Summary: A sermon for the fourth Sunday of Easter, Year B
April 25, 2021
Hope Lutheran Church
One Flock, One Shepherd
Friends, may grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and Christ Jesus our Lord.
Once every year we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday. We hear a passage from John chapter 10 where Jesus describes himself as the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd is invested in the sheep because they’re his own. There’s nothing he won’t do for his flock. He endures all kinds of weather. He spends his days and nights with the sheep. He places himself between ravenous predators and his vulnerable sheep. He absolutely won’t abandon his flock! This shepherd is no poorly paid hired hand. He doesn’t do this unglamorous job because it’s his only option for employment.
Of course, Jesus isn’t really talking about farm animals here. WE are the sheep! He’s talking about us, about humanity. We are his flock, his dear ones!
Jesus shows the full extent of his love and care for us. He lays down his life for our sake. He’s willing to die, to face our enemies, to sacrifice his own welfare so that we might live.
In 1 John, John writes, “We know love by this.” Love isn’t something that you learn in a book. You don’t pick up on love by watching a TED Talk. Love is something you experience. And in experiencing it first hand, you know love.
In that same letter, John writes, “We love because God first loved us.” That’s the sequencing. God is the source of love, the maker and originator of love. It’s love that caused God to bring all things into being. It’s that same divine love that prompted Jesus to take on flesh and dwell among us. And that never ending and unquenchable love demonstrated its indomitability and reach in Jesus’ actions on the cross. It’s a love that cannot be extinguished. And so on Easter Sunday we came TO KNOW LOVE.
This love gives all of itself away. But mysteriously, wondrously, in so doing, that love is magnified and multiplied. The more it gives itself away, the stronger and bigger it becomes!
“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us.” This is Jesus our good, good shepherd. And we are his people, the flock of his pasture.
It’s good to be in Jesus’ flock. It’s good to receive that love, that abundant life. In his letter, John takes it to the next level. Now that we know love, now that we have encountered the love that first loved us, now that we know the source of all love, we are called to love one another. “Let us love,” John writes, “not in word or speech, but in truth and action.” A love of such magnitude cannot simply settle into our hearts and stay there. No, that’s not how love operates. Love is always growing. It multiplies and expands. It can’t possibly just remain within us.
God’s love is an outward force. It moves out, it grows and takes us along for the ride. Once planted inside us, love takes us to new avenues. It causes our eyes to focus on things yet undiscovered, new people and creatures to love. This love can’t possibly stay put.
That’s why it’s not a bit surprising when Jesus says he has sheep of another flock. Jesus shares something significant. “I have sheep that don’t belong to his fold,” he says, “I’m bringing them, too. They’ll listen to my voice, just like you.”
It’s a surprising statement. Are we ready or able to hear that? “You mean, Jesus, there are other people besides our community? There are other people that you love as well as us?”
Other sheep? Who are these other sheep? What are they like? You know, not all sheep are alike. They come in a multitude of varieties:
• There are the Icelandic Lopi sheep. With their lofty wool fibers, they come in a rainbow of natural colors. With both warmth and color, they were perfect for inspiring Icelandic knitting designs.
• Then there’s the Middle Eastern Jacob. Its coat is speckled and the horns are random and crazy.
• The Bluefaced Leicester, a staple of British herds. A soft and lustrous fiber, it’s a knitter’s standard wool.
• The Navajo Churro has a multi-layered coat. This hardy breed is well suited for the climate of the American Southwest. The Navajo value its wool for their rugs and weavings.
• And, of course, the king of wools, the Merino.
Sheep not of our flock! News of these other sheep causes a disturbance among our own flock. Who are they? Are they like us? Are they different? Does Jesus love them more than he loves us?
For the first century church of Jewish origins, this other flock clearly meant the Gentiles. The conversion of Gentiles to faith in Christ caused a seismic quake in the early church. What do we do with them? But Jesus states emphatically, “I have other sheep, and I must bring them also.” And then his declaration of how it will be: “There will be one flock, one shepherd.”