The superhero may find freedom, may find privacy, may find courage behind a hero's mask. A Jedi's robe is certainly a simpler choice. No double life, no changing in phone booths. You could be sought when trouble is near and avoided by those trying to cause harm. Plain clothes are of course the simplest solution of all. A hero can just be herself or himself.
It has been a challenging week: horrible and heroic. A week that reminded us that evil, death and destruction takes many shapes and sizes. It was also a week that reminded us that courage, compassion and rescue are not activities reserved for comic books. It was a week for shepherds, and it was a week for sheep. It was a week where people were called forth by tragedy to be both at once. It was also a week where in the context of crisis, for a brief moment, all our itty-bitty pettiness with one another faded away. No light sabers. No wands. No masks except protective gear. It has been a week for not being able to tell the difference the shepherds from the sheep.
In our gospel today Jesus is a shepherd, even though that word isn't used. He is the good shepherd, who leads and guides and loves. He is the good shepherd who protects and feeds. The shepherd figure dominates this section of the Gospel of John. It is a metaphor for reign of God throughout the whole creation. It takes the unappreciated everyday job of a grubby shepherd and turns it upside down. This upside down view should convict us of our pettiness and greed; and demands it pushes us to participate in the eternal life that is already, but also not yet. The works of the Good Shepherd are not just extra-ordinary works and wonders. The work of God as Christ who is the Good Shepherd is a boundless life of extra ordinary compassion.
In the lesson from Revelation the imagery changes: Christ is both Shepherd and Sheep. He is both the champion,and, the potential victim. However being both, and this being Easter, in this vision he is not a sacrificed lamb at all. He is Lamb with a capital L. He calls sheep to be shepherds with him: to be both as needed. We are called to follow the Lamb as a community. To be a community that resists evil, a community of prayer and service, a community that strives with hope.
The world may be broken, but hope is not crazy. The world may be broken, but it is ripe with possibility, it is overflowing with shepherds, bursting with plain clothed heroes. There is no limit to the forms that good news can take. Good news is listening and following shepherds when we are in danger. Good shepherds keep their eyes open and seek help when needed. And sometimes, good shepherds run toward the explosions.
Jesus says that he and God are one Christ calls us to be one with him. God is a gracious shepherd, one of steadfast love and mercy. His intention and actions are one with Christ. He has no boundaries for his forgiveness, no limits to his welcome, no end to his compassion The Lamb will be our shepherd. He needs no special costume, and despite the pestering questions, He does not seek to hide his identity. He wore everyday clothes like you and me. He has called us to not abandon hope: no matter the past, present or future suffering – no matter the type or source of suffering.
I pray for the people who are still suffering from the awfulness of this week. I pray for those who work endlessly and those who stay vigilant. I pray for those for whom this week has brought only confusion and shame. I also pray that next week's headlines will include the good news that milkshakes cure cancer.
Yet I know better. I know the world is broken. We know that evil, malice and destruction persist not only in where live news coverage is warranted, but also here in the middle of our everyday lives. So here's the part where we become what we say we are: the body of Christ. No wands, no masks, just moving onward with the Lamb, who is the Shepherd, who leads us beside still waters. Extra-ordinary knowledge and steadfast love of God who is the Shepherd must transform our ways of being with our neighbors near and far.
Heads up. Eyes open. You can wear a cape: they make good blankets and bandages in an emergency Heads up. Eyes open. Capes on! Good News knows no boundaries.
Easter 4C BCP, April 21, 2013
Cathedral of St. John Albuquerque, New Mexico