… our practice of Holy Communion is an enactment and a reenactment of God’s super abundance in the world, a super abundance that defies all our notions of scarcity, all of our temptations to hunker down and hoard, all of our fear about running short … ― Walter Brueggemann, The Collected Sermons of Walter Brueggemann
Friends, today, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, is often called Good Shepherd Sunday. In our three-year lectionary cycle, the Psalm is always Psalm 23; the Gospel Reading always comes from John 10, in which Jesus says [v.11] ‘I am the Good Shepherd’.
Our reading today stops just short of Jesus saying ‘I am the Good Shepherd’; it ends at verse 10 with these words:
I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
The Gospel According to John talks a lot about life. It mentions ‘life’ right at the beginning:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.
According to John, life came into being through the eternal Word of God, the Word that became flesh in Jesus Christ.
So, in John’s Gospel words like these come from the lips of Jesus:
I am the bread of life;
I am the resurrection and the life;
I am the way, the truth and the life.
Jesus is the creative Word, the Source of life, made human flesh.
In John’s Gospel, this life is most often called eternal life. And why not? It comes from the eternal Word, who is one with God the Father. And since the resurrection of Jesus, life that is shared with him cannot be interrupted by death. It is eternal life because it is sharing the life of God.
So when Jesus says, ‘I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly’; this is the life of God, which Jesus shares with us. It’s the Life at the root of all other life, it’s the Energy that powers all Creation. Jesus came that we may have this life within us, a life that brings faith, hope and love, a life that ignites joy and peace in the very depths of our souls.
Jesus came that we may know this Life which is the Source of all the life we know. This Life connects us to the Source of Life, which is God. We are plugged in to God, if you like.
To have this Life is to show it, it is to share of ourselves and the things we have with generosity. Yet too many of us live with a sense of scarcity. We think to ourselves, I don’t have enough! If I have to share, I’ll have even less.
Time for a confession: I often have this sense of scarcity. I can’t do that! I think. I’m not good enough!
These are the times I need to remember that I share in the life that Jesus has brought into being. It is an inexhaustible supply. It is eternal. It is bottomless.
The Apostle Paul once wrote that we have a treasure in clay vessels. The treasure is the life God gives us, the vessels are our flesh. We can let the treasure shine through.
Some of us may struggle in this time of isolation. We wonder if we’re getting the job done, and what ‘the job’ even is right now. Perhaps you can identify with that.
If that’s you, plug in again, listen for the voice of the Good Shepherd — who in the words of Psalm 23 leads us beside still waters and green pastures, who is with us in the darkest valley, who anoints our head with oil.
And who spreads a table before us. At this Table we meet Jesus, the Good Shepherd who is the risen crucified One. Here, we reconnect with him and with one another. Here, we receive his life, and here we are strengthened for a life that is truly abundant.
Soon, we shall share in this Holy Meal. Come, receive again the Life, the eternal Life, Jesus gives to us. Amen.