St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Church

Vancouver, B.C.

Phone: 604-877-1788

E-mail: office@stmarymags.ca


The Anglican Parish of St. Mary Magdalene

2950 Laurel Street at West 14th Avenue

Vancouver, BC, V5Z  3T3

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Diocese of New Westminster Anglican Church of Canada

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Sermon

May 3rd Homily Easter 4, 2020             John Marsh

(Acts 2:42-471; Psalm 23; 1 Peter 2:19-25; John 10:1-10)


Let me be clear from the outset, I may be going down a rabbit hole of my own creation, but I must get this out of the way…


Easter 4, regardless of the lectionary year, is traditionally known as Good Shepherd Sunday, with the gospel being some portion of John 10 which is generally entitled ‘The Good Shepherd and His Sheep’…


With this in mind, may I confess my dislike of the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd…


Despite its prominence in Christian art and hymnody, I need to ask -


Is not there something more we can say of Yeshua than to speak of him as our good shepherd?


I am tired of hearing of 1st century shepherding practices, sick of hearing how sheep know the voice of the shepherd dimwitted though they be…


Hearing an objection forming, I have no need to trash a sacred image if this image still speaks to some, perhaps many; once again, let me repeat, I have no need to trash a sacred image…


Yet, to my mind, an issue remains…


This issue is perhaps best summed up with reference to psalm 23:


The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters…                                              
(Psalm 23:1-2)


Truth to tell, it is not that I object to the sentiment, to hopes stirring within but the psalm is so overused as to become cliché, appearing in hymnody, used by funeral homes, recited at funerals ad nauseum, perhaps to the point of rendering it meaningless…


Furthermore, honesty compels me to admit, I have never met a shepherd and I am quite certain I would resist anyone shepherding me, inclusive of ‘God’, as I have always resisted father figures, authority figures, perhaps even when I should have listened…


To my mind, Jesus as the Good Shepherd is threatened by its familiarity, skating the edge of meaninglessness…


However, those of you more astute or should I say, those of you more the church nerd, may try to reassure me that our gospel this year refers to Jesus as the gate, the door through which the sheep enter that they may know life, life abundantly…


This may be true enough yet honesty compels me to say that this helps little as I have heard, been subjected to, the presumptuousness of too many Christians claiming a special relationship with Jesus, hearing the ‘voice of god’, freely declaring that those other, those different, that I, don’t belong, that we are but thieves and bandits, that we will perish without hope of salvation…


Truth to tell, the door is narrowed to keep ‘those’ people out…


To those who may say that such is not very Anglican, I would say that you may be correct depending, of course, on what kind of Anglican you are referring to – we are, after all, a rather diverse group with politeness covering a multitude of feelings and opinions…


Over the years, I have tried, struggled, hoped and prayed, that perhaps, maybe, I may be one who has heard, hearing the precious voice, hoping, dare I say praying, that I may be included but, having exhausted myself in such endeavours, honesty once again compels me to confess that I have but heard a whisper, a call barely heard, a call laying itself upon my heart and soul, a call luring…


Am I one of Jesus’ flock?


Truth to tell, nowadays I hope and pray to be but one expressive of faith, hope and love, whether I am included or not…


Yet perhaps, at the risk of sound sounding self absorbed, is it not the case to endeavour to express faith, hope and love regardless of inclusion in this group or that is to live life abundantly?


Is it not the case that the life, teaching and witness of Yeshua, of many throughout the centuries are a testament to abundant life, to possibilities of life astir within the name of god despite desires of domination, despite desires for confessional clarity?


And, if I may ask, is this not spirit inviting abundance?


However, in an economic system based on consumerism, it must be said that abundance is never to be confused with accumulation: the accumulation of property, wealth, power, control or even security.


To my mind, the teaching of Yeshua is that abundant life, at least in part, is the realization that we are beloved; that we are worthy; that we are enough!


The confusion of abundance with accumulation belies a haunting doubt that we are not enough, not worthy, not really loved.


Broadly speaking, we are a culturally broken-hearted people seeking to numb our pain and deflect blame at times in an effort to rest ever secure in our ‘certainties’, our certainty that we are right and righteous. It is for this reason that many are uncomfortable with the poor, those different, those on the downside, the underside, as they are haunting reminders of life’s uncertainty and our vulnerability.


Perhaps paradoxically, to open to abundance of life is to risk vulnerability – the vulnerability of being ‘whole hearted’ – the vulnerability of loving despite imperfection, of hoping despite pain and strain, of faith despite failure – the vulnerability of being compassionate with self and others.


Vulnerability grounds our connection with life; it grounds our being seen and our self-disclosure, self-disclosure revealing the complexity of our emotions: I love; I hurt; I’m afraid; I’m angry; I’m confused; I understand; I yearn; I’m grateful; I’m joyful; I am enough!


As John has Jesus say,


“I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”                                                                (John 10:10)


We are worthy: we are enough to risk the next step of living larger than fear.


We are worthy: we are enough to risk the next step of living larger than failure.


We are worthy: we are enough to risk the next step of living larger than imposed shame.


We are worthy: we are enough to risk the next step of living larger than our hard heartedness or our broken heartedness.


We are worthy: we are enough to risk the next step of living larger than accumulation, accumulation which is, after all, nothing more than deflections of spirit.


We are worthy: we are enough to risk living, responding to a wholeness, a holiness.


We are worthy: we are enough to risk the next step of living abundance, which is nothing less than risking, trusting spirit.


The good shepherd lays down his life¹ as John has Jesus say…                                                                                                      

Jesus, the teachings of Yeshua remind us that we are enough - enough to love, enough to die for, and enough to live for.


We are enough to risk living abundantly!


We are enough to risk the vulnerability of our hearts!


We are enough to risk living life fully alive which is the glory of god.


So I hope and pray!



 ¹ See John 10:11.