I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me… (John 10:14)
This coming Sunday, we will have an opportunity to once again hear the notes of God’s love letter to the world. Nearly all of us have grown to know and love the twenty-third psalm for it speaks of things we all deeply need – comfort, peace, hope.
Our lectionary gives us the gift of pairing this psalm with two other essential passages of scripture. One is from the first letter of John, which will be the focus of our sermon. The other is this passage from the gospel of John where Jesus speaks of what it means to be the good shepherd.
Just as we hear comfort in the echoes of the 23rd psalm, so we find something even greater here. For Jesus goes beyond the promises of the psalm to offering his very life in order that we might find the fullness of life God desires. That is what the true shepherd, the good shepherd does.
What is more, Jesus speaks of knowing all of his “own.” Like a parents recognizing their child in a great crowd, our God knows all of us. Each one of us. For God created us and desires to empower us to live lives worthy of the gifts God has given. Why? Because God loves us more than we can imagine.
Something that child psychology has taught us is that there are two essential things that parents (and other important adults in children’s lives) should consistently say to their younglings. First, of course, is “I love you.” The second is one that we sometimes forget: “I am proud of you.” This pride is not the great hubris that causes downfalls, but it is the strength of bolster that we all need in order to truly flourish. Imagine the power of children who are taught that they are loved, accepted, celebrated, taught to do those things for others, and taught that they have people behind them so that they can do anything – just picture the world they would create.
Whether you realize it or not, we are those children. For it is God, our great parent, who tells us those same things every single day. We are loved. We are embraced and accepted as we are. We are celebrated for the wondrous creations we are. We are taught to grow and share these gifts with others. And then we are given the strength of God’s own self to equip us in taking the world by storm. Not a storm of torment, but a storm of ultimate triumph: for love does conquer all.
You are Christ’s own. Now go and live like it!