Sermons

IV Easter

May 12, 2019

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. AMEN.

This is Good Shepherd Sunday.  As a professed Member of the Oratory of the Good Shepherd, this Sunday has particular significance to me.  I did a bit of thinking about this title of “Good Shepherd” and it lead me to think about paradox.  Let me share with you some of my thoughts.

If we look within the lessons for today we find that Jesus is not only referred to as the Good Shepherd, as we find in the Gospel, but also as the Lamb of God in the lesson from the Book of Revelation:

“And he said to me, ‘These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’”

But then it goes on to connect the titles of Lamb and Shepherd:

“For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water; and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Jesus is both Lamb and Shepherd.  Jesus is the Lamb who was sacrificed for us.  St. John the Baptist witnesses to this in the Gospel of John.  We read: “… (John the Baptist) saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’”  But Jesus also says in John’s gospel, “I am the Good Shepherd, I know my own and my own know me.”

This is not the only time in which we have titles that seem to be a paradox.  Likewise, Jesus is both sacrifice and Priest.    For instance, in the Letter to the Hebrews, Jesus is referred to as the Great High Priest.  But then we also find that Jesus is referred to sacrifice. 

We see this in the Eucharist.  Listen to these familiar words which we hear so often that perhaps we do not pay attention to what they are really saying:

         

“All glory be to thee, Almighty God, our heavenly Father, for  that thou, of thy tender mercy, didst give thine only Son Jesus Christ to suffer death upon the cross for our redemption; who made there, by his one oblation of himself once offered, a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world; and did institute, and in his holy Gospel command us to continue, a perpetual memory of that his precious death and sacrifice, until his coming again.”

Jesus is both Lamb and Shepherd.  Jesus is both Priest and Sacrifice.  Our understanding of who Jesus is lives in the tension in this paradox.   But He also calls us to live in this tension.

As Jesus says in the Gospel of St. Luke: "If anyone wishes to come after Me, they must deny themself, and take up their cross daily and follow Me.   For whoever wishes to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for My sake, they are the ones who will save it.”

St. Paul puts it this way in his letter to the Galatians: "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

I often think of Jesus as the Prince of Paradox.  Within this paradox, there is a tension.  Jesus is found within this tension, and we are called to follow Him live within this tension.

We see this in the Gospel according to St. Luke when Jesus says this about the leadership of those who follow Him:

“And he said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors.  But not so with you; rather let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.   For which is the greater, one who sits at table, or one who serves? Is it not the one who sits at table? But I am among you as one who serves.’”

If we follow someone who is both the Lamb of God and the Good Shepherd, who is both the sacrifice for sin and the Great High Priest, then we are called to live in such a paradox.  Are you ready to live in this paradox?  AMEN.