John 10:1-10 (NRSV)
Chapter 10"Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. Verse 2The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. Verse 3The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. Verse 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. Verse 5They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers." Verse 6Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. Verse 7So again Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. Verse 8All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. Verse 9I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. Verse 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
From time to time I have heard the comment, “Well pastor, what we talk about here at church is fine but things work a little differently out there in the real world.” The real world has always had plenty of thieves and bandits, as Jesus calls them. And if we are to be truly honest, we must also admit our own complicity in the ways of the real world. How easily the voices of fear and conflict and self-preservation can drown out the voice of God. But that will never stop the voice of Jesus the shepherd from calling us by name and leading us to the abundant life God has to give us. We must listen for that voice. We must take time to pay attention so that we can tell the difference between the voice of the imposter and the voice of God. Those who hear the voice of the shepherd know that the real world belongs to God.
God of loving patience, tune our hearts to your voice that we may hear you calling our name and leading us to the abundant life you have to give us. Calm our fearful hearts as we trust in your promise of salvation for the real world that you love. Amen.