at verse 10, depriving us of our most comforting, most loved and best known “I am” expression? I guess the Psalm makes up for that, giving us a wonderful picture of the nature of God as Shepherd. What marvellous music and art have been inspired throughout the ages by that ancient, in itself inspired, poetry. Some have become part and parcel of our daily lives – as I write I picture the stained glass window in our own Christ Church chapel – it comes from the former church building – and through my head runs the hauntingly beautiful version of the Psalm which introduces the rather less haunting Vicar of Dibley. This Sunday we will be singing “The King of Love my Shepherd is”. I dare to guess that every one of the Signpost readers will be doing precisely that, or very similar.
The parable echoes Ezekiel 34 where the Kings of Israel are depicted as the bad shepherds who endanger the flock and God, the Good Shepherd, has to intervene and tend to his own sheep until they can be put into David’s care. To Jesus the Pharisees, as demonstrated in their behaviour to the blind man in the Gospel narrative that leads into our parable, endanger the flock, but they do not see this. They think of themselves as shepherds, not as thieves or strangers – the spiritual blindness common to us all which Jesus came into the world to reveal and to heal. To quote Robert Burns, (and yes, I had to look it up): “O wad some power the giftie gie us to see oursel’s as ithers see us. It wad frae monie a blunder free us, and foolish notion.” It wouldn’t be much fun to see ourselves as our peers see us: to see ourselves as God sees us – I simply can’t find he words to describe what that might be like.