Saturday, May 23, 2015

Come, Holy Spirit


 The vote is official: 62-percent of the electorate in Ireland has approved marriage equality for the Emerald Isle, making them the first country in the world to approve by popular vote a constitutional change in favor of lesbians and gays getting married. It was such an overwhelming majority that the opposition leaders conceded defeat before all the votes were in because the writing was so clearly on the wall.

“The people have spoken,” Irish Senator Fidelema Eames, an outspoken opponent of the referendum campaign, told the English newspaper The Telegraph. Eames says all the polling had shown support for the referendum but added that some of the No voters were afraid to express themselves because they felt intimidated by the other side.
 In both Dublin and Cork, people reported seeing rainbows in the sky, a sign that even the heavens were rejoicing in this amazing moment.

The Anglican Church of Ireland, however, was not as excited by this development. In a news release put out today, the Church remained firm in its opposition to marriage for same-sex couples:


The archbishops and bishops of the Church of Ireland wish to affirm that the people of the Republic of Ireland, in deciding by referendum to alter the State’s legal definition of marriage, have of course acted fully within their rights. 

The Church of Ireland, however, defines marriage as between a man and a woman, and the result of this referendum does not alter this. 

The church has often existed, in history, with different views from those adopted by the state, and has sought to live with both conviction and good relationships with the civil authorities and communities in which it is set. Marriage services taking place in a Church of Ireland church, or conducted by a minister of the Church of Ireland may – in compliance with church teaching, liturgy and canon law – continue to celebrate only marriage between a man and a woman. 

We would now sincerely urge a spirit of public generosity, both from those for whom the result of the referendum represents triumph, and from those for whom it signifies disaster.

Disaster? You would have thought this public exercise of democracy had been a terrorist attack.
The Church of Ireland is not alone in the Anglican Communion in holding this type of attitude about the advent of marriage equality. Even in the United States, where 37 states have adopted marriage equality, there are Episcopal dioceses that are slow to change or are flat out refusing to reflect the reality that is around them.

This stuff was very much on my mind as I served at St. John’s 12:10pm service on Friday. The Gospel lesson was from John 21, the portion right after Jesus has prepared a fish breakfast on the beach. He takes Peter aside and quizzes him:

 "When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’ He said to him the third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep." --John 21:15-17


I thought about that mantra, “Feed my sheep; tend my flock; feed my sheep” and reflected on the state of affairs for the LGBTQ+ faithful. There are those sheep who are there, week after week sitting in the pews, waiting to be fed. There are many who have been scattered and haven’t heard the call to come home or, in some cases, they have come home only to be run off again because the shepherds left in charge haven’t tended to them, but instead used their crook to strike them. Not many are going to stick around a place where they’re going to get beaten up in the name of God. They are in need of shepherds who will feed them and tend to them and be willing to be led into places where the shepherd may not want to go but has to if he or she is going to tend to these “other sheep.”

A prayer that has been on my lips this week is the Thomas Tallis piece my choir at St. Thomas will be singing this Sunday:

“If ye love me keep my commandments and I will pray the Father will give you another comforter that he may bide with you forever e’en the spirit of truth.”  

If we keep the commandment to love one another as we are loved by God, then that love must continue to extend. One of the complaints I have heard from those who are “Millennials” is that we, who call ourselves Christians, are hypocrites. We say we love and God is love, and then we fight against marriage equality or letting lesbians and gay men adopt kids, including their own! They see that as judgmental because, well, it is. And there’s been so much time and effort put into keeping the LGBTQ+ community out that they aren’t anxious to come back in and neither are their many straight ally friends.

So here we are on the eve of Pentecost, and the Church of Ireland is using words such as “disaster” to describe the reaction of those on the losing end of the referendum, and making sure everyone knows that just because secular law is changing, their canons have not changed. Are they not sensing the power of that blowing wind?

