Easter 4A

By Ed Brambley from Cambridge, UK (Young Shepherd) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Ed Brambley from Cambridge, UK (Young Shepherd) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

218: May 7, 2017

Psalm 23 Richard Bruxvoort Colligan

Voice in the Wilderness - 1 Peter 2:19-25 with Maxwell Muska

Featured Musician - Richard Bruxvoort Colligan, “My Love Is My Shepherd” from his album Sharing the Road


10 Days in May Tour - Heatherlyn and Ben Grace are touring, and will pass through cities in Minnesota, and on May 14, 15, 16, and 17 she will be in Chicago, Peoria, Aurora, and Rock Island - including at Two Rivers United Methodist Church on Wednesday, May 17.  

62: May 11, 2014

Psalm 23 - Richard Bruxvoort Colligan


Exegetical Notes

John 10:1-10

Initial Thoughts

  • Welcome to Good Shepherd Sunday- Year A edition!

  • Strong connections to Psalm 23 and Ezekiel 34:1-31

  • Middle act of a three act play:

    • Act 1 - John 9:1-12

      • Healing of the man born blind

    • Act 2 - John 9:13-40

      • The response to the healing - how can a sinner be redeemed

      • Physical malady as the result of sin

      • Pharisees question/claim, “surely we are not blind, are we?”

    • Act 3 - John 10:1-21

      • Jesus is the Good Shepherd

      • Answering the Pharisees Question

Bible Study

  • Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees (them in v. 6)

    • Attempt to reveal/show/give sight to the Pharisees

  • It is a riddle (v.6) - unlocked by v. 10 - “I have come that they might have life and have it abundantly”

  • Mixed metaphors: Jesus is both Shepherd and Gate

    • “I Am” declarations of incarnation revealing both who God is and who Jesus is as the incarnation of God

      • Jesus claims to be what is needed to live: water (4:14), bread of life (6:35), light of the world (9:5), shelter/safety (10:7, 11)

    • Focus is on the shepherd providing for the sheep, not on which sheep are in or outside of the sheepfold.

  • Connection with John 9 - don’t get caught up in who sinned or how the healing happened - rejoice in the presence of one who heals

  • v. 1-6 “I am the shepherd.”

    • It wasn’t understand by hearers. It’s even harder to understand for us - separated from shepherd lifestyle.  Sarah Henrich tells short story about an African preacher in this great resource.

    • Shepherd comes in through the gate, not hopping the fence.

    • Shepherd’s voice is recognized. Stranger is not recognized.

    • Shepherd goes our first, and leads the sheep, does not simply scatter them.

    • New Interpreter's Bible provides this easy guide:

      • Jesus:

        • Calls sheep by name

        • leads them out

        • Brings out all his own

        • Goes out ahead of them

      • Sheep:

        • hear his voice

        • Know his voice

        • Follow him

  • v. 7-10 “I am the gate.”

    • Gate keeps sheep in and protected.

      • Thief comes to steal or kill

      • Jesus provides safe pasture.

      • Thieves take life.  Jesus offers life.

    • Raises many questions (Cynthia Jarvis, Feasting on the Word):

      • Is the church the gatekeeper and Jesus the gate to protect the morally weak and vulnerable within the fold or to privilege a community of the ethically pure?

      • Is the church a hospital for sinners, as Augustine believed, or a society of the morally perfectible, as Pelagius thought?

      • Does Christ as the gate keep the flock from corruption by the world, or did God so love the world that the gate swings open for the lost sheep in particular?

      • Is Jesus alone the gate, so that, in the end, every disparate flock will be made one in him (John 17:20-21)?

  • Exclusivist?

    • Not necessarily: Though this passage is a favorite of those that have an exclusivist idea about salvation, that does not have to be the emphasis. (Charles Cousar, Texts for Preaching, Year A, p. 190)

      • There is no distinction between good sheep and bad sheep.

      • Relationship between sheep and shepherd is assumed.

      • The sheep are simply the shepherd’s own.

      • Safety and security are linked to relationship with shepherd

Preaching Thoughts

  • “I am the gate” is not about separating goat from sheep - mixing parables - it is not about keeping some sheep out while allowing other to come in.  It is not about salvation and eternal rewards.  The gate is about keeping the sheep safe from those outside trying to do damage.  This may seem like a small distinction, but it is an important one.  Jesus’ voice stands above others trying to promise life.  Jesus as the gate keeps us from others who would bring death.

  • Abundant life over life of abundance.  Advertising has changed in recent years from offering a valuable product to offering an image or lifestyle.  David Lose points to a great resource in his article on workingpreacher.com.  He points to an 8 minute Youtube link, but it has been removed. Full Frontline show called The Persuaders can be found here.

    • Clotaire Rapaille is an expert in marketing psychology “Most of the time, people have no idea why they are doing what they are doing. So they make something up that makes sense… Why would you need a Hummer to go shopping?”  (view clip from Frontline)

    • People are searching for meaning, and advertisers have tapped into that desperate need.

