O God, you have made of one blood all the peoples of the earth, and sent your blessed Son to preach peace to those who are far off and to those who are near: Grant that people everywhere may seek after you and find you; bring the nations into your fold; pour out your Spirit upon all flesh; and hasten the coming of your kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. (BCP 100)
In the Gospel reading appointed for today (John 10:1-18), Jesus first tries to use the metaphor of the sheepfold to describe his relation to the disciples. “The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.”
Blank stares. As John wryly observes, “Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.”
So he tries again. “I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and they will come in and go out and find pasture.” The disciples scratch their heads. Which is it, the shepherd or the gate?
One more time. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Now, at least those of us reading the Gospel get it, even if the disciples at the time didn’t. “Lays down his life” — we know what that means. We have trusted in Jesus’ death and resurrection, and we know what it means for him to be the Good Shepherd. We even painted some of our earliest churches with that very image of Jesus bearing a lamb in his arms.
But Jesus doesn’t stop there. He goes on to say that “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” (John 10:16).
Now he goes right over our heads, too. We’re the sheep, right? We came in through the gate, didn’t we? What about that other parable, the one with the goats — all the others are goats, right?
But what if the Good Shepherd has many flocks? What if the Gate himself opens in many directions — the one we came through and many more besides? What if we are not the flock, but rather simply a flock? I think about this image when I look around at the many branches and denominations that make up the Christian world.
“Grant that people everywhere may seek after you and find you; bring the nations into your fold,” we pray today.
It’s Jesus’ sheepfold, not ours. We know that we have found the gate we needed to enter. Others may not enter by the same gate we did, but if the Good Shepherd “brings them also,” then they too “will come in and go out and find pasture.”