Sermon for 4th Sunday of Easter

God of mercy and of joy we praise you for your faithfulness and your love. May I speak in that same love and may the words I speak bring joy and faith in the name of Jesus. Amen

I’ve always found this reading from Acts a bit difficult. Holding all things in common, sharing so everyone has enough. Sounds great doesn’t it? And most of us have spent much of our lives trying to follow the teachings of Jesus about sharing and caring for one another, and in our families and communities we do our best. And when there is a crisis we pull together as a country as we are doing at the moment.

All faith communities are doing their level best to serve their communities where needed and those of us who can’t actually get out and do anything are helping by prayer and the giving of much needed money.

Its very obvious that we in the west do live rather better lives than do our brothers and sisters elsewhere even during this dreadful pandemic. Even at the cost of such sickness and loss of life most of us can self-isolate in reasonable comfort.

But it’s not true for everyone as is becoming clearer as the weeks of this lock-down go on, for many both in this country and elsewhere where the lack of money and loss of jobs is hitting many people and in poorer countries, and among refugees, and those who live in townships, now there is a lack of medical assistance as well.

I remember our Nanna saying ‘eat up your dinner and be grateful. There are starving babies in Africa who would be grateful for such a dinner’. The sentiment was very kindly meant but how I always wondered could my eating my dinner, even with gratitude, help starving babies in Africa.

It might have been better had she said ‘shall we skip dinner today and give the money we would have spent on it to those who are feeding the poor in Africa’.

But we get stuck with such clichés and little sayings which tend to hide the often terrible reality behind what we say. And not only that they hide what we need to know.

I don’t know about you but I’ve noticed that I’ve been trying to make my food last as long as possible and being grateful for each meal because in self-isolation I am reliant on someone else bringing my shopping.

It puts a different complexion on the whole thing because although I give to charities that do feed the poor I am beginning to see how being reliant on the graciousness of others giving to me, makes me feel. And therefore how it must make people feel who are reliant on others, not just for their food deliveries, but for some, everything that gives them even a semblance of life. And the self-sacrifice of those doing the giving.

And in this pandemic how I am anxious about the safety of the person bringing my shopping. Not to mention those still working on the front-line trying to keep the whole system working so we all have enough and are cared for.

So anxiety is high on the list of feelings right now. Are you anxious or fearful? I’m sure we all are to some degree. And even more so if we are in quarantine, having been in contact with someone who has tested positive with Covid-19.

And for those who have the virus, and those grieving for their loved ones who have died from the virus, the word ‘suffering’ barely covers the pain being felt all around the world.

In the Gospel from John, who also sometimes seemed to put the words attributed to Jesus in a way that didn’t quite make sense; and the Pharisees who Jesus was talking to didn’t quite get it and he had to say it again in different way. Jesus says, ‘I am the gate’. What on earth does that mean?

To understand it we need to go back to the last few verses of chapter 9 where Jesus is talking about those who see and those who don’t see. And the Pharisees to whom he is speaking comment, ‘we are not blind are we’?, meaning of course they thought they understand what he was saying.

In answering them I think Jesus means, ‘if you were blind and didn’t understand what I’m saying then you would be innocent but as it is you say you do understand so you are not innocent and you come to God in your own will and with your own agenda’.

What I think Jesus is saying is the Shepherd, God, recognizes his own and therefore knows Jesus as the anointed, God’s own. Anointed and appointed and through Jesus we can find life in abundance.

This is life in and through our Lord, Christ Jesus and the use of the word Gate or in some translations Door is a way of saying that going through the gate is like going through Jesus into God’s presence.

There are two sides to a gate of course and many of us go through the Jesus gate and we find ourselves becoming part of a Church which can be a most wonderful thing and we find comfort among like-minded people and it is a safe haven. And we all need that.

But there is always the other side of the gate. The side we perhaps knocked on at some point. That side of the gate is still there waiting to be knocked on by others. Do they know about it? Have they heard about it? If they have do they understand what they heard?

Jesus maybe carried us through that gate into the safe haven of God’s love. It’s a bit like a Baptism. We go through the gate; Jesus, just as we went through the water. And we die to our old life and find resurrection in a new life in Christ, the anointing love.

If we allow Christ to rule in our hearts, and there is always the choice, and are willing for that love to lead us we may find it leading us back out through that gate, through Christ, out from our safe haven in the Church where we might have hidden for a very long time.

Where to? Who knows.

There is a metaphor that says there are always the voices that say to us, don’t go out. Some who went out never came home. Oops, what happened to them? And other voices saying if you don’t go out to find food and shelter you will starve to death, which doesn’t seem like a good idea either. So what’s this metaphor saying to us?

That staying on the inside doesn’t feed us. We can starve to death spiritually. We might do all sorts of good deeds like giving money to the poor but Jesus points out that although entering through Him we have security and salvation, by going out through Him we can have all that we need to live a Christ like life.

This picture of Jesus as a gate is an image of both a closed gate behind which the sheep are safe, and also an open gate which leads to abundant life in and through Him.

And this passing in and out through the Gate introduces the idea of a pause. A pause on the threshold. Jesus holds us on the threshold in the presence of God. The possibility of being held on that threshold is there as we take communion or are quiet in prayer. It’s a thin place and its available to us all the time where we can hear that quiet voice calling us.

The Pharisees to whom Jesus is speaking are merely concerned with rules laws and doctrines. They are blind to who He really is. Jesus knows us, knows each one of us by name. We are known and he hears us and wants us to hear Him and to follow where he leads.

Are we willing to go where He leads? Are we willing to let go of our own concerns, our own worries, our own anxieties; our own lives, and follow. It’s a bit scary but we are always held in His love. So lets step through that door in complete faith that Jesus has our backs.

Where will we go and what will we be led to do?. And what will we be led to share? Who knows. But whatever it is we will be blessed. We just need to be silent in His presence and then we will hear His voice.