Summary: Sometimes the way God loves us seems crazy
The Lunatic Shepherd
Cascades Fellowship CRC, JX MI
April 20, 2008
Creation, Fall, Redemption, Consummation
I hate to do this to you but I am going to use yet another illustration drawn from one of the Star Trek series – this time from Voyager. The back story to Voyager isn’t really important, so if you want to know more about that, talk to me after the service. What is important is that the crew of Voyager runs across what is known as a generational spacecraft – that’s a ship built to have families onboard who grow up on the ship and assume positions of responsibility on the ship. Typically these types of ships have deep space travel as their mission – travel that will take several generations to complete.
In the case of this particular ship, they were interstellar nomads. So they weren’t going anywhere in particular, they simply traveled through space, one generation after the next. Their ship, however, was beginning to show its age so Voyager tried to help. As you might expect with such a setup, one of those romantic situations arise where two people from completely different cultures – in this case, different species - seem made for each other and in the crucible of compressed time fall quickly in love.
The catch is that the nomadic species has a unique bio-chemical characteristic that imprints them irrevocably on the psyche of the other that bonds them for life – imprinted couples literally become addicted to one another. Young Ensign Kim is the one who falls in love and when the two ships part ways, he begins to experience what amounts to withdrawal symptoms.
Now, let’s remember – this is the 24th, 25th, 26th century, somewhere in there; 400-600 years in the future, so these people are smarter than we are and have figured out all the chemical processes of the human body and how to control them. So the doctor, seeing his shipmate in physical distress brought on by the emotional, mental and physical trauma of being separated from his bonded soul-mate, offers Ensign Kim a remedy – a way to deal with the love addiction painlessly until his soul and mind have the opportunity to grow a scar over the wound caused by the separation.
Ensign Kim’s response is both startling and profound. He refuses the treatment – why? The implication the viewer is left with is because Ensign Kim deemed it better to suffer under the tutelage of love lost than to exist without the notion of love. He thought it better to suffer for love than to live without the constant reminders of its absence.
Isn’t that crazy? Yet love sometimes moves us to do some crazy things.
You know, the parallels of this episode of Voyager to the Christian narrative are obvious – God also chooses to suffer for love. Does that mean God is crazy? Well, I guess it depends upon your perspective. Certainly from the perspective of those who opposed Jesus, what he had to say about being a good shepherd seemed kind of loony to them. But did they consider Jesus crazy because – well what Jesus was saying was just plain crazy? Or did they think Jesus was crazy because they didn’t understand?
Jesus’ discourse on the Good Shepherd comes in the context of his healing of the blind man, which we talked about last week. Jesus heals the guy on the Sabbath, which puts him in conflict with the religious leaders of his day. We didn’t read the last part of chapter 9 last week, but it is important that we realize what happens there to understand our passage this week.
After the blind man, who Jesus healed, is thrown out by the Pharisees Jesus heard about it and went looking for him. Now get this image in your head, because it plays right into the image of the shepherd that Jesus uses in Chapter 10. Consider the healed, blind man as a sheep. The shepherds he has trusted all his life – the ones he trusted when he could not see both physically and spiritually – cast him out of the fold. A sheep alone in the world is vulnerable – vulnerable to the wolves who would tear him apart, vulnerable to treacherous terrain and raging waters, vulnerable to the slow murder of isolation.
But Jesus, who in just a few more verses will call himself the Good Shepherd, goes in search of this one lost sheep, to draw him in and comfort him. And after revealing that he was the Messiah, Jesus tells him that he came so that the blind could see and those that see will become blind. He is referring of course to the religious leaders, who believed they had 20/20 spiritual vision but were revealed by Jesus to be blind as bats. In fact, their blindness is so great, they don’t even realize they are blind look at v. 40-41 of chapter 9: