Dennis Sepper, Rosemount, MN

Warm-up Question

What gifts and/or talents do you have?  What gifts and/or talents have others seen in you?

Piper and Shepherd

Roseville, Minnesota – 12-year-old Abenet Coltvet is a bagpiper.  When the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in St. Paul, Minnesota was cancelled, Abenet was disappointed.  As the “Social Distancing” order went into effect due to the Covid – 19 pandemic, Abenet had an idea.  Donning his kilt and other bagpiper apparel, Abenet made his way to the senior residence complex where his grandparents live and put on a concert.  He’s done that twice now and also has marched through a neighborhood park staying the appropriate 6 feet distance from all others.  The Middle School 7th grader felt he had to bring cheer to others by sharing his passion and his talent.  Read the local news story.

Discussion Questions

  • What have you been disappointed about since the pandemic caused us to change our daily habits?
  • How might you use your talents and gifts to bring cheer and hope to those in your family or, where possible, to your neighborhood for large community
  • What are some other signs of hope that you see in your community that help us get through this time of change?

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Acts 2:42-47

1 Peter 2:19-25

John 10:1-10

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year A at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

It is a rather strange image Jesus provides us in this week’s reading.  He describes what would have been a familiar sight to the people of his day.  Shepherds would keep the sheep safe overnight by putting them all in a pen and then standing watch so that the sheep wouldn’t be attacked by wolves, coyotes, or by thieves and bandits.  In verses 1-6 Jesus seems to say that he is the shepherd who calls the sheep out of the pen into the pasture (in fact in verse 11, just after our reading ends, Jesus even says directly “I am the good shepherd”).  However, in verse 9 Jesus says “I am the gate for the sheep.”   

So which is it?  Gate or Good Shepherd?  Maybe it doesn’t have to be an “either/or” but a “both/and” kind of image.  Let’s try this, let’s picture the church as the sheepfold or pen.  Inside we sheep are safe and cared for.  We hear God’s word, we join with our fellow sheep in singing hymns and saying prayers and the Good Shepherd provides a meal of bread and wine to strengthen our spirits with his Spirit.  But there comes a time when the Good Shepherd calls us to leave that space and venture out into the world.  Jesus as the door, opens the door and then leads and guides us to our work in the world.

Right now most of us are behind other doors, the doors of our homes where we are safe from the Coronavirus.  However that doesn’t mean that the Good Shepherd isn’t with us.  The resurrected Jesus is with us always, everywhere, every day.  There will come a time when the Shepherd will call us out of our homes and back into the world.  Even under the best conditions that could be a very scary thing but notice how in the 23rd psalm we are promised that even if we walk in the valley of shadows, the Good Shepherd will be there leading us and guiding us in all we do and ultimately leading us through adversity to green pastures and still waters.  That’s the promise made and the promise we hold on to.

Abenet heard the Good Shepherd call him by name to use his talent and his passion to bring some peace to the people living in that senior community.  The Good Shepherd also calls us to serve God and neighbor in the world.  As we answer that call, we discover the abundant life Jesus promises.

Discussion Questions

  • How do you feel about the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd?  Does the image speak to you in ways that help you feel safe and hopeful?
  • Can you think of other ways to see Jesus as the door to the sheepfold?
  • In the gospel of John there are some seven times that Jesus says “I am”.  Can you think of any of them?  (One is found in John 11:25 where Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life”.)

Activity Suggestions

Remember the gift or talent you identified in the warm-up question.  You can use this time to share that gift or talent.  If your gift is music you can practice your instrument or voice.  If it is art you can continue to draw, paint, and create.  If it’s writing you can journal with the goal of creating a narrative of what it was like to live through a pandemic.

Then think of ways that you can share your gift or talent to bring hope to those around you.  You may need to get creative here and use social media or some other way to get your message of hope out.  Trust me, it will be appreciated by those you share it with.

Closing Prayer

Jesus, our Good Shepherd, in times of uncertainty, be our guard and keep us safe.  When the time is right, call us out of our homes and churches to boldly proclaim the gospel by word and deed and serve you by serving our neighbor.  Thank you for your guiding presence and be with us in all that we do.  In your name we pray, amen.