Easter 4(C): Being Good Shepherds

Image by Ulrike Mai from Pixabay

My Beloved and I are celebrating our 6th wedding anniversary this weekend. It took us a while to get married: we’ve been together nearly 20 years. Without question, they are the best twenty years of my life!

Early in our relationship, on a spring afternoon, I was walking across a crowded school courtyard when I heard something.  Someone was loudly calling “yoo-hooooo” from across the yard. I couldn’t see her at first, but I kept looking because somehow I knew it was Katherine and I knew that she was calling me.

In the first three Sundays of Easter we keep being told that the Risen Christ is difficult to recognize. The Risen Christ clearly bears no resemblance to Jesus of Nazareth.  Disciples who knew Jesus very, very well always fail to recognize the Risen Christ by sight or sound. There is always something else that clues them in: people are called by name, wounds are touched, breakfast meals are prepared, bread is broken and shared.

The Risen Christ looks different and sounds different, and even behaves differently in at least one regard:  While Jesus was always insisting that the disciples follow him — stick to his agenda and his schedule — the Risen Christ follows the disciples.  The Risen Christ is in their midst wherever THEY go, doing they are doing what THEY have decided to do… so far, fishing, fleeing, worrying and hiding.

The disciples followed Jesus, but now the Risen Christ follows them.

And the Risen Christ follows us.

Last week we were told, “Feed my sheep.” Now, we are to be the Good Shepherds.  Now we have the responsibility. We determine the agenda and we set the schedule. Then as now, fishing, fleeing, worrying and hiding won’t be enough. The needs are too great and the flock is too large.  Good to know that one way or another, in ways that are easy to see or not, the Risen Christ is following and will be there with us.

Easter 3(C): Same Song Different Day?

This Sunday’s readings move us to the second part of a “Risen Christ” experience: the part where we are asked to change.

Jesus: “Do you love me?”

Peter:  “Yes Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus: “Feed my sheep.”

IOW, “Quit hanging out in high priest’s courtyard while the other disciples are elsewhere. Quit jumping in and out of fishing boats and leaving others behind. Do things differently. Be changed. Feed my sheep.”

Photo by Parij Borgohain on Pixabay

Very challenging. Apparently it is not enough for us to say, “Yes Lord, you know that we love you” unless we are also willing to make changes and better care for one another.

There are so many ways in which we could change.

  • We live in an inherently racist society that bestows unearned privilege on some and unfairly burdens others.  We could change and start working to dismantle that unjust system.
  • We have become a society in which many cannot afford basic nutrition or health care. We could change and start building a system that meets those human needs.
  • We shop and dine and otherwise gather in buildings that make the disabled feel like an unwelcome nuisance. We could change and start building facilities that are fully accessible.
  • We pray and worship using sexist language. We could change and start re-writing our liturgical language.
  • We are watching anti-Semitic rhetoric turn into deadly violence. We could change and eliminate anti-Jewish hymns, prayers and bible readings (like “the conversion of Saul” – this Sunday’s first reading) from our liturgy.

Not a full list, of course.  Any one of those changes would cost us time, money, attention, compassion and at least a little inconvenience.

Image by Brigitte Werner from Pixabay

Here’s the thing: after we have seen the Risen Christ, we are asked to change.  Otherwise, we are just singing the Same Song on a Different Day.