As we prepare for the arrival of the Holy Spirit, I would hope that those who have such fear of the change that is bringing about marriage equality in places such as Ireland might remember that the promise Christ gives to all of us at the end of Matthew’s gospel is that he will be with us always to the end of the age. His presence is not absent in these votes or these changes or in the years of struggle that got us to this new place. The Holy Spirit has blown a new wind into the Emerald Island. That same wind is blowing across this nation, and it is even reaching into states such as Florida which cannot withstand the hurricane of change that is coming. Resisting the reality that is to come and is now here is futile, and only serves to feed the belief that the church is irrelevant.

Come, Holy Spirit. Breathe new life into these places and give them the courage to live into a gospel of love and freedom.



Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Pain of the Penalty


I thought that when I sat down to type out a blog post, the thing that would want to come out is my response to the Pew Research Study on religion in the country. That is on my mind, and I am sure I will write on that soon enough. But after some exchanges on Facebook last night, I feel that the more pressing need is to spell out why I am sorry that the jury in Boston returned the death penalty in the case of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokar Tsarnaev.

Let me start with saying that I don't like him. In fact, I find it very hard to find any love for this guy. He killed people, maimed many others, and he scarred a city and an event that is usually a really joyful time in the spring. I don't call him a monster. But I do see him as a force for evil. The fact that he doesn't seem to care about anyone beside himself is proof to me that he is residing in Hell and doesn't seem to mind that. Do I believe he should pay for his crimes? Absolutely! I am glad that he, unlike his brother, was captured and made to stand trial for what he did. That is much more satisfying than allowing him to go out in a firefight with police officers, or taking his own life. I want him to pay for what he did.

And this begins my disagreement with the death verdict. I am not going to lie: I oppose capital punishment. And I will go into all that in a moment. But one of the chief reasons I oppose it in this case is that I believe it is far too easy for us, the sane people who don't kill other people with homemade bombs, to believe that this is "what he deserves." The fact is that the Tsarnaev brothers were clearly willing to die for their unjust cause. They did not want to be taken in alive, and it probably frustrated the younger brother that he didn't die from his bullet wounds. As such, giving him a death sentence, in my opinion, has just given him what he wanted: a chance to be a martyr in his cause for anti-American Islam-gone-bad. He will be allowed to have his beliefs confirmed that the "Great Satan" is killing him as it has killed so many of his brethern. This was the motivation for the bombing in the first place. Why, then, would we want to fulfill that thought? Would it not be more "what he deserves" if he is forced to sit in a 6x9 cell in Terre Haute, Indiana, contemplating his failed mission for the rest of his life?

In my online back and forth with friends of a friend on Facebook (aside: this is never a good idea to get into one of these, but I just couldn't help myself), I was struck with the fact that a person would think that my position, life in prison with no possibility of parole, would be considered "coddling" the murderer. Others on the thread were putting out the usual misrepresentations of prisons being like a stay at the Ritz Carlton, or maybe even a Motel 6. These are people who have never seen the inside of a prison and have no idea what the conditions are really like. Prison is no picnic. I don't know about the rest of the country, but air-conditioning? No, there is no AC. The state legislature in Florida made sure of that a long time ago. And in Florida, that is brutal. In prison, you have no freedom. None. You are always being told what to do and when to do it. And you are surrounded by sociopaths. If you are someone who has done harm to a child, you are considered vile even among sociopaths, and given that there was an 8-year-old boy among the dead in Boston, you can bet that Tsarnaev will be a target.

Will he be living in prison at "taxpayers expense"? Why, yes, he will. And the post-convinction appeals process will also be at taxpayers expense, and it is very costly as the laws continuously shift like large glaciers. The road to an execution is not cheap, and in the end, comes pretty close to being the same price as if we had locked up the inmate and thrown away the key. His three meals a day, again, are not going to be an All You Can Eat buffet, or sushi or whatever. It will be kind of like gruel. Yuck.

