Monday, 20 April 2015

Easter 4 John 10


The story of the good shepherd has loads of images
A Shepherd? Have you met one? I have an image of a weather beaten man with a sheepdog on the Welsh hills or the man in the Specsavers add on TV! Or David sitting on a Palestinian hill or  Brokeback Mountain with those beautiful scene of the hills and the shepherds on horseback. Shepherd's care for their sheep and protect them from wolves. When I was little my favourite book was about Sooty the sheepdog who fought off the bad wolf who came to harass the sheep and even stole one. Powerful imagery. Enough to drive you into the church? Or to a rural idyll?

The sheep gate is less clear to me. But my grandma had a picture of sheep in her bedroom and when I stayed over she told me to count sheep. The sheep were enclosed in a field by a gate. So the gate also protected the sheep and controlled who came in and who came out.

The Shepherds voice. Sheep and sheep dog are trained to respond to the shepherds voice. A shout, a word, a whistle means everything-from the shepherd. There is the story of the man who gets lost in the mountains in a snow storm. He hears the voice of  a well known mountain guide who tells him to jump. It’s a drop and he cant see what is at the bottom but he trusts the voice. He jumps and is saved.

Sheep have a bad press. “Like sheep”! “Dressed like mutton”…but also “Like a lamb” for trusting passivity. Sheep are lost without a leader, a shepherd. They will die without a good shepherd.

Gates. Some powerful gates for me are the gates to the nunnery on Iona, which are latticed and latched and creak in the dark, dark nights on the island. Or the sheep gate on Holy Island which was a metal gate that lets only one person through and is too complex for the sheep in the field to fathom. There are other gates. The gates to a prison, the gates to an old church, heavy and old with a loud clunk when it shuts. Gates control space and are boundaries to activity. Gate keepers are important people like lock keepers and shepherds.

Probably the most powerful image of Jesus is as the good shepherd with the lost sheep on his shoulders. Jesus the good shepherd has come to seek and save the lost sheep. But of course the most well known biblical text is the “Lords my Shepherd” Psalm 23. So it’s a very powerful image of God too.

Shepherds themselves need to eat, sleep and rest because they are potentially on call to rescue lost sheep and they need to be alert and wise to wolves (in sheeps clothing?).

Who in your life has been a good shepherd to you? Ian died suddenly. He was a senior paramedic at WMAS -and he cared about people-loads of people. He was a good shepherd.

One Anglican Bishop practiced his sermons by preaching to his sheep when he was first ordained. They listened to his voice, which they recognized. They stayed near to him knowing that they were safe there. Perhaps congregations reacted differently!

In our time there are many voices competing for our attention. In this recession there will be even more (like Hitler, Moseley in the recessions of the 1930's). We may lose the voice of the good shepherd and go astray from time to time and fall into danger, perhaps following a voice that sounds strong and smart and seductive, but different. We may follow a path that leads us away from Christ. Whose voice do we follow? What gate do we enter by? What gate do we lead others through? I leave you to ponder. Good shepherds have integrity like that mountain guide, they know the terrain, life's terrain. Don't go trusting any old shepherd!




Saturday, 18 April 2015

Easter 3 Luke 24

1.What do we know about Lukes gospel?

2. Read Luke 24:13-35

3. What do we know about the transition time between morning and evening?

4. Is there significance in that they are “On the way” away from Jerusalem?

5. When have we not recognized Jesus as the stranger among us?

6. When have we doubted others? Why do you think they didn’t believe the women?

7. When have you been slow to recognize Gods plan?

8. When has God spoken to you around a meal?

Luke is a gospel that emphasizes God's love for the poor, the disadvantaged, minorities, outcasts, sinners and lepers. Women play a more prominent part than in the other gospels. Luke never uses Semitic words; this is one argument for thinking that he wrote primarily for Gentiles.
It is later on Easter Day, the day on which Mary Magdalene and the other women have discovered the empty tomb. 

As two of Jesus' followers walk to Emmaus, they talk about the day's news, the recent startling events. Eusebius, the first church historian, tells us that “Cleopas” (v. 18) was a relative of Jesus. 

The two do not recognize Jesus. Jesus asks “What things?” (v. 19). Their reply shows the limitations of their understanding of who Jesus is: they do realize that he is a prophet and, like Moses, “mighty in deed and word”, but they have no idea how much more he is. Jesus has disappointed them: they expected him to deliver Israel from Roman domination, and to begin an earthly kingdom of God (“redeem Israel”, v. 21). Three days have passed (long enough, in Jewish belief, for the soul to have left the body) and, despite Jesus' statement that he would be raised from death, nothing has happened! 
The women told us that he is alive, but when Peter and John went there, all they saw was the empty tomb! (v. 24).

Jesus tells them how slow they are to grasp how the Old Testament prophecies are fulfilled in him. Was it not God's plan (“necessary”, v. 26) that Jesus should be crucified and ascend to be with the Father? He interprets his life as a fulfilment of all of Scripture, from “Moses” (v. 27, the first five books of the Bible) to “all the prophets”.
 
The meal seems to be a Eucharist: “he took bread, blessed and broke it”" (v. 30). Then, from Jesus’ interpretation and their hospitality to this “stranger” (v. 18) “their eyes were opened” (v. 31), i.e. they develop a deeper understanding of who Jesus is, that he is divine. At the Last Supper, Jesus said he would not share food with his disciples until God’s kingdom came. He has now eaten with the two, so the Kingdom has indeed come. “The Lord has risen indeed ... !” (v. 3)

Literally, the word "Emmaus" means "warm well." As I see it, a warm well runs closer to the surface. The deeper the well, the colder the water - perhaps, even, the more abundance of it. Shallower wells might run dry, depending on their source 

The road to Emmaus is the way.  That was the first name for the church, "The Way."   
We walk the roads every day and fail to see the God who is walking with us.  The disciples simply failed to see the divine in the ordinary.

The events recorded in the text occurred on the day of resurrection 

Companion means, Com (with); panis (bread)  "people who have their 'panis', take bread together.
The disciples were heading away from Jerusalem. They had evidently decided, despite what the women were reported to have said, that their part in the community of Jesus' disciples was over.



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