Thursday, May 17, 2007

Day, Night, Pasture, Pen

We are reading through John’s Gospel in the mornings, and today we came to chapter 10, where Jesus speaks of being the shepherd of the flock, who uses his own body to form the gate to the pen. This is what shepherds did: at night, when it was not possible to see predators approaching the sheep, the sheep were corralled through a small opening into the safety of the pen, and then the shepherd slept sat in the opening, back against one wall, shins pressed up against the other, so that any predator could only get at the sheep by getting past them; and then, in the morning, when it was light and predators could be seen approaching, the shepherd led his sheep out into pasture. In. Out. In. Out. Night. Day. Night. Day.

Our shared experience of life is that it is lived in the tension of a thief who comes to steal and kill and destroy, and a shepherd who comes that we may have life to the full. Right now, I am very aware of several friends for whom the thief has come – not because they are bad sheep, but simply because they are sheep, and hungry wolves and thieves are drawn to their scent…Friends who have sensed a particular vision or calling, only to be struck down by serious illness, for example.

It seems to me that there is a rhythm identified by Jesus in this analogy. And because it is an analogy, we shouldn’t read it as a strict or regular rhythm; but I think he implies that although the predator comes at any time, there are times when we can just be getting on with whatever it is God has called us to do (day/pasture), secure in the knowledge that Jesus is watching over us; and times when that calling needs to be put on hold and Jesus needs to gather us up until the specific danger is past (night/pen).

And what we need to remember while we are sheltered in the pen in the dark – what we need to remind each other – is that the pasture is still out there; the grass is growing; that the thing to which we have been called has not been stolen or killed or destroyed, but awaits the dawn when Jesus will rise up and lead us back out again…

“I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognise a stranger's voice.”
Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them. Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

(John 10:1-18)

, , ,

No comments:

Post a Comment