What about the victims and their families? Why don't I care about them? That is probably the most insulting thing to say not just to me, but about them. We have fed the public a lie that the death penalty will be bring about closure. It may do that for some, but only once the execution happens, and it won't happen for several years. So, instead, we make the families relive the horror as the appeals process goes on and on. Some, like a declared candidate for president from a large Southern state, have attempted as Governor to "speed up" that process. But frankly, that's not an answer, especially in a civilized society where we shouldn't be rushing to kill people before every assurance is there that this is the right thing to do. Now, in the Tsarnaev case where his guilt was never in doubt, he may reach his execution date faster. But once he's dead, will this do anything to bring the other innocent dead back to life? No. Will it regenerate limbs on the maimed? No. Will it make him a martyr to madness? Yes. The families deserved immediate closure, and a life sentence without the possibility of parole would have given them that closure. He would be gone, dead to society if not actually dead. Now they'll have to wait. It is interesting to note that the family of the youngest victim, Martin Richard, asked that the prosecution not seek the death penalty. News outlets didn't seem to seek them out on the day of the verdict, but were certain to find those who were pleased with this "eye for an eye" approach.

But this is the jury's verdict and we have to respect that. Well, this is America, and I am free to disagree with the outcome of a jury verdict in the same way that I disagreed with the George Zimmerman case and the O.J. Simpson case. Besides, juries are "death qualified," meaning that when they are assembled, the prosecution has been very careful to find people they believe will return a death sentence. And even though the majority of people in Massachusetts are anti-death penalty, there are still many who have no problem killing a person if they are no longer a person, but a monster.

I am sorry for the victims of this senseless and horrible tragedy. I only wish that the sentencing would have put a real period to this whole mess. Sadly, I don't think it has. And true justice has to wait.

 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Enough Already!

Readers of this blog, however many and whoever you all are, have seen that the previous two entries were devoted to the story of the McCaffrey family and the saga of their desire to get their adopted baby boy, Jack, baptized at the Cathedral of St. Luke's in Orlando. The cathedral dean canceled the baptism when some members complained about Jack's parents being a married gay couple. This led to an online posting that then led to a massive outcry which eventually brought the couple to meet with Bishop Greg Brewer of the diocese of Central Florida last Thursday evening. All parties seemed to have felt that they had had a frank and honest discussion. Most importantly, the bishop has committed that Jack will receive the sacrament of baptism at the cathedral some time this summer, and Jack's dads have said they really do wish to continue attending the cathedral. And I am grateful that Baby Jack is too young to know what a stir his inclusion into the Body of Christ has caused, and that he obviously has two dads who love him dearly and were willing to stick this out so their son may grow in the faith of Christ. 

For his part, Bishop Brewer issued a statement about the whole affair, acknowledging the injury caused in canceling the baptism. And while the bishop clearly has not changed his mind on the broader questions of full inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in all the sacraments of the church, he made some good theological arguments to the members of his diocese in a pastoral letter on the affair, noting that the sacrament of baptism doesn't happen within just the immediate family of the newly-baptized:

"Congregations often assume, wrongly, that it is the prime responsibility of the parents to raise their baptized children as Christians with the local church only playing a supportive or secondary role. As a result, congregations often consider the baptism service as a welcoming celebration they watch, instead of a corporate act of re-consecration for the entire congregation- including a sacramental baptism that changes the child’s life forever. In a service of baptism, God acts in grace and the congregation acts in prayerful and sacrificial love.

If we are called to “do all in our power to support this person,” that promise implies a level of effort far greater than having a good Sunday school program. Instead, the implication of the baptismal liturgy is that the task of raising that child into the “full stature of Christ” is primarily that of the local congregation, of which the parents and sponsors are coequal members. It assumes that congregations get personally involved in the lives of the newly baptized and their families through their prayers and the building of friendships. Acting in concert for the raising up of children in Christ takes seriously the fact that such children are full members of the Body and worthy of our best efforts of discipleship, love and pastoral care."


As I've said, I give the McCaffreys praise for their willingness to pull out the stops to get their son baptized in the Episcopal Church as practiced in Central Florida. And with that in mind, I can only hope that they were not present for the service yesterday morning at the cathedral where the Canon for Pastoral Care, the Rev. Gary L'Hommedieu, delivered a nearly 17-minute sermon that, once again, attempted to re-cast the events that led to the initial denial of Jack's baptism, and claim that the scandal that enveloped their cathedral was due to "diversity activists" on the west coast. As I listened to what really sounded more like a theological rant than a sermon, I was drawn back to the line that the Canon used at the start of his diatribe:

"I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you."--John 15:12.

