two white sheeps lying on green grass

Easter 4 Sermon

Sermon text: John 10:1-10

How have you been keeping busy these last several weeks?  We all have a lot of time on our hands, what have you being doing to stay safe, to stay sane, and to stay home?

It has been a pretty productive quarantine for me.  So far I’ve read a book, I’m playing my mandolin every day, I’ve started a daily yoga practice, I’m learning a new language, I’ve organized my attic, cleaned the house, tended to my yard, played video games with my friends online, baked bread, browsed for things online that I’ll never seriously consider buying, and spent a ton of time cooking in the kitchen.  All of those things are happening at the parsonage.  Oh, and I can’t forget about Otto.  He’s been getting his walks in on the streets of Hollidaysburg.

How have you been spending your time?  I figure we might as well use the benefits of technology—share your practices in the comment section below.  Who knows, maybe you’ll get a good idea from someone else.

But despite all the new hobbies, despite all the distractions, all of the Zoom meetings and video conferences, all of the phone calls and TV shows binged on Netflix, it still feels like I’m penned up!  And I know that most everyone feels that way as well.  Cabin fever is setting in.  We’re all getting a little stir crazy because we’ve been stuck in our now very clean and tidy homes for what feels like an eternity.

Like I said, we are penned up.  Shepherds would put their sheep into pens for safety and protection.  Indeed, that’s why our modern shepherds, our leaders and politicians, have us in these stay at home orders.  But the problem is that pens aren’t designed to be permanent residences.  The sheep need to venture outside to find sustenance.  And we humans aren’t designed to live in isolation for lengthy periods of time.  We need to venture out for our own social, emotional, and spiritual sustenance.

That is where Jesus, the Good Shepherd, enters into our picture.  He cares for us with a word of refreshing good news— “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”  As the gospel says, Jesus will call us by name and lead us out of this pen and into the pastures of this world.

In this season of Easter, we constantly remember the promise of new, abundant, and resurrected life.  Christ is risen and he will make us rise too.  With those words ringing in our ear we hold fast to the notion that this pen will not be our final dwelling place.  Just as Jesus burst free from the tomb, so will he lead us out from our homes and into our communities, our workplaces, our schools, and our church when the time is right. Jesus will call to us on the other side of this penned up pandemic time and lead us to places where we will be nourished, where we will thrive.

As the church, there is also a vital lesson to be learned during this quarantine time.  Just as we are not designed to be stuck at home for weeks, just as Jesus was not born to be stuck behind the stone door of a tomb, the church was not created to be stuck inside the walls of a building.  We know that Jesus will call us by name and lead us out—and that will also happen for the church, for our community of faith.  Our message of hope, forgiveness, reconciliation, mercy, and grace is not something that should be kept to ourselves.  It is a message that must be lived and demonstrated in the 167 hours the week outside of our hour of worship.

Thu church building can function as our pen.  At times it is a place of safety and refuge, but it is not a place where we are supposed to stay forever.  Right now, we are learning that we can be the church even when we are separated in our own homes.  When we are able to come together and worship as one body, may we remember that Jesus desires to call us out, into the community, where we may share the news of new and abundant life.

Do not fear.  Do not despair.  For we are under the ever-watchful eye of our Good Shepherd.  This pen will not suffocate us, it is not our end destination, for Jesus will lead us from here and into the future.  He will see to our safety and needs.  He will show us the way to an abundant and resurrected life. AMEN

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