Abundant Life

discover here The Sunday Sermon:  Transfiguration of the Lord, February 26, 2017

buy provigil online in india Scripture:  John 10:1-10

montalbán de córdoba citas por internet Abundant Life

Today we gather not only to worship together but also to celebrate another year of life and love, of mission and of ministry, together as a congregation in the PCUSA; as one particular expression of the Body of Christ in the world; as a “flock” who hear the shepherd’s voice and seek to follow. (That will make more sense in a few minutes when we read our scripture) Today, unlike any other Sunday of the year, we celebrate not only through gathering, preparing, proclaiming, responding and sending, but also through remembering. Surely that last is a part of every Communion Sunday we share, but this Sunday is different because of “what” we’re remembering. Not the life and ministry of Jesus, but our own life and ministry for the past year. It’s a good day to be gathered together.

So, as we begin, I remind you of something we shared last week. Who was here last week? (Well, more than that … Most of you know I’m going to ask you to remember something next, so you’re not too sure you want to raise your hand! I’ll ask it anyway …)   What question did we end with last week? We read from Psalm 84 and we noted how lovely this place of God’s dwelling, this sanctuary, is; how we believe that this place is one of the places in our lives that gives life meaning and direction; that this place in one of the places in our lives where we encounter something “other,” something transcendent and beyond ourselves, let’s call it “God;” that in this place all of life can be centered and directed by a way of understanding the world, not as evil and inadequate and hopeless, but as good and plentiful and full of promise. And I got a bit crazy on you, suggesting that this “place,” this “sanctuary” was not just a physical space, a room, but a “state of mind,” a reality anywhere in our lives that such meaning and direction and life and promise, and “God” was found.

And after all that I asked a question: What difference does it makes whether we’re in “God’s” sanctuary or not, if those who aren’t here don’t arrive? I asked it again, so you’d hear it a second time and maybe remember to wonder about it in the week ahead: What difference does it makes whether we’re in “God’s” sanctuary or not, if those who aren’t here don’t arrive?

I said that’s a question we’ll ask next week as we gather to celebrate the love shared last year and to challenge ourselves in the year ahead. Well, guess what? Next week is this week, now. As we gather on this Sunday morning to prepare, proclaim, and respond in this “lovely dwelling place” … What difference does it make, if those who aren’t here don’t arrive? We have work to do. The bible tells us so, but …

Pray with me first … And listen for the Word of God: Read John 10:1-10 … The Word of the Lord, thanks be to God.

We’ll get to our question soon enough. But first a bit about our scripture reading. This is about as close to a parable as the Gospel writer of John gets. Matthew, Luke, even Mark are pretty full of them, but John isn’t. Plenty of other rhetorical devices at work in this writing, but not so much parable. We’re pretty close here, though, in this “extended metaphor or figure of speech.” It actually reads a bit like a riddle, doesn’t it? A thief, a gatekeeper, and a shepherd gather at the gate of a sheepfold … Have you heard this one? Stop me if you’ve heard this one … The Shepherd asks, “Are you the thief or the gatekeeper?” To which the thief and the gatekeeper reply together, “Yes, I am the gatekeeper.” So, if the gatekeeper keeps the gate, the shepherd enters by the gate, and the thief climbs in the sheepfold by a way other than the gate, who is Jesus in this scene?

Anyone? A chance to redeem yourselves for not remembering our earlier question? Which one is Jesus? Correct! He’s none of them. It was a pretty good bet he wasn’t the thief, and if you thought he was the Shepherd, then you read further than our scripture lesson took us this morning – he’s not the shepherd until verse eleven. And he has never been the gatekeeper (much as our fundamentalist brothers and sisters – and perhaps us on occasion, too – want him to be). No, he’s the gate. “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate,” he says in verse seven. And again a verse later, “I am the gate.”

Reading this passage, this “riddle,” ending at verse ten, and then attempting to understand and define the various roles in the parable, inevitably including the Good Shepherd role that isn’t even a part of our reading, distracts us from the real image we should be focusing on – the gate. The gate to abundant life. The abundant life that Jesus offers us all. Throughout his Gospel, John’s Jesus claims to provide all the elements necessary for “life and that abundant:” living water (4:14), bread of life (6:35), light of the world (9:5), and here a gateway (10:7,9).

What does it mean to say that “Jesus is the gate?” Those other metaphors seem pretty clear. Jesus is water for the thirsty, bread for the hungry, light for those who stumble in darkness. But a “gate?” Not so straight forward. A morning spent on Jesus as a gate for us may prove enlightening.

A gate keeps things separated. When it’s closed, what is supposed to be inside stays inside and what is supposed to be outside stays outside. In the late first century, an enclosure for sheep would be constructed of a stone wall adjacent to the house, perhaps topped by thorny branches to discourage climbing, and there would be one gate or entrance, usually able to be locked shut to prevent anyone coming in or going out. So Jesus as the gate could be that which keeps us good sheep in, protected from the thieves and the bandits – the wolves, who are kept out. Jesus as the gate keeps the flock from corruption by the world. That’s been, and still is, a very seductive interpretation. Christ against culture, that’s called. But that’s not for us Presbyterians. What else about a gate?

