Friday, May 4, 2012
Gnawing on the Gospel
I am the good shepherd. 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. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.
My college friend,the Very Rev. Mike Kinman, likes to say, "The gospel isn't to be just gulped down on Sunday, but gnawed on throughout the week so it really becomes a part of us." And certainly, I've been chewing on the Good Shepherd passage from John's gospel that we heard this past Sunday.
It was the verses quoted above that went straight to my heart during the service on Sunday. And even though I was standing at the front of the church in my black and white Eucharistic Minister vestments, I couldn't stop the tears from coming to my eyes. One escaped and rolled down my cheek as I heard the phrase: "I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice."
So many things went through my mind. I know what it feels like to be one of those "other sheep." I feel it deeply in the seat of my soul that I am, and will likely always be, one of the black sheep. That no matter how much the world and the church universal changes, the church specific where I am remains in some weird time capsule buried underground. Will it be opened up this year? Next year? Twenty years from now? I just don't know. I keep looking for signs that we're ready to break off the lock and release the old air and bring new air in, but it just doesn't seem to be happening.
Elsewhere, I see and read of things changing. Just the other day, Integrity sent around a message about nine same-sex couples in South Florida having their weddings (performed out-of-state) blessed in an Episcopal Church. So, in a place much further south in this state, the bishop supports full equality, and is even allowing those unions to be blessed in the church before the General Convention's House of Bishops and House of Deputies have taken their votes on the resolutions.
Another thought also came to mind. "Other sheep" made me think again about the faces in the room at our Pride Interfaith service. People from various traditions and yet all sharing in celebration of a spirit that is larger than ourselves. I call that "God"; others say "Goddess" others say "Adonai" while others still say nothing. Yet, in this gospel passage, Jesus is saying these "others" who are "outside this particular fold are just as much part of him. Makes you wonder, "Who Would Jesus Exclude?" Answer: no one. All sheep who are wandering in the world, and especially the ones in search of a shepherd, will find their way when they hear their name.
These are the riches of listening to Scripture and considering its message for more than five minutes it is read aloud in church. Your thoughts?