On the Christian calendar today is referred to as Good Shepherd Sunday. It typically involves the reading of the 23rd psalm and a passage from John about Jesus describing himself as the Good Shepherd.
I wanted to go in a slightly different direction today. We have reflected on the 23 psalm in recent weeks and instead of reiterating God’s promise to always be there and to protect us; I wanted to talk about what it means to be part of the flock.
The passage I read from Acts is also one of the readings suggested for this Sunday and it speaks of one of the communities of believers that were growing. It is a passage I have seen some people get very uncomfortable when reading. There is a concern that it is dictating that to be a part of a Christian community you must sell everything and share the proceeds with that community.
Well, evidence would suggest that there were other models that were more popular.
But I want to look at what is happening in this community. It is early in the Apostles work to bring the good news of Jesus to the world. And people are responding. I don’t want to comment on the differences between the larger Jewish community in which they are operating and this small but growing community of Jesus followers.
They are listening to the teaching of the Apostles, they are gathering to break bread and eat together, they are praying together and they are sharing and caring for one another. In other words they are being very intentional about creating a tight knit community that looks out for one another.
I do not want to suggest that this was counter to Jewish practice. It isn’t. But this is happening in a Jerusalem that is in crisis. There is growing tension with the Roman Empire. Rebellion is around the corner and people are on edge. Like any large city, people can feel isolated and alone, even while surrounded by people. People found a place to belong and be cared for in a community dedicated to this Jesus.
They ate meals together. They shared. They learned together. And they grew.
Something I read this morning about virtual worship really struck me. It had to do with leading worship from our kitchen tables. That is something Ellie and I do. It wasn’t intentional but I do believe it is significant. Gathering around a table where we eat together and get our sustenance is important. Worshiping together, praying together and breaking bread together are all vital to how we become a community. That we do so around across a dining table seems very significant.
We have worked and continue to work in this time to guard against a sense of isolation. We work to maintain our connections. Even while this ongoing call for distancing continues.
We can’t say how much longer we must continue to gather for worship in this way. But it will from all indication run at least into June. Quite possibly longer.
I wonder if we need to find ways to be innovative in how we show the world we are community. I don’t have answers to the question, what do we do. But Since its inception, sharing meals, caring for one another and learning together have been central to the Christian faith. We do these things together. We gather to worship, to eat, to learn and to pray.
We have found space and time to gather for prayer and worship and learning on line. We connect and communicate in other ways to care for one another. Can we find other ways to innovate and draw ourselves together to show how much we care?
I can’t pretend to have all the answers. But Jesus as the Good shepherd cares for his flock. The sheep stick together. Every now and then one of those sheep wanders off and Jesus goes in search of it. But the flock is more than just a bunch of individuals. It sticks together, it cares for one another. The sheep have their unique personalities, but they are also part of something larger.
We are part of something larger than ourselves. And in that community we find god; caring for us celebrating with us, mourning with us and caring for us, while drawing us into deeper relationship.
Let us continue to look to our community to find where we belong and to find God at work in our lives. And let us ask ourselves and look to God for ways we show the world who we are as a community of faith and a flock that belongs to Jesus.
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