Holding the door for others

A sermon on the 4th Sunday of Easter:

“Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” –John 10:1-10

Children’s Time: Do you see this picture of a construction site? What does the sign say? “Road Closed” that’s right! I bet your parents aren’t too excited when they see these signs and you’re on your way to someplace important. Here’s another one: “Do Not Enter.” Well, what are you supposed to do with that? Yeah, go another way. Do you know what Jesus said? He said, “I am the gate! I am the way. You can enter through me and find life.” What I think he means is that we can trust him to take care of us. There are a lot of times in life when you will feel like you’re at a dead end. You won’t be sure what to do. Trust Jesus. He is our good shepherd and won’t steer us wrong. AND… you can lead others to him, too. How many of you were taught that it’s polite to hold the door for people? Right. It’s common courtesy. Should we try it? When you invite others to worship – or tell them about what God has done for you – you’re helping others to live life to its fullest – trusting Jesus as the gate that has no dead ends.

Intro: Dear friends in Christ: grace to you and peace, from the One who is and who was and who is to come: our living Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

What road signs have you seen lately?
“ENTER”
“ACCESS DENIED”
“ROAD CLOSED”
“DO NOT ENTER”
“EMPLOYEES ONLY”
“NO ADMITTANCE WITHOUT AUTHORIZATION”

What if every time you saw a road sign, you thought about Jesus as the gate. Or better yet: what if every time you logged on to a website, you imagined that “gate”? And, what if before you click “ENTER” on a website, or hit ‘enter’ on your keyboard – you considered the gate that is Jesus? “Enter here,” he says, “and find life – abundant life!”

Who doesn’t want abundant life? A life full to brimming over – as we hear of in this beloved Psalm 23 “My cup runneth over!” “Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever!”

There’s a sign worth following – a door that leads to Christ.

So much of what we pursue and consume in this life only ends up disappointing us. A couple of years ago, I bought a set of matching bikes for my son and I. They were remakes of the classic Schwinn Stingrays from the 70’s! Remember those, with the banana seat and the smaller front tire that gave it that chopper look? Oh, we were going to ride in style, that summer, baby! And we did. It was a blast! But I also knew that these bikes wouldn’t last. They’re not very practical. There are no gears to shift when you come to a hill. And I did look pretty silly with my knees bouncing off the handlebars as I pedaled – even with the seat adjusted to its highest setting! So, my Schwinn is for sale – hardly been used – if you know a buyer.

What are your “entry points”? When have you been duped by a fence-jumper? How often do you “click enter”? I did a quick count of all my usernames and passwords for my online accounts yesterday (I have to write them all down or there’s no way I’d ever remember them). I found 92 accounts that I enter online alone! That includes email accounts, online shopping, bank accounts, newspapers, cell phones, social networking, kids’ accounts at school, charities, Bible studies, and entertainment sites. Whew!

What if every time we hit enter on a keyboard we considered whether this entry point was in keeping with the gatekeeper of our faith?

What makes for good stewardship of our time and our resources? Where do we invest what we hold so dearly?

The abundant life Jesus speaks of is not only there for us – but it pursues us. (That is the literal translation of the Hebrew in Psalm 23) “Surely goodness and mercy shall pursue me all the days of my life…”

So, how are you doing at observing Easter? Has that goodness and mercy caught up to you yet? Easter is supposed to be a time to set our hearts to dancing – to reveling in the freedom we know, through Christ’s victory over the grave and glorious resurrection!

But I have to admit, while I get Lent… but I don’t always get Easter. We have 40 days of Lent for a reason: to spend time in reflection and self-examination. We “walked by faith” and felt remorse, we made confession, and generally prepared ourselves for the road that leads to Golgotha and the cross. …we know that the new life of Easter cannot be fully realized until walking the path that leads through the valley of the shadow of death. So, fine. We did that. We have made Good Friday a part of our Holy Week.

So, when do we get to dance? We have 50 days of Easter (Ha! Take that, Lent! That’s 10 more than you!). How do we observe these days of Easter? Is it like the 12 days of Christmas (which seems like overkill – c’mon enough with the carols already!). I mean, I know Luther taught that “every Sunday is a ‘little Easter’” but what are we supposed to do with these 50 days – to usher people into the abundant life Christ promised – that we aren’t doing every other Sunday of the year?

What if we’re caught up in a dead end “DO NOT ENTER” situation?

I mean, I appreciate the book of Acts 2… (our first lesson from today) and yet, it sounds like utopia… They did everything together – they got along – no one went without. It’s all here: Bible study, fellowship, bread-breaking, sharing, caring for the good will of others, all with glad and generous hearts!

It’s not until we get to the later chapters in Acts that we see how their disagreements soon arose. Paul’s letters, too, seem to paint a different picture of early Christians and their struggles. Seems like it didn’t take long for those bonds to be tested.

We place our hope in persons, rather than “the person of Christ.”

“I AM THE GATE…” said Jesus, “If people do not come in my name RUN THE OTHER WAY!!! They’re fence-jumpers, thieves and bandits!”

When it’s all about me – it’s never about Jesus – who said, “It’s all about the sheep – really. I came for them… that they might have abundant life! So go get them… shepherd them here.. .to me! The gate! Hello, are you tracking this!?! (Can you hear me now?) Listen to my voice.”

“Bring. Them. To. Me. It’s that simple. I’ll take it from there. Don’t jump the fence. Don’t make it about you, and how convincing you can be – but do share your story of how I have made a difference as your shepherd. And then enter here – through me.

Here is where they, and you, will find abundant life.

Let us pray: O God, we thank you that you never stop chasing us with this ridiculous promise of abundant life – of goodness and mercy, ever following us in this life. Help us to hold the door for others who have been duped and deceived by the fence-jumpers in this life – that our hearts might take to dancing through the gates of your love. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

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