'Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit.
The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.'
Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
So again Jesus said to them, 'Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them.
I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.
I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
REFLECTIONS FROM 'YOUR LIFE'.
I wonder if you, like me, find yourself reflecting back on incidents in your life that have resulted in your life panning out the way it has, rather than maybe the life you expected or the lives of your peers?
Sometimes I think 'what would my life had been like had my primary school head teacher actually entered my 11+ paperwork, recommending I went to the local secondary school rather than the grammar school 2 bus rides away'. Would I have ended up going to a Uni and moving away from Lancashire? Would I have ended up cleverer but less happy ?
OR what if I'd told my Minister I didn't want to go on the Methodist pilgrimage to Malta in 1989. Would I ever have entered the Ministry at all ?
Reflecting back is a little bit like what is happening in our Gospel readings these next few weeks. We are still in Eastertide and that period between Resurrection and Pentecost. John, rather than telling us about more Resurrection appearances of Jesus, reflects back on some of the main things he remembers Jesus telling his Disciples when he was with them earlier.
This story is one of the famous Jesus I AM statements in John's Gospel.
GOOD SHEPHERD or GATE..
I just want to reflect with you a little bit, not about Jesus the Shepherd but Jesus the Gate. In our context I'm using GATE to mean DOOR.
What do you 'think' about your DOOR at this time? Is it something that keeps you locked in or is it something that keeps COVID19 out? Is it something that 'restricts you or saves you'? Is it a frustration that you can't go out through it like you want to, or a relief that nobody can bring anything in through it that could harm you?
I was watching a documentary this week about the life of Ken Dodd, my comedy hero, in which it spoke about his deep Christian faith — which I knew nothing of. Wherever he went he carried an old folded up picture of the famous W.H. Hunt painting "Jesus the Light of the World"... behold
I stand at the door and knock and if anyone opens the door I will come in!
This is a picture I have grown up with as it is the main stain glass window in my home chapel in Oswaldtwistle, I have various copies of it in my office.
Jesus in John 10 is talking about himself as a door, keeping 'sheep' safe inside by lying across it at night so 'wolves can't attack the sleeping sheep' but also someone who 'opens up' so the sheep can go and find good pasture and safe grazing. A multi-purpose gate for all occasions. Those who 'know Jesus' will always follow his voice and know he is prepared to die for them.
It is likely John was thinking about this aspect of Jesus's teaching when reflecting about Good Friday in the light of the Resurrection. Jesus didn't just 'say' he would die for his followers, he had actually 'done it', so that through him all have a 'doorway' to God's Kingdom of Love and Grace.
In the Hunt painting above though, Jesus 'isnt' the Door he is the one knocking on the door of ?. Knocking on the Door of peoples lives!
How many times have you answered a knock on your door in these lockdown weeks to find 'nobody there'? The 'delivery driver or Post Person' no longer able to hand you your post, you have to 'step outside' the door to collect it and give a passing wave to the person who delivered it. You don't even have to sign for parcels anymore.... its a safe way with no interaction.
Jesus used the sheep gate analogy in the 'hope' that his listeners got the point of HIS life. The analogy I have just used is different with Jesus. He will ALWAYS answer the door if you knock OR be there if you open it to him.
Those who know this painting know that there is no handle on the outside of the door (have a search), in other words Jesus cannot 'open it' from the outside, it has to be opened from the inside, by you.
In other words Jesus will never 'come in to our lives un-invited', we have to open the door to him and let him in. IS that 'safe'? Well Jesus would answer that question "do not be afraid" for 'he has already paid the cost'.
For me its the one door that is 'safe to open' in Covid and none Covid times, but it has to be 'our choice'. John said Jesus referred to false teachings or 'thieves' and many are tempted to follow those for the promise of untold riches that turn out to be 'fools gold'. It is a verse that led to a Cliff Richard solo hit "like a thief in the night he will come and there will be nowhere left for you to run, You can fall with the night or can Rise with the Sun" he sang.
Do you remember Mothering Sunday? We were encouraged to 'light a candle of HOPE' in our windows that night. Well I put 2 big plastic battery lights in our bedroom windows for that night. The following morning they had gone out (batteries run out?). Except the next night they 'lit themselves' when it went dark. They have been 'lighting themselves' every night since and will do until we are 'all free to OPEN OUR DOORS' — hope in dark times, Jesus LIGHT Of the World. My candles; alongside our rainbows and decorated Crosses remain in sight every day and night.
Hopefully it tells people that 'inside our Door' is the Light of Jesus and they 'guide others' to his 'safe keeping' — just like happened to Sir Ken Dodd and billions of other people. Is he knocking on ? DOOR at this time ?
Will you know someone who 'reflects back on this covid period' next year as the time they 'opened the Door to Jesus'? Maybe he is knocking via emails; WhatsApp; songs; reflections; cards; prayers or Acts of Random Kindness.
God bless, stay safe and keep in touch with each other and God. Keith