What did he hear in those words? I'm not sure he heard the same things I did about loving those with whom you agree and disagree, at least not based upon what he said. Based on what he said, I have to wonder if he doesn't see the McCaffreys as being among the thieves and the wolves out to scatter the sheep of the cathedral flock by coming in. He says they weren't "a cause" but a family wishing to join the cathedral. Nobody said they were "a cause," and had the cathedral baptized their baby boy as scheduled, then the "diversity activists" wouldn't have had anything to say now, right? And let's be clear: the cause isn't Jack's two dads. The "cause," if you want to use that term , is the baptism. That denial of baptism was simply one more example to those of us who have heard the stories out of that diocese of how mistreated and spiritually abused gay Episcopalians are in that diocese. Yes, there are those who had hoped the McCaffreys would take on other issues and bones the community has to pick with the bishop. Many of us, however, understand that their one concern is for their child. And you cannot compel anyone to take up other complaints if that's not the passion in their belly. That will be left to others to do the work that is like what the prophet Nathan did with King David and tell the Bishop, "You have not done well by gay people, sir."  

Still, if the Rev. Canon L'Hommedieu's sermon says anything to me, it's that the willingness to attack anyone who questions their status quo in Central Florida is alive and well. And I say, if you believe in those words of Jesus from John's gospel, then enough already! Quit defending an indefensible position and casting it as the good shepherd protecting the sheep. Really, are the LGBTQ+ faithful now "the wolves"? Is this what Love looks like?


Saturday, May 9, 2015

Who Can Withhold the Water of Baptism?

In the previous entry on this blog, I shared the sad tale of the McCaffrey family and their baby boy named Jack. All they wanted to do was baptize their son at the Cathedral of St. Luke, the Episcopal Cathedral in Orlando. Everything seemed in order for this to occur on April 19th at an evening service, until some unnamed people apparently complained that Jack has two daddies and this would cause a scandal at the church. The Dean, Anthony Clark, told the dads there was a "development." And after getting nowhere for two weeks, one of the dads posted the story to social media...which then was like the shot heard round the world as it was shared and shared and finally ended up in the Orlando Sentinel, a reputable state newspaper. Now the Bishop of the diocese of Central Florida decided to meet with the dads, in the evening, "to get to know them and for them to get to know him" (these are his words, not mine.) The bishop wanted to make sure that these two gentlemen "intended" to raise Jack "in the Christian faith." This all took place on Thursday, and by Friday, the news broke that the bishop and the McCaffreys had come to an agreement that the baptism would take place at some unspecified time this summer at the cathedral. Rich McCaffrey put out a statement on Facebook in appreciation of everyone's support and noted that their family wanted to stay at the cathedral because they believe there is more good in people than bad. And so there is a happy outcome from what was an unnecessarily awful story.

I admire the McCaffreys for standing up for their son, and their willingness to forgive the offense that was committed against him in acknowledging that they have found the cathedral community to be a welcoming place. I am also pleased for so many priests in the Episcopal Church that they have the lesson from the Book of Acts as their backdrop to juxtapose with this story:


On Peter's arrival Cornelius met him, and falling at his feet, worshiped him. But Peter made him get up, saying, "Stand up; I am only a mortal." 

Then Peter began to speak to them: "I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 

While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, "Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days. 


It is stunning to me that anyone would ever say no to any child being brought forward for baptism. I find it infuriating that the church spends as much energy as it does attempting to hold back sacraments from people. I get tired of the ways that the people of God attempt to out think God's intent for other people, and substitute their human understanding and claim that it is God's will. 

God's will doesn't seem too complicated to me. It can be summed up in one line out of the Gospel lesson:
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. (John 15:12)

And yet, we continue to operate as if love is a scarce commondity. The theologian Henri Nouwen really nailed this point in a passage from his book, "Bread for the Journey,":
As fearful people we are inclined to develop a mind-set that makes us say:  "There's not enough food for everyone, so I better be sure I save enough for myself in case of emergency," or "There's not enough knowledge for everyone to enjoy; so I'd better keep my knowledge to myself, so no one else will use it" or "There's not enough love to give to everybody, so I'd better keep my friends for myself to prevent others from taking them away from me."   This is a scarcity mentality.  It involves hoarding whatever we have, fearful that we won't have enough to survive.  The tragedy, however, is that what you cling to ends up rotting in your hands.

