I am the good shepherd. I know my own sheep and my own sheep know me. 1

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1 A p r i l Sermon Bethlehem Lutheran, Kalispell MT Mark Gravrock 26 April 2015 Easter 4 John Grace and peace.... Jesus says, I am the good shepherd. I know my own sheep and my own sheep know me. 1 What do you mean, Lord? Am I one of your sheep? How do I know that I m yours? You say that your own sheep know you: Do I know you? How do I know that I know you? Child, when I said that, I was using a picture, a little parable: In my culture, all the sheep in town might be kept together in the same pen overnight. In the morning, each shepherd would come to lead his own sheep out to pasture, and only that shepherd s own sheep would recognize his voice only his own sheep would recognize him and trust him and follow him. You know my voice. You are mine: I died for you! And you recognize my voice and follow me. A little later in the conversation, I filled it out a bit more. Here s what I said: My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, 1 John 10.14

2 A p r i l and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 2 That s my promise to you, friend. I know my own, and my own know me. Lord, I know that you know me. Sometimes, that s a little unsettling: There are things that go on inside me that I d rather you didn t know about! But most of the time, I m glad that you know me, that you know what I m going through, that you know my fears and my hopes and my dreams, that you know my passions and my loves, that you know what terrifies me in the middle of the night. I m glad that you know me. But Lord, do I really know you? So often, I m not even awake to the fact that you re here, that you re with me. And so much of the day, I m listening to every other voice but yours. Do I know you? Child, I m not saying that you re tuned into my wavelength 100%. Throughout your life, you ll keep on growing in knowing me, growing in hearing my voice. But you are mine: I gave my life for you. I baptized you into myself. I have given you my Spirit. And when I have told you how much I love you, something inside you has said, Oh, yes! That s where it starts. And from there on, much of it is practice: practicing hearing and recognizing my voice, noticing whenever my word gets through to you 2 Vv

3 A p r i l noticing how my word burns within you, practicing noticing the difference between my life-giving voice and all those other voices out there: the voices that judge you, the voices that push you around, the voices that want to use you for some agenda, the voices of the thief and the hireling, the voices of the world s chaos and frenzy, and your own limited voice. The fact that you are mine does not depend on how well you hear my voice, or on how well you follow. You are mine, and I ll keep teaching you. I guess that s true, Lord: I don t always recognize very clearly when you are speaking, but I do notice the effect: Other voices can dull me or distract me. Other voices can throw me into anxiety and doubt, into despising myself or glorifying myself, into frenzy and drivenness. Your voice, your word, even when it critiques me, your word anchors me, and settles me, and turns me outward again. It does seem rather out of balance, though, Lord: You say: I know my own and my own know me, but you know me so completely, and my knowing you is so fragmented. That s okay, child. It s my knowing you that matters the most, and I m teaching you little by little to recognize my voice. The day will come when you see me face to face, and then you will know me completely. In fact, let me up the ante: I didn t only say, I know my own sheep

4 A p r i l and my own sheep know me... I went on to add:... just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. 3 Wait a minute, Lord! You and your Father? You and God? You and your Father know each other completely. You told us: No one has ever seen God. The only Son, who is tucked in the fold of the Father s garment, he has made him known. 4 You and the Father know each other through-and-through: Are you saying that you and we, you and your sheep, know each other like that? Yes, child, that s what I m saying! Granted, your knowledge of me is only partial now. It s incomplete and fuzzy. But stop and think of it for a moment: Yes, I am God s Son. Yes, I came from the Father s side. But as a human being, I had to learn to hear God s voice just as you do. I had to learn to recognize the Shepherd s voice just as you do. I had to learn to trust and follow. I had to learn to discern, to distinguish among all the voices around me, just as you do. I had to learn walk my Father s ways, and so to recognize his voice more fully in the walking. And I, too even though I am God s Son I, too, looked forward to the day when I would see God s face again, when the curtain would be cast aside, and our knowing would be complete. 33 V. 15a 4 John 1.18

