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2010-05-09 (am) John 10:1-21 Full Life-Mother’s Day

            Have you noticed the amazing ability that mothers have?  A young child, just barely able to talk, goes up to his mother and strings along a series of unintelligible, word-like noises.  The mother, while simultaneously carrying on a telephone conversation, watching TV, cooking supper, is able to turn to the child and say, “I’m glad you want to be an astronaut, son, yes the moon is lovely at night and no, that toy belongs to your sister.

          Mothers and to a similar extent fathers, can much more quickly interpret what their children are talking about than strangers can.  A total stranger would have no clue.  The reason for this, obviously, is that they’ve spent so much time together!  Mothers and fathers get to hear their children learn to talk; they learn their language of communication even as children learn to communicate with language.

          But there’s another phenomenon you might have observed.  You fill a room with children, there’s playing, shouting, crying, laughing—all sorts of mayhem going on.  But if a mother calls for her child, that child will immediately respond.  The child knows her mother’s voice and responds.  Of course, as children age, they develop selective hearing, which sometimes blocks out a parent’s voice altogether. 

          In our passage this morning, we’ll observe three things that inform us about Jesus and we’ll see how they’re mirrored in motherhood, and how we’re to reflect them in our lives. 

Know the Shepherd’s Voice-Dependence

          Jesus identifies himself as the Good Shepherd.  A good shepherd looks after his sheep; he talks to them and leads them where they need to go.  He brings them to places full of food and water and shelter.  A good shepherd is focussed on his sheep.  A good shepherd protects them; he cares for them even more than he cares for himself.  He is devoted to them. 

          Have you ever noticed that mothers are like this as well?  It is good for us to honour mothers on a day like today.  Mothers make great sacrifices for their children.  They look after them, they provide for them, they deny themselves a lot of things in order to give the very best to their children.  In this, they are very much like Christ, don’t you think? 

          Granted, not everyone has or has had great mothers.  It would be foolish to try to pretend otherwise.  Nor should we allow a few bad apples to spoil the bunch.  This is why we look not only at the good example we get from good mothers, but also at the perfect example, we get from Christ.

          What we notice in this passage is that the sheep are dependent upon the shepherd.  As children, we begin fully dependent upon our parent/parents.  We cannot survive for very long apart from them.  They exercise amazing sacrificial living to provide for their children.  They forgo personal wants and desires in order to give the needed food, clothing and shelter to their children.  Often this happens without hardly any conscious thought.  A father might look back, a year after his first child was born and realise that it has been a year since he purchased an album from iTunes.

          When a person comes to know Christ as his or her Lord and Saviour, they begin to realise that they are completely dependent upon him for everything they need in life, physically, spiritually, emotionally.  They realise that Jesus saves them from their sins—sins they commit and sins that are committed against them.  They realise that they depend on Jesus and his Holy Spirit to give them the knowledge and the power to grow into maturity.

          Just as a wise child seeks to learn everything he can from his mother and father, preparing himself for the reality of moving out and growing up into the independent person they’ve spent so much time raising; the same is true for those who grow in Christ.

          Jesus doesn’t create robots.  Though we are born again in Christ, having died to our old nature and being made alive in our new Christ-like natures, we grow.  We learn. We get to know Jesus.  We learn his voice.  We listen to his teaching, his truth, and his way.  We progress in our sanctification; we make progress in becoming more and more holy.  Sometimes this progress goes quickly sometimes it goes slowly.  But look back on your life; look back on other’s lives.  You can see progress, can’t you?  It might be small, but it is there.

Part of the process of sanctification, is going out into the world.  Jesus sent his disciples to heal and preach and teach.  Just before he ascended into heaven, he commissioned them, “As you are going, as you are living, as you are going about your daily activities, make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey everything I’ve commanded you.  Jesus sends us, and we go through the gate, or we gain our independence.

Go through the Gate-Independence

As Christians mature, they realise that they’re set free to live as God created them to live.  Jesus himself said, I have come that they may have life and live it to the fullest.  Jesus doesn’t call us to live sheltered, obscure, limited lives.  Jesus calls us to live lives of great joy, contentedness, challenge, difficulty, fun, excitement, pain!  All of these, and I could list more, point to the reality of life. 

But Jesus doesn’t want us to be hidden!  How will people learn about him unless we tell them?  How will others come to have faith in Jesus apart from us teaching them?  How will they learn to confess, repent and believe unless we preach to them? 

