Homily- May 3, 2009 – The Rev. Anne Anchor

The symbolic images presented in John

challenge us to see Jesus differently

than the other gospel writers do.

To quote the author of The Four Witnesses, Robin Griffith-Jones,

“John’s gospel is a poetic revelation of the divinity of Jesus. With powerful metaphors and rich visual imagery. John depicts an otherworldly Jesus who invites each of us to undergo spiritual rebirth and to be transformed by the God of all creation”

I have come to see the gospel of John

as a writing that allows us to draw deeper

into understanding the foundation of our belief

and to be transformed

by a faith in Jesus Christ

as both fully human and fully divine.

This mystic style of writing

has been a challenge to people

in the church over the years.

It was this debate

about the humanity and divinity of Jesus

that kept the early church councils

struggling for hundreds of years

as they sought to make the human Jesus

and the divine Jesus

understandable in human terms.

This is a challenge that still continues today

as our spiritual and worldview broadens and deepens.

I have wondered whether there is any time

that we should read a passage from The gospel of John

without reading first the opening prologue….

“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a Father’s only son full of grace and truth.”

This prologue sets the tone for all of John’s gospel,

it is, John’s position statement

“And the Word became flesh and lived among us and we have seen his glory”.

From this opening the gospel builds on the imagery of ‘the Word’ .

It will deeply examine

the relationship between God and Jesus

and what this means to us as

people of faith.

Within this community of faith

as we nurture people on their faith journey

we do so on the foundation of this prologue to John.

Within this community of faith,

our worship together

is a reflection

on our understanding of the prologue to John

During the week outside of worship,

our actions as a community of faith

reflect our understanding of this prologue to John.

Then in our daily walk

as servants of Christ our lives,

and our individual actions

reflect our understanding of this prologue to John.

The image of God as the Good Shepherd is presented by the prophet Ezekiel

Today we hear of

the fulfillment of God in Jesus

as the good shepherd.

This passage is full of imagery to examine

one on top of the other.

The preceding verses in this chapter

are well known and may bring to mind an imagery

of a gentle pastoral scene.

It first brings to mind

a field full of fluffy bouncing sheep

and a shepherd walking amongst them

crossing over hill and vale

calling out to them

in search of the lost one.

Today though,

in the midst of these images

we hear these words which call us up short…

“The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep”.

We come to see

that there is more than just searching going on.

This a statement of commitment

that is life altering.

We hear also in the lesson from 1 John

‘He laid down his life for us”

and the writer continues with a challenge

we cannot ignore

“and we ought to lay down our lives for one another”.

What does this mean to us today ?

These statements force me to look deeper at my life

and how the teachings of Jesus, the Word,

impacts my life.

I am drawn to look beyond

the white fluffy little sheep

that romp around on the hillside to something deeper.

I am drawn deeper into trying to understand

what it means

to “listen to the voice of God through Jesus”

and how am I

to “lay down my life for a friend?”

This question came to me with a recent situation of one of my co-workers.

I work with a young woman who was born with 3 kidneys,.

When she told me this my immediate response was,

well more must be better than one.

As it turns out that is not the case,

as none of the 3 were functioning well.

She had a kidney transplant about 10 years ago

in order to have one functioning kidney.

To make a long health story short,

this co-worker is now in the early stages

of full kidney failure of even her transplant.

She

has recently gone on disability

in order to return home to Taiwan

to search out other health options.

When I heard this news

I went home and reflected

on what it would mean to donate a kidney to someone.

I seriously examined myself

as to whether

I could do the right thing

and become a live organ donor,

for a stranger,

or for a friend,

or for a family member.

I know this may seem

a far-fetched illustration

of the intention of this statement in scripture,

but, I use it as an example

because it lead me to think about

what the statement

‘to lay down one’s life for a friend’

really means to me.

John’s Jesus speaks

that not only will he

lay down his life

but he will also take it up again.

Of course this clearly is a statement about his upcoming death and resurrection.

How can we have a resurrection, a rebirth in our lives?

By looking again at 1John we hear the words…

“he laid down his life for us and we ought to lay down our life for another…

Little children, let us love not in word or speech but in truth and action”

If we look at our lives at what we do for others

then perhaps we can better understand

“I have the power to take it up again”.

I can think of moments in my life

when I really had nothing more of myself to give to another.

I think of my role as a stay at home mom

and giving my life over to raising our children.

It was a long journey to see them to adulthood,

a good 20 years of worry and nurture

of caring and empowering,

of giving of myself for the life of another.

Then the time came

when I knew this journey would be theirs.

As I had laid down my life for them

the time came when I

reached a stage in life to

‘have the power to take up my life again’.

This became the time when

I sought to listen for the voice of God calling me.

My life was to begin again

in a new direction that involved

a deeper and fuller relationship with God and with

God’s church.

There are those of us that have laid down our lives

as we walked with a loved one through to their death.

For me, it seemed I had no energy left,

no desire to exist past that moment of death

yet, as time passed

little by little I found

myself picking up strength

as I listened to God calling me

and I soon had ‘the power to take up my life again’.

I wonder how well we listen to God’s voice

to make decisions about how we are to live our lives

not in words and speech

but in truth and action.

In my faith journey I need the concrete,

the tangible action that challenges me

to lay down my life for another.

I need the tangible concern to challenge me over and over again

then I wait to be refreshed in God

so that I may bear witness to Jesus

by my words and actions

and then ‘take up my life again’.

My human failings are such that

only through the grace of God

am I ever able to meet this challenge in my life.

It is the Word made flesh that is the foundation

of my faith in God Incarnate

who walked our path and shared with us

“the glory as of a Father’s only son , full of grace and truth”

I pray that we all may come to know more intimately that the

Word became flesh and lived among us