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Summary: Jesus is the Gate for the Sheep. Do we allow him to give us the spiritual protection he offers, does he complete us and are we watchmen who are open to his voice?

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Sermon: I AM, Am I willing to allow Jesus to stand in the gap for me?

Before I went off to train for ministry; I used to live in an old house in Oamaru with an acre and a half of land, I had the usual garden and lawn but I also had about an acre and a quarter of pretty rough hillside that was planted in a variety of trees and grass. The best way I found to keep the grass down, and the leaves cleaned up was to have a few sheep.

When I first moved there I had no sheep and I’d never had sheep, but one of my neighbours had too many; so off I went to her house and offered to buy three, I thought I was ‘home and hosed’ as I walked these sheep over to my place. These sheep were easy to control, actually these sheep were starving; I carried one lamb under each arm and the old ewe that I’d brought on seeing some grass made a bit of a bolt for my place and straight through the gate. Yip, shepherding was a breeze and I didn’t even need a dog.

My adventure with sheep had begun, my breed of sheep, well as it turned out they were motley, cross breed, half baked, deviously cunning animals and it was only the fact that two of them were ewes and were useful for producing more sheep that they didn’t become roasts and chops along with the wether.

Once these sheep had put on condition and gained what was a normal weight and a little energy, they were off; at the slightest chance they would push through a gap under the fences, open gates and attempt to sneak out while I was sneaking into their paddock. I had procured the Houdini’s of the sheep world.

Often their previous owner would phone me and inform me that they had returned. Sometimes they disappeared like a vapor only to be found hiding in flax bushes (a bit Jacobean like) at the sewage pumping station a kilometer away down the hill. Each time I would trudge off possibly with one or both sons in tow on the great sheep roundup. I always blocked the holes closed the gates and returned the errant sheep to the paddock, bless their little wooly hearts and their empty heads.

This was jolly good entertainment for those looking on, and us for a while but it soon became a nuisance, then an extreme nuisance, then I made sure the gates were secure, all holes blocked and fences regularly checked. The sheep seldom escaped and I slept easier at night. The truth is that sheep need constant care; they require protection and regular work to ensure they are healthy.

Sheep require boundaries for their own good!

Back to the gospel of John, Jesus is having a discussion with Pharisees again, those pompous religious always right blokes, who on encountering a bloke who had been born blind that Jesus has healed, excommunicate him from the synagogue. So Jesus went to see the excommunicated bloke knowing that getting the heave-ho from the equivalent of church was a big thing.

Jesus tells the man that he himself; Jesus that is, is “The Son of Man” which is like saying he is the Christ, The Chosen One and the one who “is entrusted by God with authority, glory and sovereign power” .

Jesus then proceeds to give the Pharisees present a bit of a serve about their being spiritually blind, and guilty of sin. Then he tells them this. Read John 10:1-10.

This needs an explanation, back in the day there was no number eight wire, and sheep mesh fencing did not exist. What they had is called a sheep pen or fold, made of either prickly bushes or rocks that had been all piled up to form a barrier. Sometimes a natural feature like a stone bank or a glade of trees might form part of the enclosure. How to get in or out? The same way we enter a paddock through The Gate.

The gate was not a well hinged galvanised cyclone netting model. Some times it was another prickly bush or large rock, all capable of keeping out the majority of things that would annoy sheep. But most likely the gate was a man or woman, a shepherd. This person would fill the gap with their body becoming the gate.

This person, completed to pen, this gate would spend their evening and night in the Gap, having swept aside what the gardening shows call sheep pallets, they would sleep across the entrance, keeping the sheep in the enclosure and the world out, the sheep need not be concerned, they could sleep easy, they remained safe and healthy. They had no opportunity to wander off, they were totally enclosed. Any wolf or lion, any thief had to get both past the thorny bushes or rocks and past the human gate!

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