April 26, 2015
Text: John 10:11-18
Usually when I think about this passage of scripture, I ponder the nature of the good shepherd and his relationship with the sheep. How comforting it can be to think of my life as safeguarded by a kind and protective shepherd. But this week my thoughts went to another aspect of the story. I found myself thinking mostly about the hired hand, who was brought in to oversee the sheep, and the wolf that attacks, scaring off the hired hand. Who is this hired hand? While we have every right to expect basic competence from a hired hand, we should never expect a hired hand to love the sheep personally, to see each one’s unique personality and traits. It takes something deeper than a hired hand kind of relationship to know and love each other like this. Maybe we are meant to have more than a hired hand relationship with each other.
I suppose we keep hiring stand-ins for the good shepherd because we have such a hard time believing we could be God’s beloved. We “buy” love, in the form of obligations we place on each other, rather than trust that real love will be freely given. We want to believe that each of us is the beloved of God, which means then that ALL of us are the beloved of God, no exceptions. Even you. Even me. But what about my young, loud neighbors on each side of Andrew’s House, acting like they still live in a frat house, partying late into the night? Are they the beloved of God? Or the wealthy folks saturating the neighborhood who carry an air of privileged expectation? Yep, the beloved of God. Whatever our status in life—entrepreneur or CEO of a mass private corporation, firefighter or arsonist, executioner or executed, attacker or attacked . . . ALL of us, God’s beloved.