Texts: Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 23; I Peter 2:19-25; John 10:1-10
Theme: Abundant life for the Christian is a balance of entering the safety of the sheepfold and going out
into the pastures of the world following the voice of the Good Shepherd.
Buried in the midst of the John 10 text is one of the seven “I am…” sayings of Jesus that appears in the gospel of John – one that does not get much attention – “I am the gate” or “I am the door” (vs. 7 and 9). The sheep are offered safety in the sheepfold by entering by Jesus who is the gate. After the offer of salvation come the words “will come in and go out and find pasture.” The sheepfold is not the end point for the sheep – the pattern of life for sheep is not to stay in the sheepfold. The pattern is for the sheep to come in and go out.
Jesus thinks of his followers as sheep (which is not necessarily a compliment) – the Psalm and I Peter drive this point home – and we are not called to remain safe in the sheepfold, we are to go out and “find pasture”. The Christian life is not about staying safe in the sheepfold – it involves going out into the pasture. And out there, there is danger; John, and the Psalm, and I Peter all say that. The followers of Jesus are to resist the desire to find a safe place to hide.
Acts 2 reminds us what happens when the church leaves the safety of the sheepfold. God does amazing things in drawing people into the church. Acts 2 starts with the disciples afraid to leave the upper room, and ends with the church living their faith in bold witness in the temple, through sharing with those in need, and finding those outside the church drawn to the life of the community. This is abundant life. The life described in Acts 2:42 – devoted to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, the breaking of bread and the prayers – is the spiritual diet sheep require to live the life on coming in and going out. For in these practices the church hears the voice of Jesus and is enabled to follow his lead.
On John 10
“As we shall learn further (14:1-6), the way, or door, which is Jesus is, both the way by which he comes to us and the way by which we move out of established securities to find new freedom in serving him in the world. We have the freedom to move in and out, and we find all our needs supplied.” – Lesslie Newbigin
On Acts 2
“The protagonist of Acts is the Holy Spirit, enlivening and driving the young church. This summary of the activity of the church focuses our attention away from preoccupation with individual actors toward the true concern of the story – the community.” – William Willimon
Music: Some version of Psalm 23 is an obvious choice
the Iona Community’s “My shepherd is the Lord” would be an interesting choice
“Savior, like a shepherd lead us”
Merciful God, we confess to you now that we have sinned.
We confess our sins as a church.
We have not loved one another as Christ loved us.
We have not forgiven one another as we have been forgiven.
We have not given ourselves in love and service for the world
as Christ gave himself for us.
Father, forgive us.
Send the Holy Spirit to us, that he may give us power to live
as, by your mercy, we are called to live.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Teach us, good Lord, to serve you as you deserve:
To give and not to count the cost;
To fight and not heed the wounds;
To toil and not to seek rest;
To labor and not to ask for any reward
Save that of knowing that we do your will. – Ignatius of Loyola
Give us a pure heart that we may see you,
A humble heart that we may hear you,
A heart of love that we may serve you,
A heart of faith that we may abide in you. – Dag Hammarskjold