Text: John 10: 11, 16
Thanks be to God for this Fourth Gospel that is so different from the other three! This Gospel is a word-picture of God taking on our flesh in Jesus Christ to complete the half-sentence God gave centuries earlier when Moses demanded to know God’s name and was told, “I AM” – the “I am” God.”
Thanks be to God for this Gospel that preserves the words Jesus used to finish that half-sentence, with one being what we hear today: I am the good shepherd.”
Thanks be to God for this Fourth Gospel that brings back the image of the Shepherding God, which was soon lost to the demand for a king wielding power, and setting up the phobia of reigning over and putting down all other empires; thanks be to God for the Shepherd-king Jesus saying,
“I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.
So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”
“Other sheep” - “other” than the “fold” of Hebrew slaves God brought out of Egypt, led by Moses, called from tending sheep to train God’s flock to walk in the way of the Lord – the Ten Commandments, called to be an example to other nations, tribes, flocks, compelling them say to one another, (2:3)
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways, and that we – “other nations” - may walk in his paths.”
“Other nations” which when John’s Gospel was written around 90 AD, from the city of Ephesus,
were Gentiles, Greeks and Romans, “other sheep” which included the legions who had reduced the Hebrews’ temple in Jerusalem to rubble, never to be rebuilt to this day.
The “other sheep” - the occupying enemy whose emperors had begun a wave of arrests, imprisonments, and executions, more “other sheep” to hear the voice of Jesus calling them, gathering them, welcoming them through the disciples who went out into the provinces of the Roman Empire.
The “other sheep” the Apostle Paul – a Pharisee of the Pharisees, turned convert to Christ, made his mission to the Gentile world.
A cherished book that was required reading in our seminary years and now is a well-worn copy in our den, was written in 1951 by Basil Mathews who lived in London where he served the British missionary societies and for five years in Geneva where his focus was world-wide Christian missions.
His book, “Forward through the Ages” has us re-living the lives, from the first disciples and Paul, up to the book’s ending in the middle of the 20th century.
In story after story, Basil Mathews introducers his readers to men and women who looked up and outside themselves to see “other sheep” to whom they felt called to be an echo of Jesus’ vision:
“I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also,
and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”
In the last 1700’s a young English shoemaker made a map of the world on a piece of leather posted on the wall where he drew in country after country, learning all he could about each one, But it was the “other sheep” in India that compelled him to go as a preacher, Bible translator – into five of India’s dialects and 29 other languages, study and write books on horticulture, engage in social work, including urging the government to outlaw killing babies and women when widowed throwing themselves in their husband’s funeral pyre. He also used natives as missionaries and led in forming the Agricultural Society of India; making those others heathen, sheep together
in Christ’s flock. (www.britannica.com/biography/William-Carey) His name: William Carey.
Whenever we sing “Amazing Grace,” remember it was written by an English sea captain making his profit in the slave trade, until that day he looked down in the hold and saw his cargo wasn’t expendable freight, but “other sheep” he felt called to make his mission to be gathered in Christ’s fold. his name: John Newton.
In our time there are stories waiting to be discovered and told of individuals who are looking beyond themselves and seeing “other sheep” being treated and discarded as though they were trash:
- in Syria where sheep-like people starve and are gassed,
- in Asia and Africa where lamb-like children sold into slavery and to sex traders,
- in our own cities and streets where weapons get into the hands of gangs or individuals whose illness or addiction
that causes them to shoot and kill in a home, school, mall…
and, thanks be to God, there are people who are being moved to see those “other sheep” and feel the call to act to do what needs to be done to bring them into Christ’s fold.
“Other sheep” – the word that has moved individuals to take up some mission which we now inherit as a blessed tie with:
- Japan, through TGU and back-and forth visits,
- Germany, through an invitation to be one of five pastors invited by the Anhalt District Church to come to a week
-long seminar and tour, now a tie that binds our hearts in Christian love;
and the same story can be told of Cuba, Haiti, and India – as one of you went to “other sheep,” who we now see that each is a flock in Christ’s fold.
This past week I answered a phone call and heard a voice saying the police were about to appear at our door with a subpoena, arresting and imprisoning me for unpaid back taxes totaling $5,600. Pay up now by credit card and they would stop them.
I demanded to know the caller’s name, and I already knew he didn’t know mine, for he insisted that I had to give it to him. Finally, when I said I was recording the call, the line went dead, and a quick internet check of the number came up with the words in red caps: FRAUD! HIGH RISK!
The Gospel words of Jesus began to echo through my mind and into my heart, “he calls his own by name…they know his voice.”
That is why in our Baptism we are given a name, which Isaiah said are engraved on God’s hands.
“Other sheep” – do we see them? And when seeing them, “Do we see ourselves who are held in the embrace of a Shepherding God, known in Jesus, being called to tell and bring others?
So that, together we will be one sheep following another sheep into the fold of the good Shepherd named Jesus. Amen.