  • Image of Jesus as good shepherd is incredibly important in iconography, art, music, and liturgy of church. The term “pastor” comes from this idea, that a leader of the church will lead people to good pasture.

    • Good church leadership then, is modeled after Christ, the servant willing to lay down his life. What does it mean to lay down your life for your church, your congregation?

  • How do you know Jesus? What are ways to get to know his voice?  John Wesley might have called these things “Means of Grace.”  Both works of piety and works of mercy bring us closer to knowing Jesus.

Acts 2:42-47

Initial Thoughts

  • This is all a response to Peter’s sermon.

  • Still answering the question people asked at verse 12 - “What does this mean?”

    • The answer is Community

Bible Study

  • Four Marks of the faithful community: Devoted to the apostles teaching, community, sharing meals and prayers

    • Apostles Teaching

      • studying the earliest apostolic witness or biblical texts - it is how we know of Jesus

    • Community Fellowship

      • too often taken for granted

      • Hospitality and radical table sharing were hallmarks of Jesus’ ministry

    • Breaking of Bread

      • Recent research has shown the incredible value of families who eat together regularly (see here and here) why would this be different for a church family?

    • Prayer

  • Is this the focus of the church today?

    • Not difficult

    • Emergent church- back to the basics

    • Simple faithful living lead to awe

  • What defines the church?

    • Confession: Acts 2:36 (NRSV)36  Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified."

    • Action:Acts 2:42 (NRSV) 42  They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

    • They worshiped in the Temple and in their homes. “Having accepted the old, they also embraced the new, and the transformation of their lives was expressed in their worship as well as in their relationships with their neighbors.” (Charles Cousar, Texts for Preaching, Year A, p. 283)

    • “The currents of mutual love and concert to which the text bears witness could not be contained within the bounds of the Christian fellowship itself, by lapped outside, catching up other persons in their appeal. The amazing growth of the young church is seen by Luke not as an end in itself, but as a result of the combined energies of God’s Spirit and of the affection of the members.” (Cousar, p. 284)

  • Socialism!

    • Model for our churches?

      • Sell pieces of property and possessions and distribute them as any had need

      • What would happen if the church began to sell its property and distribute the proceeds to those who were of need

        • Go out in a blaze of faithfulness

    • Ex: Simple Way and Shane Claiborne - maybe Jesus meant what he said

      • What’s an average day look like at The Simple Way?

        • It’s a little easier to describe an “average” week. We have prayer each morning (at 8am). Then we dive into days that are filled with things like hanging with friends in the neighborhood or folks living on the streets, helping kids with homework, and helping folks get to appointments. We’ve got some lovely gardens and a little neighborhood thrift store. Most of us work jobs part-time and that frees us up to do other stuff we don’t get paid to do, but love. Activities and programs change from time to time, but we share food with lots of families, and try to be good neighbors. We have dinners together each week, and we have a Sabbath one day each week where everything rests. There are times where we have other things that grab our attention around some of the systemic injustices around us. Right now we are working hard to end gun violence on our streets, and to create some local jobs and more stable housing for folks. It’s not always sexy. In fact, we had some visitors that lived here for a week, and at the end of it we asked them what they learned. They said, “We learned it’s not that spectacular, and that we can do this right where we are.” That’s a good word.

        • Doesn’t always work perfectly (see Acts 5:1-11)

      • Beware Nostalgia- this communal living, growth and sacrifice come  as a result of the four marks of Christian community

Preaching Thoughts

  • Celebration of what Christ did is lived out in their relationships. We cannot separate our relationship with God from our relationships with others. “The sense of awe that permeated the lives of the first disciples not only bound them to the object of their awe, the God who raised Jesus from the dead, but bound them also to one another.” (Cousar, p. 284)

  • Do “Church Growth” experts get the point of this passage? Does Luke see growth as the ends, or as a natural result? When we focus on “growing the Church,” are we missing something elemental - or is this just the kind of thinking that has perpetuated decades of decline?

    • “The text makes quite clear, this successful evangelistic effort was a by-product of their energies. An important by-product, to be sure, but not the primary focus of the early Christian’ concern. They did not “devote” themselves to evangelism, but to teaching and fellowship, to worship and acts of caring. And the growth of the church was generated out of these activities by the Spirit of God.” (Cousar, p. 284)

  • To what extent does this describe your church? Why or why not?

  • Does your faith change the way you live- what you say, do, eat, who you eat with, talk do, avoid, engage? Shouldn’t it?

1 Peter 2:19-25

  • Be careful about preaching on the “redemptive power of suffering”
  • A way to interpret your own suffering
    • Also has been used to justify doing nothing while others suffer and to justify oppression


Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com, @pomopsalmist). Thank you to Scott Fletcher for our voice bumpers, Dick Dale and the Del Tones for our Theme music (“Misirlou”), Nicolai Heidlas (“Sunday Morning”"Real Ride" and “Summertime”) and The Steel Wheels for our transition music(“Nola’s First Dance” from their album Lay Down, Lay Low) and Paul and Storm for our closing music (“Oh No”).