May 7, 2017
What does it mean to have an abundant life?
Is it something that is promised only in the future?
Or, is it something that we can live into right here and now?
This Sunday has come to be known as Good Shepherd Sunday. We are immersed into the image as Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Not only that, he also says that he is the gate. So, what is it? It is all of the above. While the disciples struggle to understand what Jesus is telling them, he tries to relate to them in terms that they should be familiar with. The image of a Good Shepherd standing over his flock of sheep makes sense. When Jesus says that he is the gate to the pasture, this is where he seems to lose them.
To them, it makes about as much sense as if I were to tell you that I am the car that is parked in the garage. While we have time to interpret the metaphor of him being the gate, they are left in the moment scratching their heads. Truly, what does it mean for Jesus to be the gate? A gate provides access to whatever is in the enclosed area. Yes, we can be like the thieves and bandits and jump the fence, but this gets us nowhere. We know who those fence jumpers are, and we are confronted with them on a daily basis. Those people or things that attempt to distract us from a calling that has been placed upon us by God. They bombard our lives and entice us with their promises of providing something better or perhaps something we have never had. We are marketed to through the media, both television and radio, and now even through targeted advertisements on Google or Facebook. It is amazing that one moment I can be looking up socks on Google, and then go to Facebook and have suggested advertisements for the best and greatest yet men’s underwear. We cannot get away from it, unless perhaps we want to go and live as a hermit.
In light of this, what does the abundant life look like?
Those advertisers, certainly entice us into the thoughts that if we were to buy their products and use them on a daily basis, we must be living the abundant life. Surely, to live the abundant life means that we can provide for our families whatever their heart desires. Surely, it means that we have the nicest car available to us with all of the bells and whistles. Surely, it means that we will encounter no problems and little resistance in our lives. This abundant life is what is marketed to us on a daily basis.
However, how do we equate that to the life of a person that is struggling or to the church member that has lost all hope that God is answering their prayers? How do we share the abundant life with someone that has had to go through major surgery and is facing a completely different way of life now? How about the members of our community that are spending the rest their days in assisted living? Does their hope of an abundant life vanish?
Those thieves and bandits that jump the fence and choose not to come through the gate, would definitely have us thinking that. Those thieves and bandits can lead us to sin and deter attention away from the gate. Those thieves and bandits are sin in our midst.
We though, are called by name to enter through the gate. It is through the gate that we find life and we can find it abundantly. Remember, Jesus has taught us that he is “the way, the truth, and the life.” It is through the gate that we are able to get to know Jesus and experience the way, the truth, and the life. As we live into an abundant life with Christ, it also means that we are protected, provided for, and surrounded by his presence.
It is the good shepherd that does all of these things. The good shepherd protects his flock from the thieves and the bandits; the people and things that come to distract and cause us to sin. The good shepherd provides just what we need, even when we do not know we need it. The good shepherd surrounds us at times with his presence, even when we are not sure if he is present.
The abundant life comes to us in the midst of our calling to live as children of God. In the midst of the calling of our vocations. In the midst of our calling as children, siblings, and parents. In the midst of our being. The abundant life is not material. The abundant life is one that is centered on Christ and is led by the Holy Spirit.
The thieves and bandits concept of the abundant life only distracts, misguides, and leads us to sin. Jesus has come to bring us a different option. We enter through the gate and are saved and are free to come in and go out. In this we find life. A life that Christ has given to us abundantly. In this we come to know God’s love.