Year B Easter 4 John 10 2012
The Good Shepherd
It is small wonder that the image of the shepherd was frequently upon the lips of the savior. It was a part of his heritage and culture. Abraham, the father of the nation, was the keeper of great flocks. Moses was tending the flocks of his father-in-law, Jethro, when God called him into a special service. David was a shepherd boy called in from the fields to be the King of Israel.
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.
Candidates for God's Candid Camera
1 John 3:16 24
Everyone hates to be surprised.
It didn't take long for something called "television" to find that out. Filming people when they didn't know they were on camera brought extremely entertaining and unexpected results.
Anyone remember "Candid Camera?"
Can you remember the name of the host? . . . . [Allen Funt].
Can you remember the catchphrase of the show? . . . ["Smile, You're on Candid Camera"].
In the early 60's, "Candid Camera" secretly recorded the reactions of people when they were confronted with strange and surprising circumstances. Actors would approach a random person "on the street" with some proposal or problem. The film crew would then secretly film the good, bad, or indifferent behavior of those individuals. People were asked to hold bags of money, tend fussy babies, stay put while a sprinkler system doused them, listen to terrible concerts. The situations the "candid camera" came up with were classic and comic. For the most part, people seemed to cope graciously with whatever they were asked to do. But almost everyone ended up at some point with that "what-have-I-got-myself-into" look of desperation on their face.
Flash forward fifty years. TV is still doing the "candid camera" thing, but with far less comedy involved. Although Ashton Kutcher's "Punked" was a comedic but crueler version of Candid Camera, most undercover filming, catching people being themselves when they think no one's looking, now ends up as an "expose." From "Under Cover Boss" that has CEO's pose as a hired hand in order to get the view from the bottom about how their company works to "Restaurant Stakeout," where secret cameras film what none of us want to know about what is really going on in the kitchens of our favorite restaurants, bad behavior is what predominates. Overwhelmingly it seems that if "no one is watching," we are no longer watching out for anyone except ourselves.
Is there any better feeling, for a parent, than to hear how their children conducted themselves when you were not there? What a rush to hear back after your kid spends the night at a friend's, "Oh, your son was so polite." Or after a party you are told, "Your daughter was so great at listening to my grandmother." Or after a special meal, "Your kids were the first ones up to help clear the table." Knowing your kids are practicing what you've preached — even when you are not around — makes every parent feel like they've won a medal.
The truth is we are all children. We all have a parent watching out for us and over us and encouraging us to behave in a certain way. All the time. Are you behaving as your Father taught — as the Son taught — even when you think no one is "watching?" Or are you guilty of "behaving badly" because you believe the "camera" is off?
We all know from the Genesis story of Abraham and Sarah's shared meal with some passing strangers that we might at anytime be "entertaining angels unawares." But the directive from 1 John in this week's epistle text takes that mandate a step further. It is, in fact, sometimes much easier to extend hospitality and help to a stranger than it is to the neighbor we know, the "brother or sister" we see every day and know who they are and from where they come...