I am working on Sunday morning’s sermon. It’s on Jesus saying that he is the gate to the sheep pen (John 10). Now don’t get me wrong, I love the Bible and the riches within it to guide us, point us to Jesus and help us to get the best out of life. But Jesus, were you serious?
“I am the gate.”
|Okay, it’s a Viking sheep pen, but you get the idea|
It’s not very dynamic. In fact for most of its life a gate is simply a fence that is an extension of the walls or hedges either side of it. It’s only when someone needs to go through it that it has a few minutes of dynamism before going back to being a fence. Was Jesus having an off day here? Or was he warming up? Because shortly afterwards he came out with “I am the good shepherd” which is much better. A lot more to preach on there. It’s a lot more dynamic. It’s a lot more exciting. It’s a person, not an inanimate object!
Of course, as usual, when I have dived into the passage and have been helped by commentators I realise that there is an incredible amount to the gate image. It’s about giving access, protection, nurture, safety, it facilitates the movement of sheep to graze, grow and be nourished. If you come to our place on Sunday morning, or listen on our website the week afterwards, you can expect some of those to be in the mix. And we are more like gates than the automatic doors that open as you enter the supermarket. We are more often mundane, normal, ordinary.
I have often wondered about my own occasional need to be spectacular, something which I think many of us have. Ordinary is seen as inadequate, unsatisfying. I remember when I was a law undergraduate I had a dream of me preaching on a big stage to a large group of people. It excited me. It inspired me. A wise friend suggested I consider why, and whether it was more about my ego than about what God was calling me to do or be.
If the dream had been about me preaching to a handful of people in a church, which was my experience when I preached my first sermon a few months later, I wonder if I would have been so inspired or excited afterwards. (I should have been. I know now that the thrill is not in the number of people listening, but in the privilege of God speaking through you to someone else).
But back to you. Do you have the need to be spectacular? Does ordinary seem inadequate? Do you go ‘woohoo’ or ‘oh no’ when the church budget is mentioned in church meetings? Do you go ‘hallelujah’ when you do someone’s shopping for them, or is it a chore you could do without?
If nothing else (and there is a lot else) Jesus saying ‘I am the gate’ suggests to me that he inhabits and uses the ordinary, the mundane, the unspectacular, the boring as much as the all-singing, all-dancing, razzamatazz-delivering moments of life. Perhaps more of the former than the latter. Because there is more of that in our lives.
Be blessed. Be a blessing.
A large, well established, Canadian lumber camp advertised that they were looking for a good Lumberjack. The very next day, a skinny little man showed up at the camp with his axe, and knocked on the head lumberjacks’ door.
The head lumberjack took one look at the little man and told him to leave. “Just give me a chance to show you what I can do,” said the skinny man.
“Okay, see that giant redwood over there?” said the lumberjack. “Take your axe and go cut it down.”
The skinny man headed for the tree, and in five minutes he was back knocking on the lumberjack’s door.
“I cut the tree down,” said the man. The lumberjack couldn’t believe his eyes and said, “Where did you get the skill to chop down trees like that?”
“In the Sahara Forest,” replied the puny man.
“You mean the Sahara Desert,” said the lumberjack.
The little man laughed and answered back, “Oh sure, that’s what they call it now!”