May 11, 2003

John 10:11-18

"I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd puts the sheep before himself, sacrifices himself if necessary. A hired man is not a real shepherd. The sheep mean nothing to him. He sees a wolf come and runs for it, leaving the sheep to be ravaged and scattered by the wolf. He's only in it for the money. The sheep don't matter to him.

"I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own sheep and my own sheep know me. In the same way, the Father knows me and I know the Father. I put the sheep before myself, sacrificing myself if necessary. You need to know that I have other sheep in addition to those in this pen. I need to gather and bring them, too. They'll also recognize my voice. Then it will be one flock, one Shepherd. This is why the Father loves me: because I freely lay down my life. And so I am free to take it up again. No one takes it from me. I lay it down of my own free will. I have the right to lay it down; I also have the right to take it up again. I received this authority personally from my Father."

[The Message]


1. What would it mean for the Good Shepherd to sacrifice himself today? We are comfortable with the sacrificial imagery of long ago and Jesus being "sacrificed" on a cross.

2. A part of the sacrifice today might be the giving up of the name Christian. When we begin to vision Jesus' "other sheep" we might see them as being from other religious traditions. Just as we have racial blendings - what will it mean to have people not only identify themselves as African-Americans or Hispanic-Iraqis but as Atheist-Christians or Moslem-Buddhists? Will a Good Shepherd go so far as to lay down his/her name as well as their life? Can they pick up a larger flock under another name?

3. So often we let our identity constrain our living. To join sheep to sheep and flock to flock is only a beginning to joining each to each beyond current identity. What if we were to find a new common identity that binds together the good of Christianity with the good of every other faith perspective. It would not be pandering to some lowest common denominator, but the very best everyone had to offer. There probably isn't a name for this yet. We are told that it was in Antioch that folks first became known as Christian. Perhaps the place you are in will find a new name for all the sheep gathered together.