Life as a Sheep

Preached by Pr. Jeanette

Easter 4C –  Life as a Sheep

April 24-25, 2010

Psalm 23

John 10:22-30

Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice.

            I know them.

                        They follow me.”

It was close to 20 years ago now,

            but I remember her well.

She was in her late 80’s – or maybe early 90’s

            and it had been a long time since she recognized anyone by name.

                        She rarely spoke in fact.

But day after day,

            she sat in her geri chair,

                        next to the nurses’ station.

She would rock back and forth,

 bang her fist on the table,

            and over and over again,

                        she would say, “The Lord is my shepherd.  The Lord is my shepherd.”

That  phrase was inscribed so deeply in her heart,

            that though she had lost all other meaningful speech,

                        these words still rang out clear and true.

                                    “The Lord is my shepherd.  The Lord is my shepherd.”

Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice.

            I know them.

                        They follow me.”

By now she didn’t know anyone else.

            But somehow she knew  Jesus still knew her.

                        She was still his sheep.

“The Lord is my shepherd.  The Lord is my shepherd,”

                                                she cried out.

She first heard about Jesus as her shepherd in a Sunday School classroom long, long ago.

            There was a picture on the wall

                        which showed a kind-looking Jesus,

                                    carrying a sheep across his shoulders.

When it came time for arts and crafts,

            she too once made one of those fluffy white sheep

                        by gluing cotton balls onto a cardboard sheep pattern.

Her teacher taught her the song,

            “I just wanna be a sheep – baa, baa, ba-baa, ba-baa!”

                        And it was true – she thought.

                                    She did just wanna be a sheep,

                                                carried over Jesus’ shoulders – just like the picture on the wall.

Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice.

            I know them.

                        They follow me.”

Well, to be honest, she wasn’t quite so sure

            she always liked the part about following him, though.

Early on, as a teenager and young adult,

            the difficulty was she didn’t want to follow anybody!

The image from the 23rd Psalm of being led by still waters

            and lying down in green pastures,

                        was not one she took to readily!

Still waters were not her thing!

            She was looking for excitement at that point in her life –

                        rushing rapids, pounding waves, fierce waterfalls, maybe

–          those were more her style.

Not so much the still waters.

Not so much the green pastures.

But even as she had her time of sowing wild oats,

            of experiencing life to the fullest,

                        of questioning all that she had previously taken for granted…

Even as she tried her best to tune out the voice at times;

            even though she didn’t think she wanted to be known by him,

his voice was still there.

 

Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice.

            I know them.

                        They follow me.”

Sometime in her adult years,

            she heard Jesus’ words about following him in a very different way.

Now  she thought what was difficult about following him

wasn’t about losing her own independence,

            it was about being free to listen to his voice,

 and to make a change in her life as a result.

She now had the freedom to choose even to  suffer for her beliefs.

            She had the freedom to take up the cross and follow him.

It wasn’t always so.

She was in her 30’s during WWII;

            she heard about the atrocities of the Holocaust,

                        but it all seemed so far away and she convinced herself

                                    that there wasn’t anything she could do about it.

Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice.

            I know them.

                        They follow me.”

She was in her 40’s when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus,

            and in her 50’s when Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.  gave his “I Have a Dream” speech

with Dorothy Height standing next to him.

She knew about civil rights,

            but didn’t think that being a follower of Jesus

                        entailed getting overly- involved.

Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice.

            I know them.

                        They follow me.”

 

There were other opportunities of course…

other times when the voice of Jesus spoke out

and if she was honest with herself, she closed her ears.

There were wars, natural disasters, and refugees.

            There was poverty, homelessness, and addiction.

                        Jesus kept calling – and calling – and calling.

                                    But she didn’t really take the time to listen – yet.

Meanwhile she went to church every Sunday –

            it made her feel good.

She liked thinking about that picture on her Sunday School classroom wall

            of Jesus holding the sheep on his shoulders.

And then there was one day when her ears perked up.

            One day when the Holy Spirit opened her heart up a little bit more.

One day when she heard – really heard – Jesus say.

“My sheep hear my voice.

            I know them.

                        They follow me.”

 

And it didn’t seem like he was talking about that

            nice picture on the wall any more.

He was calling her to more than to stay safe and comfortable in his arms;

            he was calling her to follow him – to really follow him.

To speak out when the rights of others are neglected.

            To serve the hungry and the poor.

                        To proclaim, proudly, that she is part of a church that works for social justice.

She could do this, because she knew – finally,

            with all certainty,

                        that she is a sheep, held in the shepherd’s arms. 

 

Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice.

            I know them.

                        They follow me.”

 

So these many years later,

            she sat in a geri chair by the nurses’ station,

                        rocking back and forth,

                                    banging her fist on the table,

                                                saying, “The Lord is my shepherd.  The Lord is my shepherd.”

And she wasn’t talking about the nice picture on the wall.

            She was talking about a whole lot more.

Amen.

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