The behavior exhibited in the intial denial of baptism was definitely rotten. The denial of any sacrament of the church to LGBT people will also continue the decay of the institution that the hoarders of Love want to protect. 

I wish the McCaffreys well and hope their sweet baby boy will be welcomed into the Body of Christ sooner rather than later. And as they become more active in the life of the cathedral, I hope they will be included in all the various levels of ministry, something that has been elusive for other lesbian and gay Episcopalians in that diocese. If God shows no partiality, why should the church?

Monday, May 4, 2015

Baptism Under Fire in Central Florida


This is a story of church done wrong.
I was casually cruising through Facebook posts yesterday afternoon when I stopped to read a lengthy tale of baby Jack and his two dads, Rich and Eric, and their experience of looking for a spiritual home where they could have their son baptized and raise him in a faith community.  The couple has been together for 15 years and married a few years back in New York and then returned to their Orlando home. 
Rich McCaffrey shared what happened to them:
Being a gay couple, we knew we wanted to be part of a community that would be open to and respectful of our family. After some research, Eric and I felt the Episcopal Church would offer similarities to what we knew of the church growing up, and it could serve as a place in which we could grow spiritually as a family. We began attending the Cathedral Church of St. Luke in Orlando and quickly felt at home. We spent time discussing our desire to baptize Jack with the Dean, Anthony Clark. We were open with him about our family and that we wanted the focus to be placed, where it should, on Jack. The Dean was welcoming and open about the congregation, explaining it was a mix of conservative- and liberal-minded people. He agreed to Jack’s baptism, and recommended we opt for the later 6 p.m. service, since those who worship at that time tend to be the most “open.”
We chose Sunday, April 19 for the baptism. We attended Sunday services and recommended classes, becoming more familiar and pleased with our choice. We invited friends and family, both local and from out of town, and we looked forward to celebrating with Jack on what was to be an important day. On Thursday, April 16 we received a message from Dean Clark asking us to contact him regarding “a development” concerning the baptism. With relatives in the room, I called and what I heard still creates a lump in my throat. The Dean shared there were members of the congregation who opposed Jack’s baptism and although he hoped to resolve the conflict, he was not yet able to (the Bishop of Central Florida, Greg Brewer, was also involved). After probing further the Dean said “the issue is with you and Eric being the first two men who will baptize their child at the Cathedral.” He offered his apologies and further explained this was a bigger deal because of the exposure that comes along with the baptism taking place at the Cathedral. In essence “this is not no forever, just not now.” Three days before our son was to be baptized he was turned away. At that moment, he was unwelcomed by the church, and denied his rite to be recognized as a Christian. I was speechless, angry, and heartbroken.
Jack’s baptism turned out to be the very opposite of what it should have been. It became about Jack having two dads, rather than a community opening its arms to a joyful little soul, one of God’s children.
How many sins can one see in this story?
Let's start with the main one. As Rich himself noted, the one being baptized and celebrated is their son, Jack, not Jack's two dads. There is no reason, zero, zip, nada, to deny a baby the sacrament of baptism. This is about the child's membership in the Body of Christ, the marking and sealing as one of Christ's own forever. 
Then there's the idea that the Dean is capitulating to pressure from "some members of the congregation" because the couple is gay and the cathedral would allow a gay couple to bring a child forth for baptism is a "thing." The whole, "Well, let's do it at the 6pm service because they tend to be more open" is also disturbing. I understand why, but does it not feel a little like how Nicodemus felt most comfortable speaking to Jesus "at night" when, presumably, nobody would notice? I'm sure the 6pm service isn't the main one for the day, and probably no other couple...save for people who might attend that service regularly... have been instructed to do the baptism at that time, so as to not ruffle any feathers. Just that type of negotiation would have made me think, "Hmmmmmm...."
And then to cancel a baptism? I can understand if there's a family member or other honored guest who can't make it and the parents decide it can't be done until later. But to cancel it because some unnamed members of the cathedral complained? 
The irony of all of this is that one of the readings used for the Fifth Sunday of Easter this year was the lovely story from Acts where the apostle Philip finds himself in the company of an Ethiopian eunuch who is studying Scripture. Philip is delighted and the eunuch is eager to learn and understand what he is reading, and Phillip teaches him. And then the men see a body of water and the eunuch turns to Philip and says, "Look, here is water. What is to prevent me from being baptized?" And indeed, nothing stopped him and Philip baptized the eunuch into the budding Christian faith. Now, can you imagine if Philip had said to the eunuch, "I'm sorry, but there's been a development and because you are too different from me, I can't possibly baptize you"? Wouldn't do much for that whole mission to bring the Good News to the world, would it?
As this story has been gaining speed on the internet, the diocese of Central Florida, long known to the LGBTQ+ community of this state as a big Black Hole that is barely remaining Episcopal, has been saying that this has all been a "misunderstanding." Bishop Greg Brewer says he had only become aware of this issue when the Facebook post went out yesterday (odd since it seems that he was included in the initial consult that led to this "misunderstanding.") I saw where Bishop Brewer posted on a friend's re-post of the Episcopal Cafe article on this debacle. The bishop appreciated seeing the article and noted "this is difficult to work out without throwing somebody under the bus." 
Well, I'd say that Rich and Eric and Baby Jack have already been thrown under the bus!
I have a way for this to work out: the dean and the bishop apologize for having dissed this family so badly, and they ask the parents of Jack for forgiveness. And then they schedule the baptism, and they sprinkle water on Jack's forehead in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Perhaps they also move more deliberately through the Baptismal Covenant.  Have the Dean and the Bishop really take in with the congregation of the cathedral what it means to affirm their belief in a Triune God, and commit to a life in Christ as a community, going so far as to seek and serve Christ in others, loving their neighbor as themselves and respecting the dignity of every human being.
They can do it...with God's help.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Reflection on St. Phillip and St. James Day

