April 21, 2002

John 10:1-10

Let me set this before you as plainly as I can. If a person climbs over or through the fence of a sheep pen instead of going through the gate, you know he's up to no good-a sheep rustler! The shepherd walks right up to the gate. The gatekeeper opens the gate to him and the sheep recognize his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he gets them all out, he leads them and they follow because they are familiar with his voice. They won't follow a stranger's voice but will scatter because they aren't used to the sound of it."

Jesus told this simple story, but they had no idea what he was talking about. So he tried again. "I'll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good - sheep stealers, every one of them. But the sheep didn't listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for - will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.

1. The Center for Progressive Christianity (http://www.tcpc.org) lists 8-Points that define their work. The first is that Progressive Christians "proclaim Jesus Christ as our Gate to the realm of God." Their study guide includes this reflection:

"Here the gate is to the sheep pen, but it functions for the sheep as the city gate does for people. The gate is both the way into safety and the way out to the wider world. In each case, there is coming and going. By going through the gate into the pen, the sheep are saved from bandits and wolves, and by going out to pasture, they are saved from starvation. From what will the followers of Jesus be saved? The come-and-go language suggests that they will be saved from being trapped on the inside of the gate in their quest for ultimate safety and approval and saved from being stuck outside with the constant stress and anxiety of proving their worth to the world. For people who picture Jesus as the gate to the realm of God, participation in that realm cannot be a static achievement but must be a dynamic realization. The "gate" allows the followers of Jesus to live always in the realm of this earth but with the perspective of God's realm."

2. The first movement through the gate is that of being led out. After that the gate is a measuring spot for one's travel in and out. It seems the United States is being led back into a pen through a gate named Security to hunker down with nuclear bristles pointed outward. There is a desire for a lack of movement to somehow make Security our womb forever. We have been blinded to the issue of gates being a place of movement and see that gate only as a layer of protection between ourselves and the nasty old world. (Not Jesus' way, at all.)

3. Finding pasture is an important issue. To be cooped up inside the pen is to eventually eat rancid food or find no food at all, except one another. There simply needs to be movement for there to be life in all its abundance, fullness, beyond our belief. Thank GOD for being the Gatekeeper sweeping us out and, with open-arms, gathering us in. Thank GOD for the "12" gates that give life to the whole of GOD's realm of heaven on earth.

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