Meditation on John 10:11-18
April 29, 2018
Merritt Island Presbyterian Church
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”
I came to a decision last week about our preschool chapel service. It’s time to split the group! The group has gotten so big that I am not able to give each child as much individual attention as I would like.
We have thirty-six 3, 4 and 5 year olds all wanting to answer my questions about Jonah, Joseph or Jesus at the same time. All wanting to be helpers, such as carrying the basket of musical instruments and collecting the children’s maracas, tambourines, sticks and cymbals. They want to show me their shark tooth necklaces and tell me about going on a cruise, losing a tooth or having a birthday. I want to congratulate them when they show me their age on their fingers… And tell them how sorry I am to hear how their father “accidentally” stepped on their baby pet spider.
God has blessed us with 36 precious children popping up out of their seats when they want to touch an object or see a picture up close–or just get a hug. They love Jim, too. At one of the first chapels he brought his guitar about a year ago, little Jacob cried out, “Oooo! Pastor Jim! You’re a rockstar!” They have had a special relationship ever since.
What led me to decide to split the group now and not wait till fall was when we were singing our greeting song at the beginning of chapel a week or two ago. I call the children by name and help them choose an item of clothing they want us to sing about, such as “Jeffery is wearing a red shirt, red shirt, red shirt, Jeffery is wearing a red shirt all day long.” Then they choose the next person we sing about and so on. But after 20 minutes, we still weren’t done! And we had the Bible lesson and other songs still to do.
The children aren’t shy about singing or sharing their feelings and the intimate details of their lives. They know we are listening, that we care, and that what they say is important to us. They know the sound of my voice–when I speak, read, laugh, shush, and sing. They listen to me and follow as I teach new rhymes, fingerplays and songs. They echo simple prayers, without hesitation.
They want to be loved–for everything they are and are gonna be.
They know I am watching them–and they are watching me.
Who are you watching over, in your life? Who is watching over you? For we are all called to be sheep. And we are also called to be shepherds, following in the footsteps of our loving Savior, who watches over us all.
Studying our gospel reading this week, I couldn’t help but think how much we who have been in the faith for many years have lots to learn from 3, 4 and 5 year olds. I can hear Jesus saying, as he does in Matthew 18:3, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
It’s easy to picture young children as the sheep that listen to Christ’s voice, lambs that Christ knows intimately–watches over and beckons to him by name before he leads them in right paths. Sheep do not have to pushed out of a sheepfold; they are not like cattle who are herded from behind. They are timid and follow their shepherd as he goes ahead of them; there is never a place we can go where Jesus has not yet been! They know his voice; they know him; that’s why they follow him. They won’t follow a stranger. They know he cares for them. He nourishes, disciplines, and protects them, helps them when they are sick or wounded. He stays with them and never abandons them–not like the “hired hand” that won’t risk his life for the flock . The point is not that the hired hand is bad but that belonging to Christ is everything. And He’s the one who chooses us and claims us as His own. His commitment to us is unconditional–based on what he has done for us. But his expectation is that we watch for him, listen to his voice–and only his voice– and obey.
Jesus’ audience is both disciples and Pharisees in John 10. In chapter 9, Jesus heals a man who was blind since birth. The man responds to Christ, with, “Lord, I believe.” The Pharisees are not convinced.
So Jesus, in John 10, explains his mission to the Pharisees with the metaphor of a shepherd. He stirs their anger by declaring himself to be God, using OT language and imagery. The Psalmist in 100:3 says, “Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” “He tends his flock like a shepherd:” says Isaiah 40:11, “He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”
The Good Shepherd, who will lay down his life for the sheep, is proclaiming the fulfillment of Zechariah 9:16-17, “The LORD their God will rescue his people, just as a shepherd rescues his sheep. They will sparkle in his land like jewels in a crown. How wonderful and beautiful they will be!”
The Pharisees are divided in their reaction to Christ’s teachings. Some say, “He has a demon and is out of his mind. Why listen to him?” Others say, “These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”
Jesus will answer those who call him demon possessed or insane. “You do not believe because you do not belong to my sheep,” he says, adding for emphasis, “My sheep listen to my voice. I know them, and they follow me.”
A few weeks ago, we invited preschool and VPK families to attend a special chapel. We began like we usually do– singing “Good morning, good morning and how do you do?” and the song about the clothes we are wearing all day. I reviewed the Miracles of Jesus we had been learning — turning water into wine, calming a storm, walking on water, and feeding the multitude with a few loaves and fish. We prayed our simple echo prayer, and then, a bunch of volunteers and staff from the church and preschool led the children to do crafts and games on the theme of the Miracles of Jesus before eating lunch with their families.
While they were eating, a grandma visiting from California, thanked me for the chapel and taking time to get to know the children, especially her granddaughter. Would I invite her parents to church? She hoped so–and that other preschool families would come to our church, too.
Starting this week, Jim and I will be leading 2 chapels, back to back, beginning at 9:30. Our lesson this Tuesday? We will tell them about the Good Shepherd –how Jesus will go after the one sheep that is lost, though he may still have 99 in the fold. That’s how much our Savior loves us!
He has claimed us as His own. He calls us by name. “My sheep listen to my voice,” he says. “I know them, and they follow me.”
As Christ loves, we must love. To me, this means learning all of the children’s names and the important stuff that really matters: shark tooth necklaces, birthdays, loose teeth, and baby pet spiders that “accidentally” get stepped on.
The children want to be loved– for everything they are and are gonna be.
Who are you watching over? Who is watching over you?
For we are called to be sheep. And we are called to be shepherds, following in the footsteps of our loving Savior, who watches over us all.
Let us pray….
Dear Lord, thank you for being the Good Shepherd, who has laid down your life for us, your sheep, so we may have life and have it abundantly. Thank you for calling us by name and knowing us better than we know ourselves. Thank you for caring about what we care about–every little thing that children and adults worry about. Help us to be more like children, Lord, so that we may be obedient to you and trust your commands. Thank you that you speak so we can hear your voice and for leading us to follow you in the paths you want us to go. Thank you that you are always with us, watching over us still, using us to be shepherds like you–and nurture your sheep. And finally, thank you, for the children and families you have blessed us with at the preschool. Help us to share the love of our Good Shepherd with them and bring them into your Kingdom fold. In Christ we pray. Amen.