So, this morning we take some time to fully include our young people in our worship service. We celebrate each of them. We welcome each of them. They are all special to us and to God. Our young people are usually in Sunday school during our church service and they often don’t get to see and hear what we adults do while they are in Sunday school, so we thought it would be great to have them take part in our liturgy this morning. They are our future, they are the future church and when each of them were baptized we adults promised to raise them up in the church.
So you guys are our guests of honor today. We want you to know that this place, the people here all care about each of you. We want you to feel loved and safe. We want you to always feel welcome here and to ask questions about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and about your church.
So, let’s take a fast look at what our Gospel reading is trying to say to us.
So, Jesus is talking to his friends, they are called disciples. He is telling them a story about love. He is telling them a story about sheep and how a shepherd takes care of the sheep, just like Jesus takes care of us. Like our parents and grandparents do.
So I want to try to mix the story Jesus is telling his friends to our lives today in a way we might understand.
We are surrounded by gates. We have gates around our baseball, basketball and soccer fields, we have gates around the playgrounds. We have gates at the airports.
In order to get to though to those gates, we pass through a security gate. Many of us have gates that provide an entrance into a courtyard, or security gates that keep bad people out.
Most of the time we need someone to let us in. Maybe a policeperson, a teacher, a guard, mom or dad.
In this morning’s Gospel story that Aryanna and I just read was Jesus talking to his disciples and the Jewish religious leaders (those are like the big shots at church – kind of like Fr. Harvey), Jesus tells them that he is the gate. The guy who lets you in and out.
It’s also like a hockey or soccer goalie, so the puck or the ball doesn’t get in.
The sheep that Jesus was talking about were kept in a sheep pen, a place with a gate that kept them safe to keep wolves, coyotes and other things out that maybe harmful to the sheep. They were also built to keep the sheep together, so they could look after each other, rather than being out in a field all alone. It also prevented someone who may want to harm or steal a sheep from doing that.
During Jesus time, sheep pens and gates were crude set ups, they were often built with bushes or branches. A fancy one would be of a low row of stones. Still, they were enough to contain the sheep and keep them from wandering out into danger.
Sort of like today, when there is a gate around the play area, so that everyone stays together, safe and so that others that may wish harm, don’t.
The sheep were put in the pens together to provide them with more safety. The flocks of sheep would hang out together until the shepherds called them.
The shepherds knew most of the sheep in their flocks by name—they had pet names for them—and the sheep recognized the voice of their shepherd.
Just like when we are playing on the field with a bunch of kids. Our mother, father or grandparent can call us by name and we recognize their voice, then we go to them.
Rather than build a door on the sheep’s pen. The shepherds would become the gate. They would lie in front of the opening so that nothing could enter of go out without them knowing. Again, just like a hockey or soccer goalie.
The flock of sheep represents the Church and the church is the people. Us, all of us gathered here today, this place, which is the family of God. Just like the sheep, they are called a flock. All of us here are called the church.
Just like the shepherds let the sheep in and out, Jesus lets us in the entrance into the family of God.
Because Jesus was born, died and then rose again, we are able to learn about and do the things Jesus wants us to do.
We pray to Jesus, that he keeps everyone safe, healthy and happy. We pray to Jesus for peace everyplace. We ask Jesus to help the people we love that are sick.
Sheep are all different. Some are fat, some are skinny, some are white, some are brown, some are black and some of them have spots.
Our church family of God is just like the sheep. We are all sizes, shapes and colors. Some are short, some are tall, some are blond, some are white and some are brown and some are black.
But, we are all the same. We all may look different, but we all follow Jesus and that is what makes us all the same.
We are all baptized and when we are baptized, we are welcomed into the household of God – the church.
This is stronger than our differences. Certainly this can be seen in the family of ST. David’s. We are very different. At the same time, we stand together.
Let’s look at some of those differences with eyes of honesty, love and hope.
Let’s start with our Sunday school kids
If we watch them process down the asle of the church, most of us smile, because we see life. We see happy kids, loving kids who are excited to go and be with their awesome, loving Sunday school teachers. Where they will learn more about God and more about the church.
Let’s look at the people who for different reasons join us on line through facebook, Utube or TV.
This group of people is a huge part of our church, because they are committed even through obsticles in life and some of those who simply need a breather on Sunday, yet remain faithful and want to be included in our church.
Let’s look at the vestry/ the leaders of our church, our choir, our office Angels, our coffee hour hostesses.
Why would anyone want to be on the vestry, in the choir, work in the church office or make coffee every Sunday?
What about our Church without walls team, the people who bring food and spend time with people who live in the streets?
What about the prison ministry team? The people who visit people in prison. The people forgotten about, who made a mistake in life, but they are still people.
How about Fr. Harvey?
Who serves St. David’s rather than being a teacher with a lucrative career.
What draws people to this place, this Jesus, this God. Why?
And how do they get in? Do they get in through the gate, where Jesus is guarding? Did they sneak in?
In fact, how did we all get in?
The gate was open for us, Jesus was waiting for us and let us in. He is still there, waiting for more to come.
The important thing in today’s reading is not a warning about thieves, wolves, cyotes or bad people, but a celebration of entrance into the family of God through the person of Jesus. He is the gate.
There is a saint, whose name is Teresa of Avila. She lived back in the 1500’s. She had a message for everyone, and I think it is a message to you young people here and also to each of us adults here today.
Christ is no body now but yours:
No hands, no feet on earth but yours
Yours are the eyes with which he looks with compassion on this world:
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands with which he blesses all the world
So all of us are Jesus’s helpers to let people in through the gate.
Rev. Dr. Harvey Hill
Third Order Franciscan