Saturday, 28 April 2012

Step Five - Super Shepherd

GospelJohn 10:11-18 

Jesus said:
‘I am the good shepherd:
the good shepherd is one who lays down his life for his sheep.
The hired man, since he is not the shepherd
and the sheep do not belong to him,
abandons the sheep and runs away
as soon as he sees a wolf coming,
and then the wolf attacks and scatters the sheep;
this is because he is only a hired man
and has no concern for the sheep.
‘I am the good shepherd;
I know my own
and my own know me,
just as the Father knows me
and I know the Father;
and I lay down my life for my sheep.
And there are other sheep I have
that are not of this fold,
and these I have to lead as well.
They too will listen to my voice,
and there will be only one flock,
and one shepherd.
‘The Father loves me,
because I lay down my life
in order to take it up again.
No one takes it from me;
I lay it down of my own free will,
and as it is in my power to lay it down,
so it is in my power to take it up again;
and this is the command I have been given by my Father.’

Step Five -  Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
I think have admitted my love of comic book heroes once before; particularly the post war mythic heroes of Marvel and DC; so it was with enormous pleasure that I spent a couple of hours this evening watching the new Avengers Assemble film

 - storyline more or less that a few disparate humans with various (and variously welcome) gifts and talents plus 'good' demi-god Thor of Asgard take on a less than good demi-god Loki (Thor's adopted brother) and the usual onslaught of invading aliens -

with  no thought of either the Steps or the Gospel in my head until someone mentioned it. So whilst they are probably fast asleep in bed here am I; making a link. 

In the film, Loki comes to Earth with the belief that humans want to be subjugated; that freedom is a gift we run away from. St Paul speaks often of the risk of getting confused about who we are; who we are following. It is easy to give our freedom away; to be distracted by charisma or the persona of either an individual or an idea that seems 'ideal'. 

The world has its way of charming us into feeling safe; confident; superior. It is easy to choose your god by picking the one that has the same prejudices that you do. It is easy to follow a worldview that concentrates on ego; on nationalism; on ambition and to huddle with like-minded people in sheep-pens of isolation and self-satisfaction. 

The institutions and individuals that demand loyalty under these terms are like the hired hands; interested, ultimately, in the profits that line their pockets - whether that is finance, oppression or the desire for more of what they have on offer. Likely to bolt for the next universe when it all starts going wrong.

When a comment is made about the god, Thor, the thoroughly decent Captain America replies ' there is only one God, and he doesn't look like that.'

God doesn't look like any of the above; Jesus is the the face of the truly all-loving Father; he is the Good Shepherd. It is him that is loyal; his life that is on offer and his voice that we are drawn to.

As the characters in the film eventually realise that their own egocentric desires stand in the way of freedom and fellowship we are asked to let go of what ties us to our shame, our refusal to change, our inertia.  As John makes abundantly clear, Jesus does not have a spear of destiny in his hand; he is not out to charm you; to coerce you; to subjugate you. 

He calls and asks that you follow. In the freedom of following,  you will find yourself being walked beside, walking beside brothers and sisters; eventually you will be sent to seek out others who are lost. To walk beside them; to bring them home.

Like the Avengers, we can become heroes. There are many people crying out to be heard; to be understood; to be found. In laying down his life Jesus passes his Spirit to us as a gift for others. With Jesus we are superhuman; we are extraordinary. We are channels of peace; agents of reconciliation;  pardoners and lovers. 

So much so that one day (and this is as good a tag line as you are ever going to get) 
'there will be only One.'

Higher Power,
My inventory has shown me who I am,
Yet I ask for Your help
In admitting my wrongs to another person and  to You.
Assure me, and be with me,
For without this surrender I cannot come to you.
With Your help, I can.


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