Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 63; 149, Job 22:1-4, 22:21-23:7, Acts 13:26-43, John 10:1-18
In his book Imaginary Jesus, author Matt Mikalatos provides many humorous examples of our tendency to re-create Jesus in our own image. From Liberal Social Services Jesus, to Truth Telling Conservative Jesus, we populate our spiritual lives with images of Jesus that reinforce our own inclinations. The apostles walked, spoke, and broke bread with Jesus every day, yet even they could misunderstand him; let’s not be too hasty to be sure we’ve got it right.
Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd. I know my own, and my own know me.” Sheep are safest when they stay within shouting distance, where the familiar voice of their shepherd can call them away from danger. Sheep are not especially bright however, and can be lured away by thieves and distractions. In our modern world, we must discern among the many competing voices claiming to speak for our shepherd. Jesus-peddlers who promise prosperity, bigots who preach hate of the “other,” legalists who reduce faith to a simple formula of do’s and don’ts – these types and more falsely appeal to our baser nature in the name of Jesus. Are we listening for our true shepherd, or are we listening for voices that tell us what we want to hear? A voice that never tells us we’re going the wrong way, that never causes us discomfort or inconvenience, that disapproves of all the people we do, is not the voice of a loving shepherd.
Through prayer and study we become familiar with our shepherd’s voice. We learn to trust him when he calls us away from pastures that seem lush but are prowled by wolves, and when he calls us down paths that seem treacherous but lead to abundance. Abraham followed the voice of his shepherd God even when it asked him to do the incomprehensible. Jacob recognized the voice of his shepherd even though it spoke to him in a dream. If they hadn’t been attuned to listening for their true shepherd, they could have missed these important messages. The voice of Jesus speaks words of both safety and challenge, of love and correction.
Comfort: Our shepherd is always calling us home.
Challenge: Many voices – sometimes even our own – falsely or mistakenly claim to speak for Jesus. Listen carefully.
Prayer: Creator and Shepherd, thank you for the safety of your fold. I will listen for your voice and yours alone. Amen.
Discussion: Have you ever realized the voice you were following was the wrong one? How did the true voice call you back home?
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