“One”

GOSPEL | JOHN 10:14-18

14 “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”

“there will be one flock, one shepherd” (v.16)

A surprising related chain of seemingly unrelated conversations has sprung up lately. My seminary classes have been beginning to accent an underlying drive for a more collaborative educational environment, where normal academic institutions thrive on competition. The hope is that the seminary can begin to train its future pastors to see our relationships with our colleagues as “partners in ministry” rather than competitors or opponents.

My Monday night Apprentice class is going through James Bryant Smith’s third book, The Good and Beautiful Community, and we talked this last week about how our churches often fall to the temptation to compete for members, or “sheep-stealing” I’ve heard it called. Pursuing popularity and “success” quickly ensnares churches who understand their identity more in performance or consumer images. The kingdom of God, however, is broad, encompassing, and hospitable. Our churches, as witnesses of the kingdom, should reflect this reality.

Having a knack for finding patterns and relations where they aren’t obvious, I couldn’t ignore it when Jesus announces this morning that, “there will be one flock, one shepherd” (v.16). Attending a Reformed seminary, it is easy to start to see how John Calvin, Karl Barth, and other Reformed heroes are the “rightest” theologians of them all. Praise God, though, that there is another strong current in the Reformed stream that flows wide toward ecumenism — a movement toward unity or cooperation among the Christian churches.

I had the privilege of experiencing several meetings of a small town’s Ministerial Association, where pastors from all manners of Protestant churches met monthly and collaborated on how to care for the needs of their community. One of the most beautiful expressions of their work together was the annual Passion Play, where all the churches get together each year during Lent to present a full dramatization of Jesus’ journey to the cross, starting with Palm Sunday’s triumphal entry and ending with the glorious resurrection morning. Praise God for his church, especially when all the branches can find ways of working together as “one flock” to bear witness to the beauty and power of the gospel.

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