For a moment, envision with me your very own family outing. Let’s set the outing at the shopping mall. You are the parent and you have many little children with you. Trying to keep them together is like a momma duck and her little ducklings trying to get from the nest to the pond all together.
When my children were very little, I started to whistle nursery songs so they would hear my whistle and want to stay close. As they became older, especially in the teen years, they would be embarrassed as I would still whistle away so they knew I was nearby; but now I would whistle harmonies to the music coming out of the shop speakers. But I find them and they would find me as my whistle was a calling out to them.
That was the first story that popped into my head as I heard our scripture today about the shepherd and the sheep. In this, Jesus paints for us a very real setting calling himself the shepherd and referring to us as the sheep and the flock. He not only shares with us that he knows his sheep and will protect them; he gives us a promise, that all of us are part of his flock. Then he gives us the Good News that it is this flock, the all of us in one big flock, for whom he will lay down his life and pick it back up again. Yes, that is EVERYONE in his flock, God’s flock of all shapes, sizes, colors, identities, histories, and capabilities.
In his words, he does not say that the flock is just the ones “we” know. Nor does he say "Look around and you and I decide who is or who is not in 'our' flock." He says that he must call to them and they will listen. Then without skipping a beat, he says, "I will lay down my life for them."
Our Jesus’ is the Jesus for the world yesterday, today and tomorrow. We are God’s beloved children. And I believe, in our hurting world in this very moment of time, we are crying out; we long to belong, to hear the whistle, voice, and invitation that indeed we are wanted, loved, and forgiven forever.
We are indeed weary but God’s mission calls to us and we are to COME ALIVE, dear friends, and share that we have been made out of love to be loved and to love one another. In hearing this message, people may ask, "Who is it then who cares for you with such love and forgiveness?" It is none other than our shepherd, Jesus Christ, who gave his very own life on this earth for us and then picked it back up and conquered death. As children of the Father, we are promised, that belonging to this flock means we will receive the mercy and grace from God and we shall celebrate our very own Easter Morning!
Little lambs, imagine or remember how amazing it felt the first time you heard the shepherd’s voice and you felt safe, free, and beloved. It was that moment you trusted God to be God. Now, imagine that same feeling for your neighbor who you invite to join you in worship, service, or prayer. Little sheep, let’s act. Let’s COME ALIVE so that all will hear the voice of the shepherd and know they belong now and always. Amen