The Shepherd Knows You
Easter IV; May 12, 2019
There is a lot happening today, and all of it contributes to our experience of the Word, so I will keep these words brief. Two of our young people are professing their faith and being baptized today, and another is professing for herself the faith into which she was baptized. Although they will answer four Big Questions, the central one is this: Who is your Lord and Savior?
I joked with them that I want them to say, "Jesus Christ," and not "Kanye West." I'm not sure why Kanye came to mind, when there are so many others I could pick from, but there it is. Jesus makes a really important point in today's Gospel; well, two points, actually, and I simply want to reiterate both of them.
If he has claimed us as his, and we have claimed him as Lord and Savior, then no one will snatch us out of his hand. There is a long list of distractions that could draw our attention away from him, and you know them very well. You could doubtless come up with several that neither the Apostle Paul nor I have thought of. All of you old enough to have adult children could probably tell us stories about those distractions: how your own children professed faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior at some point, but how they no longer participate in His Church, how they have found other things to occupy their attention. They may be nice people, and good, contributing members of society, but they are not explicitly followers of Jesus.
Nothing has snatched them out of Christ's hand; the Evil One rarely uses direct warfare against Christ's Church. Our own natural tendency to self-centeredness, combined with short attention span, are plenty for those purposes. No one can snatch us from Christ's hand, but we can wander away when we lose our focus. My dog Reggie has a terrible time staying focused; Kathleen demands he look at her and focus on her before she will give him a treat. But such focus never lasts long. I find human beings to be very much like that; we cannot stay focused for long. And research has shown that the modern age of hypertext links and smart phones has shortened our attention span dramatically. None of these things snatches us from the hand of Jesus, but they feed our failure to stay focused on him.
Jesus' other point is the good news to remember, and I want especially for you to remember it, Chiok, Kaleb, and Lucy. "My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me." I don't know much about sheep, but I do know my dogs know my voice. And I know them. To you and me, one sheep looks pretty much like another, but I'll bet a good shepherd can tell them apart and knows each one's idiosyncrasies. The Lord Jesus knows you. Jesus knows what excites you, what troubles you, what irritates you, what gives you joy. The Lord Jesus will continue to know you as you grow, as you change, as you think new thoughts and ask new questions. The Lord Jesus will still know you if you get distracted and wander away. For me the best news is that the Lord Jesus knows you and me even in ways that we fail to know ourselves.
People of God, the message I want you to carry with you today is not the list of things that can distract you, but this simple reminder: the Shepherd knows you. If you stay focused and are constant in your faith and practice, then the Shepherd will know you and you will grow in your knowledge of the Shepherd. If you wander away for awhile, never fear to come home, to return to the sheepfold. The Shepherd knows you and will say, "Come in and share the bread of life. I know you. Welcome home."
Robert A. Keefer
Presbyterian Church of the Master