How effective would we be if we kept to ourselves?  How effective would a young man or a young woman be if they stayed home?  Actually it happens more and more frequently now.  They even made a movie about it, which I do not recommend, called “Failure to Launch”.  I remember hearing that unless young eagles are kicked out of their nest, they’ll never learn to fly.

Jesus kicks us out of our comfort zone.  He wants us to really live.  To put into practise everything we’ve learned.  It can be terrifying.  But we know the shepherd’s voice.  Also, Jesus is the gate; we can return to him and return to safety.  Sometimes, it is necessary for children who have flown the coop, as it were, to come back for a time. 

Jesus knows what we need, and he provides it to us. 

But be aware, there are dangers outside the pen.  There are dangers within as well; Jesus talks about the thief who doesn’t go through the gate.  Jesus warns about the wolves in sheep’s clothing.  The Bible warns against heresies from within.  We have to be aware of the challenges, even before we leave, so that when we are challenged, we can react proactively.

Have you ever considered the word responsibility?  It’s a compound word, isn’t it?  It combines response and ability.  Responsibility is the ability to respond to a given situation.  Independence, going in and out of the Gate, going in and out of Jesus’ comfort zone is the exercising of the ability to respond.

For example, you’re out and about, you strike up a conversation with someone and they challenge your faith.  How will you respond?  If you’ve been well trained, you’ll be able to respond well.  If not, if you’re not very confident in your faith, you might find yourself wavering.  Remember, the thief, Satan, only comes to kill and destroy.  He will try to destroy your faith, your knowledge in Jesus Christ.

You defend yourself by turning back to Christ.  You examine the challenge, you take it apart, and you discover the truth and the falsehood.  Remember, Satan will weave many half-truths in and out of his lies.  He’s not a blatantly obvious liar.  It takes a good knowledge of whom Jesus is to be able to defend against Satan.

Suppose someone came up to you and said, “Oh, I know your mom, she’s a terrible person!”  You wouldn’t accept it, would you?  Suppose someone said, “I went to school with your mom!  She and I did some pretty crazy things!  In fact, one day, we did such and such a thing!”  Now, it is possible that as a child, you might not know everything about your mom, but you could go and ask her right.  It is the same thing with our faith.  Someone says, “If God is so good, why does he allow suffering?”  It wouldn’t take too long to find the answer, would it?

This perspective leads us to our third point, the need to know the Good Shepherd, or interdependence.

Know the Good Shepherd-Interdependence

          A dependent child looks to his or her parents for help in everything.  This is fine when they’re young, but as they mature, it can lead to concern.  An independent child does not heed her parents at all.  She just goes and does whatever she wants, convinced that she’s right, that her decisions will be perfect.

          An interdependent child knows that she hasn’t figured everything out, that others have more experience and knowledge than she does, and can help her succeed in life.  An interdependent person knows where to go to get the answers.

          A well-balanced Christian is interdependent.  A well-balanced Christian depends upon Christ, the one who depended upon his father, but who also acted of his own accord.  Jesus laid down his life willingly.  He did this in obedience to his father.  Jesus died for you and for me.  That’s what we celebrated this morning.  If Jesus hadn’t done that, we would not have had a bit of bread and wine/grape juice this morning.

          Jesus, though he acted on his own, depended upon his father.  Why else did he spend so much time praying?  Why else did he cry out in bitter agony on the night he was betrayed?  Surely, it wasn’t weakness?  Surely, it wasn’t a sign of total dependence!  It was a sign of interdependence.  This interdependence, the most perfect example of it is the Trinity: three persons, one God, working in perfect harmony, unity and love.

          That’s how we’re supposed to work.  That’s what we’re supposed to model.  We are dependent upon God, yes, that’s obvious.  We’re in unity with God, through the Holy Spirit.  We participate in our sanctification, responding to the work of the Holy Spirit within us.

          But we’re interdependent with each other!  We look out for each other!  We warn each other when danger comes.  We encourage one another when things are going well.  We help one another when things are not going well.  We’re fantastic at that, as a group.  But there’s one area that I’d like to encourage us to consider improving on.

          Helping and correcting each other in the small things.  This is what mothers are good at.  They help with homework, help with all areas of life.  They give the good instruction to the child, laying the foundation for greater things.  But they also point out the little things, gently correcting their children so that they can seize the most out of life.

          When we do that for one another, we’re really trying to help each other live life to the fullest, our promise in Christ.  He died so that we might live, really live!  So, as you honour mothers, single, married, mothers-to-be, mothers who are also grand mothers and great grandmothers and women who desire to be mothers, honour Christ also.  Give thanks to God for your mom.  Without her, you’d not be here.  Good or bad, give thanks anyway.  Amen.

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