Daniel 7: 9 – 10, 13 – 14
Revelation 1: 4b – 8
John 18: 33 – 37
Several years ago, while I was still a parish priest, some parishioners came to me with a question. Robin and Anne were actually Baptists, but since we were the only church on the island where they lived, they attended the Church of the Good Shepherd. Some of the things that we as Anglicans took as a matter of course, were of concern to them, or else simply puzzled them. On this particular occasion, they had questions about the use of the lectionary.
Since the lectionary was, they felt, simply a human construct, what would happen if I believed God desired me to proclaim a certain message that in no way related to the appointed texts on that particular day. Would I, they wondered, be free to choose other readings? I don’t remember my answer. I think it was pretty wishy-washy. What I do remember, after nearly forty years, is the question. It still haunts me.
Were Robin and Anne to appear today and ask me the same question, I would have a very different answer. The real question is not, what if God wants me to address something outside the scope of the readings on any particular day. The real question is what to do if the lectionary forces you to look at something you would rather not!
Preaching from the common lectionary, as we do here at the monastery, presents challenges. One reason for this is that we often listen to texts read as though they stand alone. When, in fact, they are often part of some larger narrative. Often we are unaware of the context of a particular passage.
For instance, this morning we hear Jesus telling the Pharisees that anyone who enters the sheepfold except through the gate is a thief and bandit. He’s not, at this point at least, calling himself the good shepherd. That will come later. For now, he calls himself the gate saying that “Whoever enters by [him] will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.”1 Why does he say this and what does it mean? In my reflections this morning on Jesus as the gate to greater life, I would like to take us back a couple of chapters in John’s gospel.