Year B Easter4 John 10
The Good Shepherd
The imagery of the shepherd was also imprinted upon the literature of the day. The 23rd Psalm is frequently referred to as the shepherd psalm. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside still waters."
When Isaiah spoke of the coming of the Messiah he worded it by saying: "He will feed his flock like a shepherd! He will gather his lambs into his arms." Yes, the tradition of the shepherd was very much a part of the heritage of Christ.
This picture comes more clearly into focus in the New Testament. Jesus once told a story about a shepherd who had 100 sheep, but one of them went astray. In our way of thinking a 99% return on our investment would be most desirable, but not this shepherd. He left the 99 to go in search of that one lost sheep. Later, when Jesus was speaking to a great throng of people, Mark tells us that he had compassion upon them because they were "as sheep without a shepherd."
Throughout the Judeo-Christian faith, then, the image of the shepherd has been stamped upon our thinking. In our scripture text for this morning Jesus again taps into this imagery when he refers to himself as the good shepherd. For a few moments this morning, I would like for us to examine together what he had in mind when he described himself as the Good Shepherd.
- First, we have a shepherd that is a genuine shepherd.
- Second, I think that the Good Shepherd knows his sheep.
- Third, the Good Shepherd also includes other sheep.
- Fourth, the shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.
The Comforts of "Thy Rod and Thy Staff": Rulership or Relationship
The new geographic “center “ of Christianity has shifted slightly. Anyone want to guess where the global geographic center of Christianity is now located?
No it's not some football stadium sized sanctuary in Texas.
No, it's not in South Korea, South Africa, or Southern Jerusalem.
The wonderfully revealing new global center-point for Christianity, the new center of gravity for the Christian religion, is . . . Timbuktu.
That's right, Timbuktu in Mali. Can anyone locate Timbuktu on the map? Timbuktu is the ultimate, classic definition of “the middle of nowhere.”
What better place to locate the heart of Christianity?
Where is the hope and love of Christ needed more . . . than in the midst of all our “nowheres?”
The good news is that from its central point of Timbuktu, Christianity is the largest and fastest growing world religion. There are now over two billion Christians scattered across the globe. But “scattered” is the operative word to describe these Christian communities. They are scattered geographically across the planet. And the cultural diversity among these different populations is huge.
The uniquely incarnational feature of Christianity, in which the Christian faith spreads not as a potted plant but as a seed, means that each expression of the Christian religion is shaped by the environment in which it is planted. There truly is no one “Christianity.” Instead there is a groundswell of many “Christianities.” Conservatively there are about 34,000 different “denominations” recognized within twenty-first century “Christianities.” But some other faith-counters put the number much higher, parsing Jesus’ flock into as many as 122,000 different tribes.
There are two dangers in this fracturing of the faith. First, if we call everything “Christianity,” then eventually nothing is Christianity. Not every spiritual sputtering can be declared a new incarnational expression of Christ-centered faith.
The second danger is the hazard that every baby chicken faces. If one chick in a flock looks or behaves as somehow “different” than the rest of the baby chicks, its...