Bulletin: May 12, 2019
Fourth Sunday of Easter
Throughout Easter Time, the Church rejoices with Jesus, risen from the dead. Our readings on this Fourth Sunday of Easter celebrate our instinct to come together in joy, worshiping in church. While private prayer nourishes our individual relationship with the Lord, community prayer is a foretaste of paradise. The book of Revelation depicts a “great multitude” worshiping God “day and night in his temple.” Our churches on Easter Sunday often reflect this happy multitude, filling the pews to bursting. Four Sundays into the festive season, we are encouraged to keep praising God together. In the Acts of the Apostles, Paul and Barnabas demonstrate their instinct to worship with their faith community each Sabbath, dutifully taking their seats in the synagogue. In the Gospel, Jesus calls us his sheep and reminds us why coming together as a flock is so important: uniting in community, we imitate the unity of God.
Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” Earlier in this Good Shepherd discourse, John the Evangelist explains that Jesus is using “figures of speech.” We cannot take Jesus’ words literally, since we are people, not sheep. We understand the Lord figuratively, then, discovering all the helpful ways that we are similar to sheep. A quick Internet search reveals a number of videos showing how sheep ignore every human voice except that of their shepherd. It is remarkable to see how single-minded sheep are, totally absorbed in grazing, disregarding everything around them. Even when impersonators imitate the shepherd and call the sheep in the same way the shepherd does, the sheep do not bother to look up. The instant the real shepherd calls out, however, the sheep snap to attention, call back in their own way, and come running.
It can be helpful to think of our connection to Jesus in terms of sheep. Our hearts long to hear the voice of Jesus and respond as readily as farm animals. In reality, however, not one of us living today was alive in first century Palestine. We never heard Jesus tell us, in his own accent, how he will never allow anyone to take us out of his hand. Here again we think figuratively, then, imagining those “voices” in daily life that help us snap to attention and draw close to Jesus. Today’s Gospel invites us to spend time thinking of all that brings us to the Lord. Conversations, scriptures, athletics, hospitality, service, music, laughter, struggle—any of these things might help our ears perk up as we look to the Lord. As we practice listening for “the voice,” we may be surprised to realize how often Jesus has been calling to us in the business of our days. Once we get his voice into our ears, we hope never to lose the sound.
Today’s Readings: Acts 13:14, 43–52; Ps 100:1–2, 3, 5; Rev 7:9, 14b–17; Jn 10:27–30