Jesus’ prophetic statement of bringing other sheep into the fold can be viewed as John’s commissioning for the early church—a command to welcome and receive others into the life and ministry of the Christian church. Jesus understands there are others outside of the current sheep pen who know his voice despite their ethnicity, class, or faith traditions. We get a sense from this passage that his ministry would not be fulfilled until those other sheep rally to his voice. He alone has the authority, through his Father, to lay down his life for all his sheep and to take it up again when needed. His authority and power come from his foresight about his resurrection promise.
For Jesus, those other sheep may very well have represented the Gentiles throughout his itinerant ministry, but today Christian churches are challenged to ask where the other sheep are outside their walls. I would imagine most congregations take their evangelism and outreach efforts seriously. But are we hoping for more of the same—people with similar vocations, backgrounds, economic status, and so on? Or are we welcoming differences and seeking the stranger? Will our sheep pens be places of inclusion (celebrating diversity) or places of division (reinforcing homogeneity)?
As we discern how to welcome others into the Christian fold, let us be cognizant of the times we were left out of the group due to circumstances out of our control. Maybe we were the new kid at school, the transplanted coworker, or the new family in the neighborhood. Whatever the situation, we were outside looking in, at least in the beginning. Most likely it took the initiative from someone in the group to welcome us in a new place that we would eventually call home.
Loving God, challenge me to welcome the stranger in my midst, so that no one will be left behind or left out. Amen.
This week’s readings open with a confrontation in Acts between Peter and John and some of the religious leaders. Peter speaks in harsh terms to the leaders, stating that they had killed Jesus; yet by the power of Jesus’ name, a man who could not walk has been healed. By that same name spiritual healing happens as well. The other three passages employ the metaphor of the Good Shepherd. “The Lord is my shepherd,” the psalmist declares, and the shepherd cares for all our needs. In John’s Gospel, Jesus declares that he is the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. First John repeats this imagery. Jesus proved his love when he lay down his life for us. If we truly love one another, we also ought to sacrifice in tangible ways
Read Acts 4:5-12. When have you gotten into difficulty for exercising your Christian faith and values? If never, why not?
Read Psalm 23. What is your first memory of hearing or reading this psalm? Has it had a significant role in your life of faith? If so, what has its role been?
Read 1 John 3:16-24. How do your actions reflect your love for God and for your fellow children of God?
Read John 10:11-18. What “wolves” have you faced in your life? How have you experienced the presence of the Good Shepherd with you as you faced these threats?
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