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The Second Sunday after Easter

Holy Communion

West Dublin, West LaHave, Petite Riviere, Cherry Hill, April 30, AD 2006

1 Peter 2:19-25     John 10:11-16

 

Ye were as sheep going astray;

but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

In this Easter season we are considering the implications for us of the Resurrection of our Lord and His appearances to the disciples.  What can it all mean?  And Sunday by Sunday we are drawing out the various implications for us.

 

The Resurrection is taught always in the context of, and as the fulfillment, the vindication of Christ’s passion and death on the Cross.

 

Last week, we were reminded of Jesus first words to the gathered disciples on the first day of his Resurrection – Peace be unto you – and he showed them his hands and his side.  As Christians we have been assured by Christ’s resurrection that His offering on our behalf has been accepted.  We are forgiven if we trust in His self-offering, we are justified through faith in Him.  We do not need to spend a lifetime trying to make up for the past – Christ’s suffering and death meets God’s justice for all our sins.  Knowing that greatest gift, the forgiveness of our sins, we know a kind of resurrection even now, a new freedom.  And being filled with that reconciling love, filled with Christ’s Spirit, He asks us to enter into a ministry of reconciliation with others – Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained.

 

This morning we are looking at another aspect in which the Resurrection of Jesus is a vindication of His passion and death upon the Cross – it is the example of his godly life.

 

Human beings are by nature imitators.  We learn by imitation of those around us.  When we were children, we imitated our parents – like ducklings following their mother, we watched carefully and copied what we saw in them – their virtues and their vices, because of their love for us and our desire to be like them – they were our gods.  As teens, there was often (or is often) an antagonism with our parents as we struggled to be independent – we see our parents faults, that they are human, and we are so disappointed that they are not gods (sometimes we are angry with them for that) and we search for other models.  We slavishly seek to imitate those who seem to have it together – we follow like sheep. 

 

As has been pointed out by a modern anthropologist (Rene Girard), we either seek to be like another, to desire what they desire, or we respond by choosing the opposite things to what someone we admire chooses – in a sense we are still led by the desires of others – whether to be like them or to be opposite them, we are still followers, we are still, very much, like sheep. 

 

When we enter on the spiritual life more seriously, as we begin to realize, by grace, that we are confused lost sheep, we look around for mentors, and God graciously places them in our path, to help lead us heavenward.  There can be a kind of slavish following of them, unconsciously, repeating their words, even their mannerisms, the way they talk.

 

It is not wrong, necessarily, it is just the way we learn.  We learn by imitation of what we see – we are sheep.

 

If our mentors, or we ourselves, who mentor as parents or as teachers, are wise, they or we will realize the great responsibility and the great danger of enjoying the mentoring role – having disciples begin to follow.  We must have the humility to know we are not gods, but point that person to the One who will not fail them, rather than using that special mentoring relationship for our own benefit. 

 

We think of John the Baptist, as the perfect example of the great but humble teacher, who brings his disciples to Jesus and then, when He sees Jesus, says, He must increase and I must decrease.  John is not a teacher for his own benefit, but a true teacher – as soon as he sees one better than himself, he defers.

 

The world is full of false teachers, of hirelings.  The gurus from India, for example, who began to come to North America in the 60’s gathering disciples around them, and gathering, strangely, vast sums of money also, some choosing to be served on nothing less than gold plates.  But the West has plenty of its own gurus, gathering disciples, being examples of material success, or of political success, or who have success because they are famous.  Public figures become lightning rods for our desires for these same things.  Through the media, even without there being any direct contact between the public figures and the individuals following them, they can become mentors.

 

We have this strong desire to rise up, to be more than we are, and we learn by imitation, we are like sheep.

 

How do we know who is trustworthy?  As we grow up, as we proceed on the spiritual life, how can we not be taken in by the false teachers?

 

The Resurrection reveals to us two things about Jesus as the Good Shepherd:

 

First, that Jesus is the ultimate Mentor to whom all true mentors must point.  He is the Good Shepherd because He giveth his life for the sheep.  Has any guru, given up his life for his sheep, or have they simply consumed the lives of their sheep?  Do society’s rich and famous and powerful, give up their lives for you?  Some do in limited ways, by their public service.  But will any of them be with us when the wolf comes, at the darkest moments in our lives when Satan comes to tempt us, or in the final moments of our lives, even at the moment of our death?  Will any of them see you through that gate of death and bring you through to the other side?  Jesus will.  He has shown us by His death for us and by His Resurrection.

 

Second, the way that Jesus taught by His example is vindicated by the Father by His Resurrection.  His way, His way of the Cross, His way of redemptive suffering, is the way we are to imitate.  And we can be certain that we will not go wrong by following Him in everything by being perfect imitators, because He is perfect Love.  As St. Peter says,

THIS is thank-worthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.  For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently; this is acceptable with God.  For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not…

We are continually making decisions to follow, to imitate others around us.  And we can get so lost, following the wrong mentors, the hirelings, or even being led unconsciously by unworthy mentors. 

 

But this will be less and less the case as we trust more and more in Jesus.

In Jesus and in His way, we find a Teacher, a Mentor, the Good Shepherd who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  He is the One and the Way that if followed will never disappoint

 

Ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

And Jesus will lead us even through the gates of death.

Almighty God, who hast given thine only Son to be unto us both a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace that we may always most thankfully receive that his inestimable benefit, and also daily endeavour ourselves to follow, to imitate, the blessed steps of his most holy life; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 

 

 

 

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