For most of my child and young adult life I lived as a Kansas farmboy. My life had a rythem, a chorus or melody of biological processes. The seasons had meaning they marked our time. Our calander didn’t necissarily follow days of the month; but temperature, the length of day, and rain. For a farmboy the ideas of nature, enviroment, and the cycle of life are more than just a catchy trend but a lifestyle. There isn’t a farmer out there that doesn’t want to preserve the enviroment because this planet provides their livelyhood. It must be protected or they would lose their jobs. To be honest we kindof get offended by people who say we don’t care or that we poision the earth because this is far from the truth.
Agriculture has many forms. Each form evolved in its own way to meet the conditions facing the area. The tools used, the crops grown, or rejected all have a reason. In Europe they didn’t need the tools required in the frontier lands of the Great Plains. The steel plow is a symbol of technology and the amazing ability God created in us to adapt to our envioment. Prior to the settling of this area steel was only needed on the tip of the wooden versions of the plow. There are other forms of agriculture that emerged as well. All around what is now Kansas City, praire grass covered the hills. Grass so thick and rich cattle flurished. This provided the first great economy for Kansas City, the beef industry. This industry is so entrenched in our history that cuts of meat bear our name. Agriculture both cultivation and animal husbandry founded our community and the growth of both drove our city to be what it is.
I bring this up because Israel or Palistine, was an culture developed around agriculture. In the north and coastal regions they cultivated the ground raising vinyards, olive groves, and raising wheat and other crops. While the hill of Judea the enviroment demanded other forms. In the arid hills with sparce vegitation and rain cultivation was not possible so they focused on the raising of animals. Often you can tell where Jesus is teaching by the agricultural illistrations he provides. Jerusalem is in the hill country so the image of a stockyard is great.
Since the area is arid, water becomes very important. Communities grow around the availability of water. Often these communities would build pens to house the flocks of sheep so various shepards. I imagine Jesus is teaching near one of these pens in the story told in John 10:1-10.
The sheep pens are areas where several flock of sheep are housed to keep the sheep protected from preditors so the shepards can rest. The gate is manned by a keeper whose job is simple keep sheep in and preditors out. Imagine watch this keeper opening an closing the gate as Jesus is teaching.
Jesus is the gate keeper. Jesus Christ is the only way to enter into rest with and a personal relationship with God. This is probably the most inflamatory message in religious culture and rightfully so since it has always been. Jesus Himself said it an if Jesus is who He claims then this statment must be considered. Everyone standing there listening to Jesus is seeing in the background the gatekeeper opening the gate. Allowing or disallowing a shepard and his sheep to find rest. Jesus says that He is the gate and those listening realize what Jesus is saying. He is the one who controls who or who isn’t allowed to find spiritual rest with God. Christians may find this statement comforting, those opposed to the Christian ideas find this statement exclusive and judgemental. What we need to realize is Christ is the gate and the gate keeper not us. His standard is the one followed not ours.
As a shepard leads his sheep into a pen they employ their tools. Their rod is held above the gate and as the sheep walk under it the wool is brushed away to show their skin. This allows the shepard to inspect the sheep for injuries. Those without blemish are allowed to enter rest and the other are given special care. Our Meetings are like the sheep pens. This is why in ancient times the church wa often refered to as a hospital, because the Standard or rod of Christ was applied and the wounds were revieled and cared for. We are the fold for the injured and hurting to find healing as well as the fold for the healthy and tired to find rest. But we are not the gate, Christ is the gate. Often we as the church or Meeting forget our place.
My place as a pastor is not to judge who is or isn’t worthy of membership or who is equipt to be a leader. My job I to point to the Shepard and to pass through the gate with others. Your job as members is not to deem ministry good or bad; or right or wrong. Your job is to help those called by the Shepard through the gate and to walk back with them when they come for rest. He is the gate and th standard. The scriptures are there to provide a witness to all people so we all can know His voice. We are not the gatekeepers we shouldn’t turn people away because it isn’t our job. They come because they seek rest and healing from the shepard. The Spirt of God will do the rest. We do however have a job to do.
Sheep are unfortunatly the most helpless animals on earth. They have been so demesticated that they can no longer survive on their own. They require help. Sheep follow and get lost. Actually the get lost more often than they follow. Tha is why dogs were bred to assist the shepard. The flocks hear the shepard and they respond. In the morning the shepard calls out the flocks and they leave the pen to go out into the world. We are like the sheep being called out. Our job is to follow. But even outside of the pens we have nothing at stake. The Shepard stil does all the work. Our job is to listen, hear, and follow.
Sometimes there are leaders in a flock that gather a group in a certain area, these leaders are known by the shepard and are called and the congrigation moves back around the shepard. These group are the various ministries we are called to. They revolve around our passions or the areas of our lives that bring enjoyment or purpose. Where we go with these passions others will be also. And as Christ calls to us we can bring others back to the Shepard.
My passions are different from others in our Meeting. My personal ministry looks different than yours, but mine is no greater than anyone elses. My job, my passion is to help others learn to hear Christ better. Which is funny since I’m deaf. Others have passions involving movies or dancing. Their ministries are just as vital as mine, because their ministry meets others as well as mine. And asour ministries overlap the group grows around the Shepard.
I recently watch “the king’s speech“, which is a movie about the late King Goerge VI. He had a passion for his nation. A passion his brother did not share. Although George wasn’t the oldest he became king because his brother refused. But George had a weakness, a stammer. He was called to be king but he was not able to speak so he felt unable to lead. God provided a mn to come along side to help the king speak. This is a great picture of our ministries. My ministry is to help people hear, others are different but where our ministries and passions cross other ministries emerge. A stammering king inspired a nation because he met a man who helped him speak.
We live in a dark world with people lost wondering the hills of the wilderness away from their shepard, unable to hear His voice. We live in an exciting time because we live in a culture driven by passionate people and God can use these passions to call His people to Him. This week I pray with yu that we can discss our hopes and passions. And that together we can pray and hear the Voice of our Shepard who is calling us and others to this place of healing and rest.