“Hearing the Shepherd’s Voice”
A new kind of plane was on its first flight. It was full of reporters and journalists. A little while after takeoff, a voice was heard talking to the passengers over the speakers.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I’m delighted to be your pilot for this plane’s historic first flight. I can tell you the flight is going well. Nevertheless, I have to tell you about a minor inconvenience that has occurred. The passengers on the right side can, if they look out their window, see that the closest engine is slightly vibrating. That shouldn’t worry you, because this plane is equipped with four engines and we are flying along smoothly at an acceptable altitude.
As long as you are looking out the right side, you might as well look at the other engine on that side. You will notice that it is glowing, or more precisely one should say,
burning. That shouldn’t worry you either, since this plane is designed to fly with just two engines if necessary, and we are maintaining an acceptable altitude and speed. As long as we are looking out the plane, those of you on the left side shouldn’t worry if you look out your side of the plane and notice that one engine that is supposed to be there is missing. It fell off about ten minutes ago. Let me tell you that we are amazed that the plane is doing so well without it.
However, I will call your attention to something a little more serious. Along the center aisle all the way down the plane a crack has appeared. Some of you are, I suppose, able to look through the crack and may even notice the waves of the Atlantic Ocean below. In fact, those of you with very good eyesight may be able to notice a small lifeboat that was thrown from the plane. Well, ladies and gentlemen, you will be happy to know that your captain is keeping an eye on the progress of the plane from that lifeboat below.”
Sometimes life does feel like the captain in charge has bailed out. With all the stresses that modern life throws at us, it isn’t any wonder that we may feel like no one has control of the rudder – that we are in a kind of free fall certain to crash into the earth below. At those times, we may find comfort in leaning rather heavily on the faith of others. We may call out of ourselves a reserve of faith we aren’t even sure we possess.
Jesus words, “I am the good shepherd” in this morning’s reading and the concluding words in this same passage, “I have the power to lay down my life or to take it up again.” reminds us that Jesus has been affirmed in his faith in the power of the God he serves. Through the power of God’s grace in him, he can do what might otherwise be thought to be foolhardy or crazy. He can give his life and receive back eternal life. And so can we. Because Christ lives in us, we have that same assurance of victory. Because Christ believed in his Father God and knew God intimately, trusted God completely, rested in God’s care fully and obeyed the command of God totally, he gave us the power and the desire to do the same. As a shepherd who leads his flock, we are lead by God’s beloved and reminded that we are God’s beloved as well.
Those are important words for us to hear today. They are especially significant to us, as a community of faith, because one of our own is gone from us, suddenly and without much time for us to process that loss. We need to trust in the sure knowledge that the power of our God has transformed and resurrected the life of our dear friend Dave. We count on that taking our cue from Christ’s words, “I am the good shepherd. The God Christ knew so intimately is the God of our redemption too, the God of our lives who shepherds us into safe pastures and who guides us through the dangerous and uncertain moments we face in life.
Sheep do know the voices of their shepherds. They will only follow that voice because attached to that voice is a person, who watches over them, who protects them from danger, who feeds them, and who makes sure they come to no harm. “No one can snatch them from me”, Jesus said. “And no one can take them from the Father’s hand. Through these words we are reminded us of this one truth, the truth that Christ shared with us. Christ said, “The Father and I are one” giving us a model for living that opens the door for us to hold that same relationship with God – to be one with our creator and the shepherd of our lives.
Even in the midst of crisis, change, pain, loss, grief or sickness, if we hear the voice of the shepherd and are Christ’s own, then no one can snatch us away. Paul in a powerful statement of faith said, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” It is perhaps the strongest statement of faith in the New Testament reminding us of the strength and gift we hold in Christ as followers. Our pilot does not watch us from a safe distance far from danger. Our pilot rides with us, guides us, secures our safety, insures our life from birth to the end of life in this world and then, ever so gently takes us in hand to bring us securely to a place where life is eternal. We are assured we will never perish; and that no one can snatch us out of Christ’s hands.” Christ is our shepherd; we hear Christ’s voice and know that we are safe. Amen
 Lee Griess, Taking The Risk Out Of Dying, CSS Publishing Company, 1997