Saturday, April 28, 2012

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Today’s text

John 10:14-15

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.


I am the Good Shepherd.

All that is in me … I give you. The love I share with the Father … I share with you … that you may know.

I am the Good Shepherd.

Love is not something I do. Love is who I am. I do not love when it strikes me or when it is easy. I do not love only the worthy or the beautiful. I love, and this love is for you.

I am the Good Shepherd.

Friday, I learned again what this means. I was asked to visit a prisoner at the DuPage County Jail. He is the age of my children. Already, he is sentenced to 30 years. But he faces another charge for a violent assault that will likely keep him behind bars for the rest of his life.

The last time I made a prison visit my hair was brown, so I was nervous going to the jail. I didn’t know what I would find, or whether my ministry would be rejected and abused.

But my anxiety didn’t matter. I promised to go, and I went.

The visit was not earth shattering. No great conversion of heart occurred that I could see. We talked freely and laughed on occasion. We were as serious and honest with each other as we could be, given that we were totally unknown to each other moments before.

At the end of our time, we prayed. We put our hands up against the glass, me on one side and he on the other. We prayed for his trial, for courage and strength, for comfort and peace not only for him but for those he victimized. They also face a life sentence of reliving, again and again, the worst moments of their lives.

I wish I knew them. I would like to hear their story and pray with them, too.
There is no happy ending here that I can see, not for anyone.

But driving away from the jail, I knew in my bones what Jesus is means when he says, “I am the Good Shepherd who pours out his life for the sheep.”

He doesn’t ask if the sheep are good, or deserving, or worth the trouble. He doesn’t ask if they scare or disgust him. He just loves each one, the lost and the found, the victim and the criminal, me and you.

There is no hint of turning in Jesus. He doesn’t turn away. He is always turned toward us. His arms are open, no matter what. He lays down his life. Opening his heart, he lets all that is in him pour out … to us.

He wants us to know the love he shares with the Loving Mystery of God. He wants us—you—to know this great love, to share with you loving union of hearts he shares with the Mystery he calls ‘the Father.’


I want to know this union of hearts. I have wanted to know this since I was a young child. Sunday after Sunday, I looked at the painting over the ancient, green-painted piano in the church basement. It pictured Jesus sitting on a hillside, staring into space.

It was a poor painting, but spiritually rich. It helped awaken a longing in my heart to share the quiet deep feeling I saw in Jesus as he sat in silence knowing God’s love flowing through him.

I wanted to know what he knew, to feel what he felt, to be filled as he was filled. And this is what he wants for you.

So seldom do we have this, though. There is no turning in Jesus. But there is in us. We turn away. We forget. We neglect and fail to care for our relationship with him.

Life gets busy. We give ourselves to everything that demands our immediate attention, surrendering to all our life and work and recreation seem to require.

Busy and distracted, we turn away from our aching need to rest everyday in the Good Shepherd. We fail to return each day to find our place in his protective love, in his receiving arms, in the quiet acceptance where we feel totally known and completely safe.

Then something happens. Life outside the arms of the Good Shepherd gets hard. Failures and disappointments whisper in the night. Grief and loss, heart wounds and future fears trouble our souls, and the empty ache within tells us we have neglected the one we most need.

We hunger for intimacy with the Good Shepherd, but we can’t feel him near because we have gotten out of the habit of putting first things first.

So we return, again, to the places where we know him, to the music where he sings his love into our soul, to the people whose voices resonate with the Love that fills him, to words of grace he speaks, to a picture or place whose beauty becomes his eyes of mercy looking into our souls and filling us with the wonder of all that is in him.

It is such moments that we know him again, feeling the love of the Good Shepherd.
In such moments, we sit on that hill with Jesus and all that he is flows into us and makes us human again. The shackles of our fear fall away, and we breathe deeply, drinking in the good air of earth. With each breath, he laughs at the joy of giving us life.

And we know … Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He invites to sit quietly with him, to chant his name, to speak the depth of our joy and pain, to open our empty hearts and hands and receive all that is in him.

And as we receive, we know … we are totally known and completely safe.

Pr. David L. Miller

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