Homily – 4th Weekend of Easter

Dear Friends,

I am sorry for the lateness of this homily–I was away this past weekend and Pastor Dick graciously stood in for me; so here is his very fine homily. Have a great week–all! Pastor Kathy

Scripture readings teach us about our relationship with God through symbols. Symbols are the way in which we often convey more clearly our thoughts and feelings. If I say someone has a ‘big heart,” I don’t mean he or she is on the verge of a heart attack; I mean they are very loving. Today’s readings use two symbols or metaphors to convey important messages to us.

First, although it may seem sacrilegious to refer to God as an animal, if we were to do so, which animal would you choose? The writer of the book of Revelation chose a lamb, a young sheep.

Second, he uses the image of a shepherd. In the Christmas narratives we heard of  glorious angels and majestic kings. We also saw lowly shepherds with their flocks of sheep.

So the second reading from Revelation vividly describes a lamb, the Lamb, at the center of God’s throne. Around that throne is an immense crowd, beyond counting, from all nations, races and languages.

What is the message? First these people have survived their time of testing. They had been saved, but they had not been saved by their own perfect deeds. For at the same time that young lambs had been slaughtered for the Passover dinner, Jesus had been slaughtered on a cross. By his blood they were saved, by the blood of the Lamb.

Second, these people were not just from one tribe or nation, not just from Israel or the United States. They came from—North and South, East and West, Asia, Europe, Africa, North , Central and South America—from everywhere.

Third, ironically the metaphor gets switched. They are all lambs. The Lamb will be their shepherd! The risen Jesus, the former carpenter’s son, is now symbolized, not as a carpenter or as a lamb, but as a shepherd.

I remember as a five-year-old boy the panic and fear I felt when I was briefly separated from my mother and felt lost in a massive crowd at a fair in Chicago. I remember my joy and relief when she found me. In a similar way, despite the massive crowd pictured in the scene in Revelation, the Lamb is also our Shepherd, he  knows us, each one of us. In today’s Gospel, Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me…No one can snatch them out of my hand.”

So, two messages I take from today’s readings are: First,  all are called, all are saved, not by our merits but by the blood of the Lamb. We who follow him are called to see each other not on the basis of judgment, but in the light of God’s mercy and love for each of us.

Second, he knows and hears our voice at all times. Even when we feel lost and scared, he is there with us. “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish.”

I love these words. He knows us individually as a shepherd knows each of his sheep. He speaks to us and we hear his voice. He speaks to us through the Spirit—to recognize him in our brothers and sisters who don’t always look like us, sound like us, or agree with us.

In the message Pastor Kathy e-mailed us this week about today’s liturgy, she noted that Paul and Barnabas labored to spread the message of Jesus  that all were meant to hear. “Very simply, she said, “we are all encouraged…‘to listen,’ to listen to his voice, and to allow our love for those different from us to expand.

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