19 January 2021
Be careful crossing the road, Have you got clean underpants in case you end up in hospital -
Just because Johnny jumps off the bridge does it mean that you do the same?
Have you got a clean handkerchief. Are your fingernails clean.
What time are you coming home? Millions of starving people in Africa who could eat that food. Waste not want not. Remember who you are?
Whose voice do you hear?
Thea Joy Browne notes that these sayings have the effect of calling us home. They were rooted in the belief that our choices had consequences for our entire community because our conduct was considered a reflection of the values and character of those who reared us.
Our mothers weren't the only ones who used these expressions to bring us back to ourselves, but they did have particular ones that they could say like no one else You could be halfway across town, hanging out with friends, getting ready to do something which was forbidden, when all of a sudden you would hear that voice "Don't you do anything I wouldn't do."
Even when we are old we can still can hear the voices or those who raised us as clearly as we did at age fifteen. A group of children on the beach are called home for tea and one by one they run off each to their own fold. Deafness, age, unwillingness to listen, the voice still gets through to us, so even more so does the voice of the good shepherd.
The image of Jesus the good shepherd gives a picture of the Parent calling us home, warning us from danger and standing courageously and faithfully in the way of anything which would destroy the sheep.
As John reflected on who this Jesus is and the meaning of death and resurrection we move into the wild places where the grass grew sparsely on the hills. The echo of Moses long ago tending his sheep and daring to ask the holy one of that burning bush what is your name, I am came back the answer who I am.
"I am" says this Jesus "I am the Good Shepherd."
Bill Loader comments that this isn?t sheep NZ style with Jesus on a motorbike disappearing across the hills behind a cloud of blue smoke, sheep dogs in tow.
The job of these shepherd was tough and dangerous. There were wild animals and sheep stealers, no fences and a tiny flock by our standards. Sometimes only 6 or seven sheep. The shepherd had to lead the sheep safely to food and defend and protect the flock.
Lions, bears and wolves stalked the flocks. One man and his flock he had only sticks and stones to fight off a hungry lion in a lonely place. The hired hand would not put himself at risk or being injured or killed for sheep that weren?t his own and would run away and leave the sheep to be panicked and scattered. Like the shepherds of Israel, maybe the leaders who exploited the people, Shepherds who had forgotten their God Given task and turned it to their own ends, priests and lawyers who left the sheep in danger and allowed them to be scattered. Such leaders are plentiful in every time and place ."I am" said Jesus "the Good Shepherd"
The Good shepherd is different . Tending the sheep is his reason for being and dying. A job given by the owner, a job done by the owners Son. .
The good shepherd brings life to the sheep and dies standing in the face of danger for the sheep, protecting them against all that would take away their life.. This shepherd loves his sheep.
As night falls, shepherds gather their flocks together for safety in the cave or the open.. The Good shepherd keeping watch over the flock in the cold of night.. In the morning each shepherd calls their sheep, they recognise his voice. and come running out to follow him into the pastures. They will not follow the other shepherds they don?t know them.
"I am the good shepherd" says Jesus there is more than one flock. His is an open ended flock that that is called. Jew and Gentile maybe together his flock grows as other recognise his voice calling them to follow
And the shepherd will make them one flock - note the sheep don't decide who are part of the flock. They will recognise each other. and they will be one.
Whose voice do we hear? Whose voice do we obey?
when we were children we could hear the voices of those who mothered us and cared for us calling us home. Knowing our names. above all the voices of the crowd. At a School dance you could hear your parents voice if they whispered outside the door.
"I am the good Shepherd" who does this willingly. He was free to run away when danger came but he chose life for his sheep and death for himself as he stood between them and danger.
Who would die for a sheep? Maybe accidentally, the lion might get him, but who would die for a sheep? Let alone deliberately put themselves in danger for a sheep?
This good shepherd , we are told , after being mauled and ripped to death came back. Not to avenge but to bring life, to forgive, to lead the flock to life and good pastures. this self-giving death which was rooted in God?s will, stopped forever the forces which would over come the flock having the final word.
"I am the Good shepherd "- the divine I am, God's own self in action for the people. Unconditional love for us.
Many of us come to church on Mothers' Day with a certain amount of ambivalence mixed with gratitude. We may miss our mothers who have died, we may be longing to make peace with parents still living, and we may regret certain actions with our own children or grieve the loss of mothering in our life. But maybe somewhere in our deepest spirits we also come with a common hope and a mutual longing for the unconditional love and acceptance we know comes first from God. [Thea Browne]
The voice of Christ calls us back from the beach, above the noises of the pounding surf, come follow, reminding us to whom we belong, inviting us into life which is abundant and hope which goes beyond death.
I found an ancient prayer for Mothers' Day from St. Anslem that I would like to pray today.
Let us pray:
Jesus, as a mother you gather your people to you;
You are gentle with us.
You weep over our sins and our pride,
Tenderly you draw us from hatred and judgement.
You comfort us in sorrow and bind up our wounds,
In sickness you nurse us and with pure milk you feed us.
By your dying, we are born to new life;
By your anguish and labour we come forth in joy.
Despair turns to hope through your sweet goodness;
Through your gentleness we find comfort in fear.
Your warmth gives life to the dead, your touch makes us holy.
In your mercy, heal us;
In your compassion, bring us grace and forgiveness,
For the beauty of heaven, may your love prepare us.
Rev. Margaret Anne Low
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