Rector's Ramblings: May 3rd 2020

 

  

      A phrase I like about Jesus is: ‘he disturbs the comfortable and comforts the disturbed’. The more I read the Bible accounts of Jesus, the more I believe that to be true. It’s a wonderful balance, which we humans don’t attain nearly so well. We tend to comfort the comfortable and disturb the disturbed.

   It’s struck me how much we don’t like being disturbed. We don’t like our way of seeing and understanding to be challenged. Our brains have sorted information received into certain categories to help us make sense of our world. Those ways of understanding then become the compass by which we navigate. Too often, we don’t like our perspective challenged. ‘My mind is made up, don’t confuse me with facts!’

  Groups of people (churches, work places, social groups) can get stuck in the same way. We get into ways of being together that are set firm. Newcomers have to adapt to our way of doing it and thinking, and newcomers do because we all want to belong.

  One way or another we put up our ‘Do not disturb’ notices and not just on our phones.

   By now, you may be wondering ‘what is this woman going on about when it’s Good Shepherd Sunday? Stay with me. At one level, that reading from John’s gospel is about Jesus the shepherd who leads us well, and Jesus the gate who leads us to life in all its fulness. Nothing wrong with that.

  However in context, Jesus is engaging with the religious authorities who oppose him, not just with his interested followers.  John 10 is a continuation of a confrontation which is gaining in strength. Jesus talked in images. It’s fascinating that he didn’t get into the sort of gladiatorial debates we see on TV where everyone has made up their mind and they go out to attack. He played with images. Images invite us to think again without driving us into a corner.

   Jesus had just healed a man born blind in chapter 9 (have a read), and healed him on the Sabbath. The religious authorities were angered seeing that as working on the day of rest and breaking the rules. They’d ended up excommunicating the poor man who’d been healed. The religious gatekeepers were excluding those whom God had created and loved. Chapter 9 has Jesus talking with them in language of sight and blindness: challenging the religious folk.

   They had become so blinded by doing things the way they thought should happen: this is the way life should be lived they said. ‘We govern that way and make sure the rules are kept.’ They were so blinded that they couldn’t recognise Jesus for who he was – God on earth. Others like the blind man did see who Jesus was. Jesus invites them to ask themselves ‘Can I see? Have I become blind?’

  He then changes his imagery to sheep and shepherds, sheepfolds and sheep pens, rustlers and predators. For the religious guardians, this would have been more pointed than we realise. Jesus is saying – you are stealing God’s sheep and leading them astray into bad pastures. I am the true shepherd who leads them to fulness of life. That is a real challenge to the likes of me who wear a dog collar – am I leading astray or truly listening to Jesus the shepherd in my under shepherding. It’s a challenge to those of us who know church – are we leading others away from the good pasture by the way we have learned to be together? It’s equally a challenge to those who would rubbish Jesus because he doesn’t fit their idea of what a Saviour should be.

      Could we dare to ask him to show us where we are blind and not seeing? Where we are gatekeepers who are saying ‘this is how it should be?’ As we begin to emerge into a post lockdown world (however that happens), I long for us to be those who don’t simply say ‘let’s go back to same old, same old’. I long for us to begin to see the world and church and each other as Jesus sees them. To ask those tricky questions: ‘How can we play our part in enabling the human race to be at peace with God, each other and the world?’ knowing there are no easy ways ahead. Or will we rather put up the notice ‘Do not disturb’?

    Jesus doesn’t launch full blown attacks, even on those who will kill him. Why not? I believe it is because he wants all people to come to him. He wants all to be at one with him, at one with each other and at one with the created world. He knows attack never wins anyone over, so he woos us – invites us to change our world view – and to come to him who is the shepherd and guardian of our souls. In whom we will find life in all its fulness. And that is an invitation to each and every man, woman and child.