For my article this week, I would like to share with you some words from a website I read daily – RevGalBlogPals.org. This week’s post comes fromCardelia Howell-Diamond, a Presbyterian pastor in Alabama. In the sermon this week, we will be looking at Jesus’ words from John 10; words that refer to shepherds, sheep, and a gate. Hear her reflections on the purpose of a gate. Many of you will understand this image:
“I grew up in West Texas, the Lubbock area, and there are miles and miles of fenced pastures and farms all along the countryside. They seem to be endless, stretching as far as the eye can see over the flat mesa. My aunt owned a small cattle ranch in New Mexico, and once I was old enough to drive, I went there every weekend to help out.
There were very few gates on her property, but there were a ton of cattle guards. These guards are depressions in the road covered with bars placed at just the right distance to let a car or truck drive over, but too far apart for a cow to walk through. In all of the time I spent on that ranch I never once saw a cow try to cross the guards.
In the Gospel lesson for this week, Jesus self-describes as the gate. The gate to the sheep pen which allows the sheep to leave the pen and go out into the world so that they can graze in those green pastures described in Psalm 23. Far too often, we think of a gate as something that shuts us in, keeps us safe from the outside, instead of a place of exit into a bigger world.
My mind wondered how often we not only think of Jesus as a way to protect us Christians from the mean outside world, but we have often let our identity of Christ-followers to act like a cattle guard. No one dares to step outside of the safety of the pen because we might break a leg trying! We let the church use Jesus as a cattle guard keeping us from stepping beyond our boundaries and fears, instead of letting Jesus be our way to access those in need of someone to follow to Christ.
Perhaps we need to be more like the Christians from Acts 2:42-47; they shared all that they had with each other, caring and giving, yes. But their giving and sharing was not limited to those who were already in the pen with them. God was constantly adding to their numbers because they constantly went through the gate of Jesus into the world.”