Today’s Gospel reading is John 10.11-18
I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.
The image of Christ as the Good Shepherd is powerful even to people who have never seen a farm. It addresses some of our deepest needs, for security and for guidance. On of the Roman Catholic prayers for this Sunday expresses this well:
Attune our minds to the sound of [Christ’s] voice, lead our steps in the path he has shown, that we may know the strength of his outstretched arm and enjoy the light of your presence for ever.
Our ability to take risks, and to move beyond our comfort zones, can only be based on a depth of inner security. It is precisely when we find our refuge and strength in God that we are able to me more courageous in journeying out in mission: working for God’s Kingdom in challenging places, and glimpsing God at work in surprising people.
Christianity is sometimes dismissed as wish-fulfilment – as a consoling fantasy. But the truth is very different. When people place their trust in Christ the Good Shepherd, he often calls them to take risks they’d never have dreamed of taking on their own.
Just looking at the range of projects we have been praying for in Lent and Eastertide makes this point: Christians are present and engaged in challenging situations that it would be much easier to avoid. And yet the mysterious reality of the Gospel is that it is in these most challenging of situations that the love and power of God is often experienced most deeply. Those who minister in these situations find themselves receiving as well as giving – blessed by the very people they feel called to serve.
Give thanks for all who attended this month’s Church Urban Fund Tackling Poverty conference in Leeds, that the prayer, discussion and planning will bear rich fruit in the wide range of communities and projects represented there.
Give thanks also for the staff of the Contextual Theology Centre and its partner churches in east London as they meet to plan the development and expansion of their existing internship and placement programmes for 2012/13.