John 10 - I came that they may have Life, and have it abundantly

Author: 
Fr Alec
Date: 
Sunday, May 11, 2014 - 9:30am

 


In my earlier days I used to listen to a band called The Smiths.Who am I kidding? I still listen to the Smiths when I get the chance. Morrissey, the lead singer, had a fantastic way with words, and the lyrics often have a wry and melancholy wit that appeals to me. One particular line came to mind as I read our gospel for today

 

‘Shyness is nice, and shyness can stop you from doing all the things in life you’d like to.’

 

It’s true. It is often very tempting and easy to slip into the comfortable protection that shyness offers. To find all kinds of sensible excuses for not taking the plunge, and convince ourselves that we never really wanted to do something anyway: To sit out the dance for fear of making a fool of ourselves. To avoid social contact for fear of being laughed at. Not to speak our mind lest we are thought foolish.

 

And yet the shyer we are, the more regrets we store up for ourselves; the more opportunities we miss, the more experiences we never have. Fear stands in the way of living life in all its fullness.

 

One of the great pleasures that I discovered when I first came to St Mary’s, and one of the things that I know we all value most is the atmosphere of welcome that the church projects. And it is amazing how often this is not the case in churches. All too often I find myself at church gatherings where groups of people steadfastly talk to their circle of friends and ignore me, the newcomer as I stand awkwardly with a cup of tea. There is nothing more intimidating than a room full of backs turned away from you.

I have always been grateful for the lesson I was taught as a young man that the important thing at a party was not to look for your friends, because they will find you, but to look for the stranger with no-one to talk to, because they invariably have the most interesting things to say.

 

‘Life in all its fullness’ is what the church is all about, but we can only fulfil this vocation if we find a way to deal with our fear. And fear rears its head in all sorts of places. Christians often fear evangelism because it opens them up to the possibility of rejection or ridicule. Christians often hold back from giving money to the church, fearing a challenge to their own financial security. Christians often fear risk, because it challenges the dependable stability that they rely on from the church.

 

And yet we worship a God who, in Jesus Christ, has opened himself up to blasphemy and ridicule, who has given up everything for our sakes, who has risked himself on the roulette wheel of human compassion, and lost, yet in his resurrection has shown us the new life that lies beyond.

 

When Jesus called himself the gate of the sheep, his followers could not possibly have understood just what he meant. So much of Jesus’ teaching only makes sense in the light of the resurrection. He is the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep, the shepherd who goes before us, and whose voice we know and trust, and follow. Yet all of these sayings only come into focus after Jesus layed down his life for us, and after he rose from the grave clearing a way for us to follow.

If Jesus is the gate to the sheepfold, he is both the means by which we find our way into our home, and the protection we receive while we are there. Both our vision for the future and our promise of security in the present.

 

We need never be afraid with Christ, we need never be shy of sharing ourselves or our property, of standing up to bullies or speaking truth to power. This is not because we have nothing to lose, nor because we won’t be hurt – Jesus’ own life has shown all too clearly the true cost of discipleship – but because unless we take the risk, though we might gain the whole world by seeking peace and security, we will lose ourselves, we will miss out on the treasure buried in the field, the pearl of great price, which is the Kingdom of God.

 

These are words we need to hear as we begin Christian Aid week. The world is full of people whose lives have been blighted by poverty or war or exploitation or disaster. Unless we, the most fortunate fraction of the World’s population, have the courage to stand up and help we will have denied both ourselves and them ‘Life in all its fullness’.

 

God calls us, all of us, to lead full lives. Lives lived abundantly, that are expansive and flourishing. Lives characterised by God’s unquenchable joy. Lives of self-emptying love. The perfect love that casts out fear.