The Jesus Community (11-06-21)
The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” (John 10. 2 – 5)
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener… Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. (John 15. 1, 4 – 5)
Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.” “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 2.34 -35)
A Thought After over a year of Covid restrictions, our sense of community has been challenged. Working from home, home schooling, shielding for the vulnerable, and social distancing have all had an effect. We have tried to combat these through social media and this has certainly helped, but it cannot replace regular, physical, face to face interaction with others.
At the same time, Covid has brought to the fore some of the social challenges that were staring us in the face. We have lots of acquaintances but fewer friends. Some prefer distance, privacy and exclusivity. Those of different ethnicity frequently find themselves on the edge of social groups. The gap between rich and poor is widening, and foodbanks have become normal. The famous painter of ‘matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs’, L S Lowry, commented: “All the people in my pictures are lonely people”, and the Beatles sang of “All the lonely people, where do they all come from” in their song about Eleanor Rigby. Loneliness continues to plague us sixty years further on, perhaps even more so after lockdown.
When Jesus spoke about his followers, the images he used were all corporate ones. He describes the tightly integrated and cared for flock of sheep which he looks after as a shepherd; a patiently tended vine in which Jesus is the main stem, believers are all the branches, and God the Father is the gardener. Jesus had a mutually supportive mission team in the band of twelve disciples as well as his own family members. However, in all these groups, there was always room for more. The disciples were called to make other disciples. Jesus sought to draw others into his ‘family’, so that there was always a place to come home to, a place of belonging, a place of sanctuary for the lost and the struggling, a caring fellowship in which there would no longer be any lonely people.
As restrictions begin to ease, who are the lonely people within our community? Which lonely people live near you? How can you reach out to them and welcome them into the Jesus Community? Let us introduce others to the Good Shepherd and welcome them into his flock, his family, his Church.
A Prayer Christ the good shepherd, who laid down his life for the sheep, draw us and all who hear his voice, to be one flock within one fold. Amen.
The Lord’s my Shepherd, set to Brother James’ Air