Leave the Gate open...
Sunday, May 3rd
Even if you are lucky enough to have a garden gate, you may not have been able to go beyond it in recent days. We are living behind closed gates to keep us safe and to keep others safe. ‘Stay at Home”. I wouldn’t mind being told I could not pass through the gate in the picture if it meant I had to stay on the picturesque island of Llanddwyn off Newborough, Anglesey. Not exactly a hardship. Stay with the sheep and wild horses that graze the pastures and look out over the sea to Snowdonia. Stay safe.
Today is known in the Church Calendar as Good Shepherd Sunday. That is a reference to Chapter 10 in John’s Gospel where Jesus talks about a gatekeeper letting his sheep in and out of the sheep pen. What we don’t often hear, however, is that Jesus refers to himself as The Gate in this passage.
Jane Williams offers a reflection on Jesus as The Gate and I’m including an extract here:
"Clearly, this parable is at least partly a riddle. John tells us that its first hearers didn’t
understand it, and that Jesus had to explain that the point of the parable is not the
shepherd, but the gate. A closed gate functions to keep the sheep safely shut in, but
the open gate is what this story is primarily interested in. It is the open gate that
allows the shepherd to come in and it is the open gate that leads to the life-giving
"The strangers who confuse the sheep and the thieves who come to kill and
rob all help to point to the one sure end. Sheep are always at risk, and they have to
learn to value something more than safety. That something is what Jesus is offering
them. The climax of the story is not security but abundant life.
"So, in Christ we are indeed offered security, but on such a huge scale that it is almost frightening. What God gives us in Christ is the certainty that we are forgiven people, free to come and go inGod’s great pasture.
"For us sheep that is sometimes rather more than we might want. We might prefer a small mouthful of grass and then a quick scurry back into our reassuringly dull sheepfold. But that is too meagre a gift for God to offer.
"…To return to the shepherd and guardian of your souls is to step through the
gateway of Christ’s cross into an entirely new world, where we are no longer sheep,
easily satisfied with small securities, but children of God, free to come and go in
God’s world. With that freedom comes responsibility, and a willingness to abandon
our day-to-day security, as Jesus did, in order to gain the total security of being and
doing what we are made for."
(extracted from Reflections from the Lectionary ©SPCK 2004)
Thank goodness there are so many in our community who are willing to leave the safety of their own homes to take risks in nursing, caring and feeding us and providing the essential services to make life liveable. Let us hope that when we can all venture beyond our garden gates again,we will have the courage to forsake our day-to-day security and do what we are made for.
Not one that’s gently hinged or deftly hung,
Not like the ones you planed at Joseph’s place,
Not like the well-oiled openings that swung
So easily for Pilate’s practiced pace,
Not like the ones that closed in Mary’s face
From house to house in brimming Bethlehem,
Not like the one that no man may assail,
The dreadful curtain, The forbidding veil
That waits your breaking in Jerusalem.
Not one you made but one you have become:
Load-bearing, balancing, a weighted beam
To bridge the gap, to bring us within reach
Of your high pasture. Calling us by name,
You lay your body down across the breach,
Yourself the door that opens into home.
Malcolm Guite http://www.malcolmguite.com
Mother, Father God,
For all those who venture out to keep us safe, we thank you.
For all those who have no safe place to rest, we bring them to you.
For all those who feel imprisoned in this lockdown, we ask your peace,
For the very young who are confused by the distancing, we ask for calm.
Good Shepherd, guard and guide us,
Lambs among the discarded millstones under Stanage Edge