4th Sunday of Easter—Year A—May 11, 2014
Preached at the Lutheran Church of Framingham
Doors, gates, portals…open to opportunities, let things in, provide access
They also…lock danger out, keep us safe, provide a sense of security
And…they isolate, keep us from opportunity, create barriers, divide the whole
Jesus says he is the gate…in what way…we assume the good way…but what does that mean exactly?
Sometimes divisions make us feel secure…us/them, good/bad, right/wrong…but really all they do is break down the body of Christ.
A locked door might be reassure for someone while it is detriment to another.
Think of the racial barrier…the glass ceiling…the poverty line.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus does not call himself the “good shepherd;” that comes later in chapter, we read it in years B & C, but this year we simply read the part of John 10 where he calls himself “the gate.”
And to understand this we must understand gates (or lack there of) in 1st Century Palestine. Usually there was no physical gate apart from the gatekeeper. It was the gatekeeper that was totally responsible for letting people and animals in and out.
The gate (or really gatekeeper) actually lays down in order to save and protect the sheep inside. It is the gatekeeper who determines who is in and who is out.
This metaphor can be a reminder that Jesus lays down his life to save us. It is God who determines who is in and who is out.
And when we remember what has just happened previously in John 9, the healing of the man born blind, which we read a couple of weeks ago, the metaphor makes a little more sense.
We see Jesus risk his own reputation (and ultimately life) to give renewed life to the man. We hear Jesus declare that it is God who determines if this man is sinful, less, to be kept apart from the rest of the group or not…not the Pharisess or other leaders. And of course God’s answer is that the man born blind is no less part of the flock, no less of a human, no more a sinner, no less loved than any of the rest of us.
In the healing story, it is the leaders who try to keep the man born blind down and out who are the thieves and bandits. And there are times today that we encounter similar circumstances—where some people try to declare themselves more than others…more worthy, more intelligent, more beautiful, more loved. But none of it is true. Nothing we, as humans, say changes the status of any person as a sheep of God’s fold.
God’s word protects us from these attacks, constantly proclaiming God’s love for the world. There are thieves that are locked out, that we are protected from, but sometimes when we shut doors, close ourselves in, we actually end up trapping the thieves in with us, inside us…greed, malice, anger, and grief. These too can make us think that we or others are less in God’s eyes. However, if we are honest God’s word contradicts those claims as well, declaring us all beloved children of God, welcome to the protection of the gate.
Safe behind the gate, and in the pasture, watched over by the shepherd, we live as God intended. We are not meant to live alone—community is important! It keeps us accountable to God’s word. It keeps us united, even in the times when two of us aren’t getting along (the larger community keeps us from trying to throw the other one out of the gate’s care). It keeps us gifted, since we do not have to rely on just the gifts we have, but we have access to all the gifts God has given. This is all part of that abundant life that Jesus came to bring us.
Thankfully Jesus is our gate!
A gate that builds and maintains community—made to bear with one another, can’t escape or throw others out.
A gate of salvation—entry to something, along with everyone else—saved from isolation and marginalization and darkness. Jesus is our way in, our promise of sustenance and security—daily bread.
A gate that protects—safety from things that would steal, ruin, or alter the abundant life we have given through Jesus. Amen.