The readings for Sunday, April 17, 2016:
First Reading: Acts 9:36-43
Psalm: Psalm 23
Second Reading: Revelation 7:9-17
Gospel: John 10:22-30
This week's Gospel reading takes us back to the metaphor of the sheep. Those of us living post-agricultural lives probably don't know how stupid sheep are. The idea that we are sheep is not attractive. And yet we have a shepherd who loves us and calls to us, no matter how many times we wander away and get into scrapes.
What would a more modern metaphor be? That of the clueless student, who nonetheless can respond to a specific voice? That of a computer that is just a dumb box of electronics until the right programmer comes along? The electrical circuits that are mute until electricity flows from the power plant?
We might also ponder the nature of the questioners in this passage. They say to Jesus, "If you're the Messiah, we wish that you would just say so."
This moment must be one of those that would drive Jesus to thoughts of taking up a really bad habit to deal with the pain of these people who just don't get it. Jesus must have considered just giving up on the whole salvation project since he was undergoing so much to save such clueless people. How many more ways did he have to say/demonstrate/show that he was the Messiah before people could understand?
Before we spend too much time congratulating ourselves for recognizing the voice of our shepherd, we might consider all the ways that Christ calls to us and we refuse to hear. Christ tells us to give away our wealth, and we rationalize: surely he didn't mean all of it. Jesus tells us to care for the sick, and we do a good job of that, some of us, as long as we liked the sick person back when that person was well. Jesus tells us to visit those in prison. I haven't done that--have you? In short, Jesus tells us to care for the poor and oppressed and to work for a more just society. How many of us do that?
Some of us did just that by coming together for the annual Nehemiah action that BOLD Justice assembles in Broward county. BOLD Justice, an ecumenical group, decides on a set of issues each year, and works to bring some positive social change to places where justice is not flourishing. Each year we do a Nehemiah action where we bring authorities who could make change to our group. We politely lay out the issue and our vision for change, and we ask for support. Some years, we get a yes. Some years, we get a "We'll work on it," which is basically a no. Some years, we get stony silence from authorities.
I go each year and still find it profoundly moving. It's good to be reminded that people from a wide variety of faiths have similar interests: most of the world's major religions have a social justice function. It's good to be reminded that one lone voice crying in the wilderness doesn't usually accomplish much. But thousands of voices, demanding justice, can bring about change.
We have many opportunities to work for justice. Most of us don't because we lead lives that leave us tired. But often, a group that works for good in the world can energize us. Find a group that works to alleviate a social injustice that particularly pains you and join it. Write letters to your elected officials. Help build a Habitat house. At the very least, you can give food (real food, not just the castaways from your pantry) to a food bank. At the very least, you can clean out your closets and give your perfectly good clothes to the poor.
In this way, we can help God, who is making a new creation. In this way, we respond to the call of our shepherd.
feeling the feelings…
11 months ago