Scripture for this Sunday (Fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday):
Acts 9.36-43; Psalm 23; Revelation 7.9-17; John 10.22-30
During the same week that the Archbishop of Canterbury warned that climate change is one of the major challenges facing the world, data was released indicating that global temperature, month-by-month, increased by a record amount for each of the past 11 months. We hear this in the context of Good Shepherd Sunday, with Earth Day to follow on Friday.
A shepherd’s staff has two ends: a crook for drawing the sheep away from danger, and a blunt end for prodding them toward places they would rather not go. In and through Christ, the Good Shepherd, God both draws us in and nudges us; protects us, but urges us to fulfil the potential that God placed in and sees in us. Jesus, as a shepherd offered healing together with a challenge: to take up the mantle of increasing the amount of goodness and mercy – of true justice – in and for the world.
To be a follower of Christ, to be willing to call oneself a Christian, means to be embraced by the comfort of Christ, but also to be willing to embrace the challenge to take up the role of helping the shepherd in our world. Jesus, as a shepherd, offered healing together with a challenge: to take up the mantle of increasing the amount of goodness and mercy – of true justice – in and for the world.
The Archbishop of Canterbury challenged the church to take issue with injustice and the inherent selfishness that denies responsibility for the longer term future of the world. Some see this as “political,” but despite a modern political culture that would rather label us as “taxpayers” or “voters,” we are more than that: we are citizens, and politics means, “of, for, or relating to citizens.” If we are not going to discard most of the New Testament, and much of the Old Testament, as members of the church, we have to be concerned with our role as citizens, and our responsibility towards our fellow citizens. What else does, “love your neighbour as yourself” mean?
As Christ’s sheep, who are called to be transformed and reformed into shepherd-citizens, we are given a responsibility to be pursued by goodness, mercy and justice, and then to pursue them in our own lives. And that means taking responsibility for our effect on the world which we occupy and which will be occupied by those who follow us.