This is getting posted a day late, but not a dollar short, necessarily. Our internet decided to go on vacation yesterday afternoon for the umpteenth time, so we have called in a tech to fix it. Magically, it has been restored after hitting the factory reset button for a second time. Hence, I am now able to post what I was going to put up yesterday!

Yes, May 1st is International Worker's Day. Yes, the Pagan community celebrate Beltane on May 1st with May poles galore. In the Christian (or Catholic/Episcopal) calendar, it is St. Phillip and St. James Day. This was another writing assignment tasked me by St. Thomas. The gospel is from John:

"Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’
 Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it."

Here are my thoughts:

Philip and James were among those who faithfully followed Jesus. And still, as Jesus prepares for his journey to the cross and speaks those powerful words, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” we have Philip asking Jesus to “Show us the Father.” Even those who had the closest contact to Him had not quite grasped that Jesus had shown them “the way, the truth and the life” through his earthly ministry. Each time he touched someone, listened patiently, responded in compassion and love, Jesus was modeling the love that is from the Father. The love of God is within Jesus, and that love is within each of us who proclaims Christ as the Redeemer. Respond in love as Jesus loved us, and that is the way to truth and life which heals the world.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Bringing in the Sheep

My church has been asking members to craft reflections based upon the Scriptures assigned for any particular day in the Easter Season. I was asked to do one for the Gospel lesson assigned for the Fourth Sunday of Easter.  The passage is from John 10:


 "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away--and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 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. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father."

 
My reflection:

Those of us who believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God know him to be the good shepherd, the voice we hear that reminds us to love one another as He has loved us. And in this passage, Jesus notes that he has “other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also and they will listen to my voice.” We can’t know how God is working God’s purpose out in other people, be they other Christians or other people of faith. God may also be secretly working on those whose unbelief has left them scattered. All we can do is keep listening to the voice of the shepherd and doing our part to lay down our lives for others. You never know how Christ may be using you to bring another sheep back into the fold.