Mother Katherine’s sermon preached on May 8, 2022

Posted by on Sun, May 8, 2022 in Easter, Sermons

The Fourth Sunday of Easter

May 8, 2022

Today is ‘Good Shepherd Sunday’ and our readings and collect all point us towards Jesus as that Shepherd, and the one from the Revelation to John goes a step beyond that, though it may sound confusing at first;

“…for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of the water of life,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”  Rev 7:17

For John, Jesus is both Lamb of God, and our Good Shepherd, and it is only in John’s gospel and the Revelation to John that we find this. The latter is familiar through Jesus’ parables, teachings, through the psalms, and more. The Lamb of God takes its identity largely from Isaiah and numerous other scriptures as well, and John uses it to point to Jesus’ triumph over death; the lamb which was slain as a sacrifice — “all we like sheep have gone astray…” (Isa 53:6) did not end in death nor was the Lamb vanquished when the Archangel Michael and his Angels fought Satan; rather, “they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony…” (Rev 12:11). We also see Jesus as the Paschal Lamb, whose Passover story is told in Exodus.

I meander through these distinctions to remind us why we know Jesus as both to us. Today we focus on him as Shepherd, and in John’s gospel hear, “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.” That is what we celebrated yesterday and also back in the fall when members of St. Michael’s were Confirmed or Received by the bishop, who himself carrying a crozier as symbol of following the Good Shepherd and leading by his Way. To recognize our Shepherd’s voice and find that he knows us and loves us, inspires us to commit to following and claiming him ourselves, just as he claims us. 

Yesterday a strong contingent of St. Michael-ites gathered at our Cathedral for regional Confirmation by Bishop Greg. There were some 50 teens and adults Confirmed or Received, and our own Melanie Audette was among them! It was a glorious service and we took joy in the presence of the Spirit when the bishop laid hands on her and prayed. It was further good to see Tola as a chalice bearer there, Carol Chipman as an oblation bearer and our St. Michael’s banner proudly carried by Kelly and Ashlee Rabin. Earlier that morning Bishop Greg told a story given to him as advice that I thought appropriate for this morning too. 

Saint Hugh of Lincoln was a Benedictine and Carthusian monk and later bishop of Lincoln, though he was born as a French nobleman in 1140 ce. When he died in 1200 ce the story has it that the streets from London to Lincoln were lined by people of all ranks mourning his passing and wanting to watch him go by. The Kings of both England and Scotland took a turn in carrying his coffin. Here is the part Bishop Greg told. After Hugh died people posted a list of the reasons they had loved him, —and beloved he was. One line simply read “He never Confirmed on horseback.” Which is to say Hugh always insisted on dismounting from his horse to Confirm the children and others face to face, not from up high on the horse, but in the midst of the people no matter where he went. I came away thinking it was the 12th century version of the Shepherd from the first century. Although bishops no longer make visitations on horseback too often, the gist of the story was that even a bishop needed to find his own version of dismounting the horse and being present to those entrusted to him or her.

Part of Bishop Greg’s way of being our symbolic shepherd is to take time to be fully present with each person, to pause, pray thoughtfully, and insist those gathered respect the Spirit’s presence in prayer with quiet. It’s his way of ‘dismounting’ to stand on sacred ground among those he serves, because Confirming one’s commitment to follow our Lord is not a drive-by sacrament!

Hugh’s tools were a horse and his monastic training in being a servant to others, his depth of connection with God, and his vision of the dignity and worth of all people, especially those on the margins of society. A shepherd’s tools were able feet to lead the flock, strong voice for them to hear and follow, a crook for rescuing a lamb or redirecting a recalcitrant one from time to time. Also his traveling cloak and a pouch of food perhaps. 

In our reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Peter’s raising of Dorcas (Tabitha in Aramaic) from death to life is Luke’s way of showing the world that Jesus’ ministry is not over, it did not ‘die with him,’ rather it lives on in the Apostles, here it’s seen in Peter, and now in us. He is carrying on the great Easter truth, that Christ is victorious over death and we are raised with him to eternal life. 

As Christians we are called to reveal this in our lives, to know our own present day version of the Good Shepherd’s tools, like listening for our shepherd’s voice, being genuine and fully present, caring for others. The Good Shepherd’s voice does not say, ‘Do each of these things well and then maybe you will be good enough, maybe you will earn the right to be in my flock.’ It says, ‘Beloved, you are mine already! No one can take you from me.’ It is a voice that calls us by name and claims us his own, now and in the life to come. 

Like Hugh of Lincoln we have tools like sharing in the Communion of Christ, renewing Baptismal vows, being Confirmed or Received, taking on a ministry that challenges us to be carrying out Jesus’ ministry and living as the Easter people, the Resurrection Church, we need to be. May we too find our way to get down from the horse and bear the love of Christ Jesus. Amen.

© 2022 The Rev. Katherine Sedwick. All rights reserved. Posted with permission.