Jesus the Good Shepherd

4th Sunday of Easter
Jesus the Good Shepherd!

Acts 2:42-47 
Psalm 23 
1 Peter 2:19-25 
John 10:1-10 

9I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. Alleluia! John 10: 9

Tena koutou katoa e te whanau o Te Wairua Tapu.

I am sure being in isolation for the past six weeks has been challenging for all of you, I know it has been for me. I have come to know my whanau a lot more intimately, their idiosyncratic ways, especially their particular likes and dislikes, what they will and will not do and, at times totally amaze you with their responses and actions. However, in reality it has nothing to do with my whanau but everything to do with me. You see, there are personal values that mean so much to me that I have a tendency to expect everyone else to know and to uphold them even if they don’t want too. Therefore, what I have learnt thus far, and it’s not over yet, is the importance of leadership. If you want to be a leader you must lead by example. If you believe things should be done a certain way then do it, don’t talk about it or expect others to do them for you. Hence, our gospel reading from St John. The story of Jesus the good shepherd who goes ahead of his own and they follow him because they know his voice. They don’t follow strangers but run from them because they don’t know the voice of strangers. 

Isn’t it amazing, there are so many voices making so much noise right now, you don’t really know which one to listen too! Television, reality shows, Netflix, the news, social media and the list goes on. That’s why I have maintained, be still, listen and you will know. Leadership isn’t loud and proud, it’s quiet and humble. It’s the voice you hear calling to you through all the noise that surrounds us. Here I am, Jesus says, follow me. 

Yet, Jesus doesn’t make it easy for us. At the beginning of today’s gospel Jesus suggests he is the shepherd who enters the gate, unlike the thieves and bandits who jump over the fence. The sheep, he says, listen to and follow the voice of the shepherd but run from the voice of strangers. But then Jesus says that he is the gate. So he’s both the shepherd who enters the gate and the gate the shepherd enters? And then he says that we can enter him as a gate to abundant life? St. John clearly states that Jesus was using a “figure of speech.” That’s why Jesus’ sayings and teachings are difficult to understand and like today’s text it cannot be taken literally as it makes no sense to the rational and intellectual mind. The figure of speech points to something beyond itself, something more important, which in this context is abundant life. So we need to think, see and listen differently to what we are being told. 

Jesus says that abundant life is the reason he came; so we might “have life, and have it abundantly.” But abundant life is not about quantity and prosperity, having everything; wealth, success, approval, security or being loud, proud and number one. I am not saying there is anything wrong with that but to truly follow Jesus, abundant life is about quality of life not quantity. It’s about having meaning in our lives; integrity, humility, purpose and relationships. It’s about sharing and giving life to others and the world not take, take, take. Abundant life is all about love, joy, hope, kindness, generosity, hospitality and gratitude. It’s about easing the pain and suffering that surrounds us and in the world. 

We only have to watch what’s happening in the world to see how society is responding to this global crisis we face. How world leaders are reacting and as individuals and communities we have to decide for ourselves, is it quantity of life we desire or quality of life. That’s why it’s so important to keep filtering through all the voices and listen for the voice calling you so you don’t get lost and end up chasing the wind. We are the kaitiaki of our hearts and souls. Guarding them means staying awake, being watchful, and staying diligent. Awareness of and reflection on what is happening within and outside of us is the key and depending on who or what it is we will either open them or keep them shut. There are no easy, simple, one size fits all, or once and for all answers to any questions about life. But we don’t have to make these decisions alone or in isolation. Jesus said, “I am the gate.” He is the gate that opens and leads to the pastures of abundant life and he is the gate that stands against death. We open or close ourselves in collaboration with Jesus. “The sheep follow (The shepherd) because they know his voice.” Amen.

God of our futures; you go ahead of us to prepare a place for us. Help us put our trust in you; in this life, may we be freed from our fears; and, in the life to come, know you face to face Through Jesus Christ our Liberator, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

The Venerable Kaio Karipa
Sydney Maori Anglican Fellowship Church of Te Wairua Tapu