5 A p r i l And there s more, friend: Just as my Father has drawn me into his knowing, into the knowing of love for one another, and then has sent me to you to show you the Father s face, so now I have drawn you into my knowing, into the knowing of my cross, and now I send you to show the world my face. I know my own and my own know me just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. Lord, that s a little staggering! A little overwhelming! What you re saying is that we are your own sheep, but that you re turning us into shepherds for others, yes? You got it, child. Remember what I told Peter, when I met him by the lake after my resurrection? Simon, son of John, do you love me? I asked him. Yes, Lord, you know that I love you, he answered. And I said, Tend my lambs. Feed my sheep. 5 You are my sheep you will always be my sheep and I commission you to join me in my shepherding. That sounds like a tall order, Lord. I started out asking you whether I am one of your sheep, whether I do know you and your voice, and now you re putting me to work on your shepherding team? How in the world do I do that? Friend, I think you already know the answer to that question. There was one more line in what I told you this morning. Did you catch it? 5 John

6 A p r i l 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. 6 The easy word for what we re talking about is love. The deep truth inside the easy word love hard as rock, impossible to consider, yet joyful as a fresh-water spring the deep truth inside the word is to lay down one s life for another to be so captured by God s love, to be so captured by my love, by my cross, that you are freed and eager to set your own stuff aside for someone else s sake. That s love. That s shepherding. That s knowing my voice. Lord, I have heard you say that. In fact, I think we heard it this morning in one of John s letters: We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.... Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. 7 Lord, that s scary: Do I have to lose myself in the process? Child, let me say this to you carefully, because there are counterfeits out there, and I want you to hear the right voice. One false version will tell you that you are worthless, that you don t deserve any dignity or respect, that all you are good for is to be someone else s lackey. That is not the Shepherd s Voice. 6 V. 15b 7 1 John 3.16, 18

7 A p r i l That is the thief who comes to steal and kill and destroy. Another counterfeit will tell you that, as a Christian, you are called to give and give to others, to do and do for others, until you have nothing left and you re all used up. That, too, is not the Shepherd s Voice. I came that you may have life, and have it in abundance. 8 Listen to what each voice does to you, my child, and you ll come to recognize the voice of the Shepherd and the voice of the wolf. Here s the truth: As I shepherd you in my own self-giving love, as I bathe you and nourish you in my own shepherding, you will be set free to love, set free to lay yourself aside in joy. You ask me, Do I have to lose myself in the process? And the answer is, No, you get to lose yourself in the process! I think I m learning to love your voice, Lord, even when it s challenging. You have the words of eternal life. 9 May I ask one more question? I m glad you claim me as one of your sheep. I m glad I m one of your own that you know, and that know you. My question is: Is everybody part of your flock? Or is your own sheep just some of us? Have we got a special inside track here? Well, child, don t lose that sense of specialness: You are chosen. You are my own, and I love you. And it s true that I ve had to say to some in deep sorrow You are not among my sheep. I actually had to say it in the very chapter you re reading this morning: The religious leaders would not listen to me, 8 John John 6.68

8 A p r i l wanted nothing to do with me, wanted to do away with me, and I had to tell them that they were not among my sheep not yet, anyway. But hear this, my child: First, it is my will, my desire, and my passion finally to bring everyone into my fold, if they will have me. I don t want a single lamb to go missing! And second, lest you get too comfortable with the specialness of being my sheep, don t forget this part: I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I want to bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 11 As you go shepherding with me, keep your eyes open, keep the eyes of your heart open, and watch for those sheep of mine that you don t know yet. I know them. And they ll be watching for you, too. Thank you, Lord. I am so grateful that you do know me, and that you ve made it possible for me to know you. I am so far from knowing you the way I want to know you. Stick with me, friend. Keep listening to my voice. Keep walking in my paths. You are mine. I ve laid down my life for you. Amen 10 V V. 16

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