Jesus said, “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. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 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. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.” John 10:1-18
Last year we went to a wool fair in New Hampshire and watched the shepherds with the sheep dogs. They were all border collies and demonstrated their expertise at corralling, herding, redirecting and herding the sheep in through the gate. Each dog responded to calls, whistles and their names. There was one of the dogs, a young female, who was struggling to follow directions. He would call her out by when she was distracted and acting with all the confusion of a child with ADD. It was absolutely captivating, the relationships that were demonstrated. The lives of the sheep depended on the care and direction of the shepherd and the cooperation of the dogs. Everyone had to participate and do their part.
Jesus, seemingly always confronted by the religious authorities, explains his relationship to God and to his followers. It is the intimacy and responsibility of good shepherd to his sheep. A shepherd who would, and did, lay down his life for his sheep. We, through him are directly related to the divine. We all have our parts to play, our responsibilities to keep. God gave him the authority to call us each by name.
Today I ask God to help us take our part in the life of faith. May we respond to the call and follow where we are sent, for the love of God in the world.