Sermon for the 4th Sunday of Easter (Good Shepherd Sunday)

Acts 9:36-43
Psalm 23
Revelation 7:9-17
John 10:22-30

I’m going to try a little game.  I’m going to play a quick clip of a celebrity voice, and I want to see if you’re able to recognize who it is (those of you reading this at home, just hit the “play” button, that is, the little arrow pointing => that way, to hear the clip):

Here is a video with all of the answers to see how you did:

Is anyone else blown away?  Those of you who are Walking Dead fans might recognise this actor Ross Marquand who plays Aaron, and who was also in Avengers Infinity War and End Game, playing a role of which the original actor didn’t want to play anymore.  So basically in Avengers, Ross Marquand was impersonating an actor playing a role.  I found out later that he was really good at impressions, so I looked it up and I wasn’t disappointed.  It wasn’t hard to be fooled by his talent to recreate his voice as recognisable.

But after seeing the video, it isn’t just the voice that is recognisable, but also the way he talks, like the choice of words and body language that really shows how he is so able to capture the whole essence of the person that he’s pretending to be.  And man, is he ever good at it.  Like, if he didn’t look totally different, I’d totally think that he’s the person he’s pretending to be.

So I’m always impressed with how people are able to imitate others like that.  How observant they are of mannerisms and personality, how closely they not just watch, but understand the person, how they are just so able to capture the essence of that person.  But it isn’t just the imitation that does it, because really for us to get it, we have to know who is being imitated.  It’s like if I were to ask you all to guess who I’m pretending to be, and after a few wrong guesses I’ll reveal that I’m my brother-in-law’s cousin, then you’d be like, seriously mate how am I supposed to know?  Now, if I were to make an impression of my brother-in-law’s cousin’s brother-in-law, then maybe you’d get it. 

So not only does the impressionist have to be good, but we have to know the person being imitated to actually get it.  We have to recognise those mannerisms, those inflections of the voice, the habits that reveal to us the uniqueness of the character.

And you know, I wonder if this what Jesus asks of us when we are called to follow him.  When we are called to hear his voice and then be his voice.  When we are called to recognise his voice and then reflect his voice.  When we are called to be filled with the Spirit, to listen to God’s Word through Jesus, to be imitators of Christ.

Are we supposed to just learn Jesus’ mannerisms and hope that we can fool people into thinking that we’re him?

I hope not, because man alive we’d be bad at it.  But what are we called to do then? 

Today is Good Shepherd Sunday, a day that always happens every 4th Sunday of Easter, and the day that we look at how Jesus is in fact, the Good Shepherd.  Normally, we get texts from what is called the Good Shepherd Discourse, a passage in John 10 where Jesus reveals his own Good Shepherdness, which really seems appropriate for a day that we coin Good Shepherd Sunday.  But the funny thing is that this passage actually isn’t part of the Good Shepherd Discourse.  It happens immediately after and Jesus is actually just starting to say goodbye to his disciples.  He’s telling them that when he’s gone, they’re going to have to recognise him and his voice even though the Spirit.

Easier said than done, though, right?  I mean the disciples had first hand experience with Jesus, and they didn’t recognise him right away after the resurrection.  Not last week when he was on the beach, not when he appeared to them out of nowhere in the locked upper room, not later on the road to Emmaus.  In these cases Jesus was there with them, interacting with them, talking with them, and in some cases even allowing them to touch his scars.  And they still had a hard time recognising him.  So yeah, I’d say that it’s easier said than done.

And for us, we haven’t even seen Jesus in the flesh, nor do we know what kind of mannerisms he’d have, we don’t even speak the same language or come from the same culture or time period as he did.  So how on earth would we be able to recognise him?  How can we know his voice?  How can we follow and be imitators of him if we don’t really even know him at all?

Well, we might not know Jesus, but we know the heart of compassion and love.  We haven’t ever seen Jesus in the flesh, but we know what it looks like when one helps another.  We don’t know the sound of Jesus’ voice, but we know the sound of someone speaking truth and grace.  We can see Jesus in goodness, in community, in abundant grace that overflows our cups of blessing.  We see Jesus in people that we don’t know when they are serving others.  We see Jesus in people we do know through our relationship and love for each other.  We see Jesus in how we care for others and how we’re cared for by others.  We see Jesus in the love of our mothers that we celebrate today on Mother’s Day, we see Jesus in those who sacrifice and even lay down their lives for those in their care, we see Jesus in all who bless and are blessed, who add a prophetic voice in the face of oppression, who extend a hand of welcome to a stranger.

See, Jesus knew that he was leaving his disciples.  He knew that it would be hard for them to cope with his absence so he reminds them that he actually doesn’t ever leave them for he has embodied the very heart, soul, and Spirit of God.  So when Jesus says that he and God are one, he doesn’t mean they are the same being or that they are exactly the same nor was he even claiming the name of God.  Rather, he was saying that he and God were so in sync with what is good and right and true that Jesus actually does display the very persona of God.  Jesus, is essentially God in the form of a human.  Jesus, and God, are basically as he said, one.  And then Jesus promises the Spirit, allowing his disciples to see him still even after he departs, that they are reminded and encouraged and empowered by all the things that Jesus said and taught, and also join in Jesus’ mission, united with all the saints as the one body of Christ.

So how did the disciples recognise Jesus after he left?  In abundance.  In peace.  In the breaking of bread.  In the prophetic voice that breathed in them the Spirit, the Advocate, our helper, that will carry us through the good, the bad, and the everything in between.

These past couple weeks we lost a few prophets of our time.  Racheal Held Evans, progressive evangelical author, speaker, and blogger, died from complications from an allergy to antibiotics.  Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche and Canadian hero, fell to

Thyroid cancer.  And I just heard that it was a local pastor by the name of Tom Cheung who died in that car explosion at the border.  And I just heard this morning of the death of our good friend Ken Harris, I mean talk about recognising a voice, am I right?

Four lives.  Four prophets.  Four imitators of Christ that have displayed for us so deeply God’s voice, God’s hand at work, God’s presence in our lives.  This reminds us that even when we are gone, we remain in the arms of the Good Shepherd, and we last an eternity because of it.  We and the Good Shepherd become one, in that when Jesus calls us to follow him, when Paul calls us to be imitators of Christ, when we embody the will of God and serve others in faith, we take on the mantle of the Good Shepherd, we become for the world God’s hands and feet, we feed God’s sheep and tend to God’s lambs for the sake of the gospel graciously instilled in us.  We are the body of Christ, the Good Shepherd, carrying on the work and story of our crucified and risen Lord.

This Easter season, may we continue in our role for the world as shepherd for the sheep as well as the sheep of the Good Shepherd, that we might fully see and accept and believe how we, how Christ, how God, are all one in Spirit and love for all the world.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

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