As I sit to write this week, I am aware that Sunday, May 3rd is a major anniversary for me. I was speaking with a long time friend and brother priest who reminded me that May 3rd was coming and that the day marks the start of our 30th year in full-time ministry. He asked me if I was aware of it and what I thought about it. Sheepishly I admitted that it had not really crossed my mind because of all that had been going on in the day to day stuff in recent weeks. As I have pondered these things and looked at a journal I keep of my ministry, I came to realize just how faithful God has been to my family and to me over and over again through the years. So I want to tie this together with some thoughts I have about the life and ministry over the past 30 years and what still needs to happen because, in the immortal phrase of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, “I’m not dead yet.”
This Sunday is known as “Good Shepherd Sunday” because the lessons reveal Jesus and the Father to be such. In fact, in the Old Testament, God is extolled as the Shepherd of Israel. So it is not a surprise for Jesus to reveal himself as the Good Shepherd. He connects his life and ministry both to his Father and to the life and faith of the People of Israel. The Gospel Lesson is a statement that Jesus makes to leaders of the faith in Jerusalem after the healing of a man who was born blind (John 10:1-10). The basic tenor of the speech is about choosing whether you want to live in the Empire or if you would rather seek a better kingdom. That is why the man born blind lives out his faith and is tossed by the religious leaders – he chose to follow Jesus rather than be led by pretenders. Which do you choose, the status quo of the Empire or the freedom of the kingdom?
Human beings because of who and what we are, like to have things that stay the same. The lack of change leaves us thinking that we are in control. Consider carefully who things went for the people of Israel before they were freed by the acts of God on their behalf and what happened between the people and God once, they were across the Red Sea and away from Egypt. Even in the aftermath of the plagues and the moment of being rescued through the Red Sea, the People of Israel started complaining about there being no water, no bread and no meat. They complained and complained and yet God comes through, providing water in the desert, manna in the evenings and birds for meat (Exodus 16 and 17). Yet they kept on complaining saying things like, “Were there no graves in Egypt that you brought us out into the wilderness to die?” we would rather live in chains and be slaves to taskmasters because that life is easier and more predictable than learning to trust that God is going to provide and that we have to depend on him for our daily bread.
That is the biggest lesson I have had to learn and in fact, am continuing to learn. That I need to seek Christ to find my daily bread, my life in him. He is the gate over which I come and go from the sheep pen. He knows my name and calls me to come and follow him each day. He knows my needs, my hopes and fears, and through them draws me, calls me and encourages me. Thus the call on my life is about being willing to give away to others and to serve other people, giving where I can, making sacrifices when necessary.
Let’s go into a better kingdom, you and I.