A gate opens, doesn’t it? It swings in. So, Jesus is the gate that all must pass through to get into the flock. True enough. As different as we are, the one thing that members of every church anywhere have in common is our profession of Jesus as our Lord and Savior. We’ll vary greatly and argue vehemently about what that means, but it is our common confession. So, the gate doesn’t remain closed always, it is opened once in a while to let the faithful in, all who would make the Christian profession. Then it’s closed again for purposes of protection and privilege. Right there in our reading: Whoever enters by me will be saved and will come in. Again, a very seductive interpretation. Kind of a Christ above Culture approach. Since John’s time many have been seduced into separating the faithful from the heathens. The gate can open anytime for them to come on in. Until then … well, we entered through the gate, so we have life. But that still doesn’t quite sound complete, not quite right to our Reformed experience of God and God’s love for the world. I don’t about you, but I don’t “feel” abundant life all closed off together, saved or not. What else about a gate?

Well, surely you’ve figured this out already. At least I hope you have because that would mean you’re paying attention! A gate swings two ways, doesn’t it? Whoever enters by me will be saved and will come in … and go out and find pasture.  The image of the gate opening out in order that the sheep can “find pasture” is John’s way of telling us that we are gathered together in order to bring God’s saving love to others, to the world. Jesus as the gate swinging in allows us to enter through him and Jesus as the gate swinging out allows us to go out with him (the very next verse in John transitions Jesus from gate to Shepherd – we are never without the love of God within us). For it is “out in the pasture” is that abundant life is found. That’s Christ transforming culture. That’s God “so loving the world”. That sounds right to our Presbyterian ears.

“I am the gate,” Jesus says. “Whoever enters by me will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture.”  After all, what difference does it makes whether we’re here or not, if those who aren’t here don’t arrive? We have work to do. God’s love, a “love that loves the world,” comes so that the world may have life, and have it abundantly. So …

What does abundant life look like? I’m going to show you what it can look like right here at Pewee Valley Presbyterian. On this Annual Congregational Meeting Sunday as we gather to remember and celebrate the past year, we also gather to look forward to the next year. Our Annual Report and the meeting this morning at which it is presented is titled Abundant Life. That’s a look back at a year spent in anniversary celebrations and a look at the year ahead. What does the abundant life that Jesus calls us to look like? It looks something like this:

Sponsoring a refugee. I challenge this congregation, through our Mission Team, to explore ways in which we can sponsor a refugee family coming to live in our country. This challenge took shape in my mind before the realities of governmental restrictions and regulations set in. There is currently a freeze on refugees coming into the country, but Kentucky Refugee Ministries and other agencies remind us of the ongoing needs in those already here and those who are waiting. There are monetary commitments, donations of furniture and clothing to get a family started, and many hours of driving and caretaking in the first months. The result is abundant life for all involved.

I further challenge this congregation, through the Mission Team, to put together an adult Mission Trip to eastern Kentucky this year and to deepen our presence in local missions like Habitat, USpiritus, and Dare to Care. Abundant life …

I challenge us, through our Worship and Music Teams, to enhance this worship space in every way we can; to try new ways of gathering and different places to gather for worship; to explore different music and provide new liturgies; and to include youth more regularly in worship leadership. Abundant life …

I challenge us, through our Youth and Christian Education Teams to grow our elementary and Youth Sunday school classes and fellowships; to put together other offerings such as College, Young Adult or Older Adult studies and gatherings. Abundant life …

I challenge us, through our Congregational Care Team, to coordinate a Homebound Communion ministry that finds Elders in the homes of those unable to be here on a regular basis, if at all, sharing the Communion and the community that is for all. Abundant life …

I challenge us, through our Member Development Team, to find regular times and days other than 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, for us to gather and grow. Abundant life …

I challenge us, though our CDC Advisory Board, to not simply open the gate of our church to the families of our school, but to find ways and reasons for them to walk through our gates, to come in and go out, as members of our congregation, not simply participants in our mission. Abundant life …

I challenge us, through our Property and our Finance Teams, to find the money and the space to make all this and more possible. Abundant life …

The life we offer will offer return. Church growth is not the goal of good ministry, it is the result of good ministry. We have work to do. And let you think our Session Elders and Ministry Team chairs are the only ones I’m talking to this morning, I remind us all that everyone of us are members of every Ministry Team we claim is important. Most of you, most of us, don’t want to or aren’t able to serve on a Ministry Team. But almost all of us do want to participate in ministry. I’ve only scratched the surface of the abundant life we have to offer. We will grow, not because growth is our goal, but because it will be the result of abundant life.

What difference does it makes whether we’re here or not, if those who aren’t here don’t arrive? In the very next verse in the tenth chapter of the Gospel John, after Jesus says we are here to offer life abundantly, he says, “I am the Good Shepherd.”   As “Jesus the gate” opens, “Jesus the Shepherd” leads us …

Be not afraid.  Amen.

Reverend Joel Weible, Pastor / Pewee Valley Presbyterian Church / February 26, 2017