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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Easter 4, Year A
South Sydney Uniting Church
May 11, 2014

Jeremiah 23:1-8; Psalm 23; John 10:1-10

‘Our shepherd is a story-teller, footballer, mother, cowboy/girl, detective ...’

Lectio divina (divine reading) is a slow, contemplative reading of scripture. The discipline draws on the Benedictine tradition. This morning, the invitation is to read, together, our Gospel text in this way. God be with you

The Gospel will be read aloud three times, with three opportunities for you to share the wisdom revealed to you and within you.

The first reading is for the purpose of hearing a word or passage that touches the heart.

The second reading is for the purpose of "hearing" or "seeing" Christ in the text.

The third and final reading is for the purpose of experiencing Christ "calling us forth" into doing or being.

John 10 is a wonderful text for us today.

In the past I have preached on shepherding in terms of journalism (caring for and sharing the stories of others), in terms of protecting the most vulnerable (a source, a whistleblower, a child, a victim of abuse or discrimination, an immigrant or asylum seeker). I have preached on shepherding in relation to Australian Rules Football and the practice of "making room" for another, and "bumping" to one side preconceptions, arrogant assumptions of cultural privilege, class privilege, that another might advance towards the goal ...

I have preached on making room for another in terms of public and private space, and in terms of solitude.

I have noted that a first-century shepherd would lay down in the space within a wall of stones, his very body the gate for the sheep. This is a very powerful image of responsibility and love (most like a mother whose body is a place of care and nurture, safety and nourishment). In previous years we have symbolised on the altar-table a "sheep-fold" as a safe place, marked out with cloth and ribbon. From within a place of prayer, from within a being-shepherded, we have sought to shepherd the isolated and those at risk.

This past week I have enjoyed an essay that likens shepherds to cowboys/girls. The caring one is rough, rugged, able to see ahead. The caring one prods us to go where we can have life and have it abundantly. The caring one dresses not in fine silk but in denim ... a cowboy/girl ... Perhaps she or he is also like a detective who operates in a kind of wilderness and has to be able to discern the bad guys or false shepherds ...

I have also made some notes in relation to our being drawn to false shepherds and false promises ... consumer brands and ridiculous emotional-existential claims to full and enjoyable life.

At the heart of it all, and positively, the Gospel has to do with our desires for intimacy and honesty in our relationships, with each other and with our God - and with our gratitude for the one who knows the deepest recesses of our fears and insecurities and has embraced them all. At the heart of it is a promise of abundant life - true riches, true security, true fulfilment, true love ...

Let's read and hear the Gospel for us today. Let's hear it three times, and let's share deeply and respectfully, together, in the Spirit who mothers, gathers and leads us ...

... Amen.