This sermon was preached at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Holladay, UT on May 3, 2020. You can view it on our YouTube Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church SLC or go to oslcslc.org
The texts were:
Acts 2: 42-47
Have you ever been to a carnival or an amusement park where that have that weird house of mirrors or other type of maze? I’ve been in one exactly once and frankly, its’ not for me. You enter that mirror room or hall and you can’t figure out what’s real, what the next step should be, if what you think you should do is correct. For me, it incites a little panic that I’ll never get out and be stuck there forever. You can get so flustered that you miss things that should be obvious. But once you start to cut through the distractions, and false information, you can recognize what you might be missing. You see the path or the door that has always been there.
Maybe right now, you feel how I do, that we are being inundated with a bazillion pieces of information all day long and somehow, we are to sift through it, figure out what’s relevant and helpful and then use it to go forward in our lives in some sort of meaningful way. What media outlet is least biased? What voice is the most logical? What’s the truth? There’s so much that we can’t understand or make sense of. It’s decentering, exhausting and leaves us overwhelmed with all of the distractions and voices to choose from. It’s like living in that giant hall of mirrors. I think this is true about our lives in general in the 21st century, but then you add a pandemic to the mix, the whole thing seems up for grabs. I think this is why verse six from our John 10 reading this week has been ruminating around in my brain, “but they did not understand what Jesus was saying to them.” Ah ha! THIS I actually understand! Not understanding is the ONLY thing I understand right now!
We think we understand this passage in John 10 as the Good Shepherd text but really Jesus is still addressing the situation we read back in Lent in John 9, regarding the man born blind whom he had healed and whom the religious authorities had subsequently thrown out of the community. You might recall that Jesus found the man after he had been expelled and the man professed his belief in Jesus, even though up until that point, he had only ever heard his voice. Jesus affirms this and talks about how blindness is beyond physical sight. Jesus doesn’t stop talking at the end of chapter 9, he simply switches tactics. Jesus offers many metaphors and figures of speech, confusing those who are still listening. They’re just not getting it. And I wonder if I really get it either.
This metaphor packed passage is one that has been used for centuries as fodder to make distinctive claims about being a follower of Jesus. Jesus speaks seemingly exclusionary statements about who listens to him, as well as who he is and who others are. Jesus says that his sheep will listen to his voice and not that of the stranger or those who will rob, destroy, and kill. Jesus says that he is the gate, which can also mean the door. This leads us to assume that Jesus is saying that not everyone listens, some get lost in the other distractions and not everyone can be in the fold, so to speak. We worry if we belong, if we are listening and if we will find the right path through the distractions. But just like we get distracted and lost in the information piled on us each day, we get lost in the images that Jesus is using and miss the words of promise that Jesus offers.
We miss the other things that Jesus says: such as the sheep do listen. Jesus is the gate or the door. Jesus came to give us abundant life. We miss the promise in this passage that no matter what happens, no matter who tries to rob us of our dignity, worth, or voice, Jesus is there. No matter what or who tries to divide us from each other or the love of God, Jesus is there. No matter what stranger may try and come along and tell us that they can offer us an easier, better life, Jesus won’t let us go. No matter if we come or go out to the pasture, Jesus is always there as the door that opens wide to let us in or out as we need. The door is for us, and for all. It’s not about who’s in or out, the point is that with Jesus, the door is always there and will open. We can’t get lost. We don’t have to understand why, we only have to keep listening to the promise. We will listen to our shepherd because Jesus’ voice is the only one who calls us by our name, our true name as beloved child of God. Jesus’ voice is the only one who will lead us to what really matters, the truth of our lives: it is God who gives us true abundant life: pastures of peace, protection of our spirits from harm, steadfast presence with us no matter how deep and dark the valley might be. We are in relationship with Jesus and so we are whole and holy.
Living in abundant life means that we cling to these promises from God in the midst of what we don’t understand, in what is painful, hard and uncomfortable. The promise of this abundant life is for you, for me and for all people. The promise is that with Jesus, we don’t navigate life alone, we are gathered in loving community and we together, follow the voice of love that calls to us: love of God, love of our neighbor, and the love of creation. This voice of love is only one we hear, the only one our hearts respond to, this voice of love cuts through all of the other distractions and false promises, this voice of love leads us to Jesus, the door that is for all people, the door that opens to truth, love, grace and life.