We have all been hurt.
And we have all caused harm.
It makes it difficult -to trust, to connect, to care, to love, to fully live.
The more it happens -the more difficult it gets.
The truly great…they turn that pain into something creative and life-giving, into resurrection.
John’s Gospel was written by a community in pain, that had trusted deeply and then been rejected and turned out. Traumatized and uprooted. Refugees.
And it was all Jesus’ fault. Jesus was everything to them, the point of intimate contact between God and creation. And that was too much for some especially the powerful.
To encounter God was to encounter Jesus, whether it was known and named or not, that point of life-giving contact with the divine was Jesus, so they believed and so they lived.
They saw the relationship between Jesus and the Father as one of mutuality, love and trust
This defined the relationship between Jesus and the Father.
And so it also defined the lives those who loved Jesus, it defined the life of their community and it defined how they saw the world, the whole Universe, in fact, was defined by the trust, love, and mutuality between Jesus and the Father.
God is for the world, and Jesus is that for-the-world-ness of God.
And so- they lived with reckless trust, they were vulnerable- and so they were hurt, turned out, rejected. They took on refugee status.
They felt the cross.
But they also felt the resurrection and they lived that love for each other and for the world, despite the cost.
Jesus is the Shepherd who can be trusted.
Not like the thief and the bandit who betray and steal and destroy.
The Shepherd is not like that, he is for the world, he is the salvation of creation.
We hear of the Good Shepherd today. The fourth Sunday of Easter is when we encounter the readings, images and the encounter of God as the Shepherd who is good, of Jesus as the shepherding presence of God in and for the world.
If we did a survey about the images of God through the life of the Church, sort of a March madness top picks, the Shepherd would win nine times out of ten.
The image abides and endures in the heart of faith throughout time, long after shepherds have fallen off of the cultural and economic map, Jesus as the Good Shepherd abides.
It makes sense, an image of trust in a world of pain, of God being present, Jesus as the Shepherd.
It makes sense that we love this image and experience of God. We need it desperately and we need what it reveals, that mutual love and trust between Jesus and the Father.
Our culture has a hard time even saying the word God anymore, an overused word fraught with baggage.
The ancient Hebrews knew of this consequence of overuse and misuse, so their reverence for the divine was expressed by abbreviating God’s name when written and using the words “the Lord” in its place when spoken. Our culture, in a similar but different way, is using the term “The Universe” more and more as an expression of an intentional force that cares. The Universe as the Shepherd.
For Christians, that caring presence of the Shepherd is Jesus, whether named or not, Jesus is that encounter, that image, that presence of the living life force at work in all things.
Being that specific, that personal, that intimate is what got John’s community banned from their community of faith.
Now some people carry Jesus name like a chip on the shoulder, begging to be persecuted, Jesus as offensive, like a thief or a bandit.
But Jesus is a shepherd, not a thief or a bandit. To carry his name, to worship his name, is not to carry a chip, it is not to be habitually offended. To carry Jesus name is to live with a reckless trust and love and mutuality in all our relationships, revealing and sharing the divine intimacy between Jesus and Father.
That mutual trust and love between Jesus and the Father, it shows us how to live, how to be a church, how to reach out to the wider world.
It shows us that hurt can be turned into resurrection.
The thief and the bandit, the opportunists who attack the vulnerable, who use Jesus as an excuse to cause harm, they do not have the last word, the death they spread is not the last word.
It’s a crazy hope that we have to trust and live with this divine mutuality and love.
The Shepherd–the very trust of God–alive and present in the Universe.
The last word– it is always –Resurrection.