Sunday, April 26, 2015

Bible Stories and Anonymous Christians

Fourth Sunday of Easter, 2015:

Fourth Sunday of Easter, 2015

By Deacon Lawrence N. Kaas
April 26, 2015

Most of us tune out stories we've heard repeatedly. If it's from an old friend you may hear them say, once again, "did I ever tell you about the time", and on goes the story. Inwardly we may even groan a little bit knowing how long this story will last. It's a little different watching TV because if we don't like the story we can change the channel. We may even ask one of our children to find a different story than the one you've been reading to them, it seems like 50 times.

Maybe even some of the Bible stories can impact us in this way: they're just too familiar to engage our full attention. As a lectionary-based church with fixed readings every Sunday of the year, we don't have the option of changing channel. What helps is to hear in an old story, even a Bible story, the little hidden details. Sometimes we can pose questions to ourselves as to the hidden meanings of some of the Scripture passages. For example: the good Shepherd story of today, --- let's forget the hired man, the sheep, and the Wolf. We know the Wolf will attack, the hired help will bolt, and the vulnerable sheep are in danger. These characters played to a type that is predictable, as in the movie, the bad guy moves in for the kill, the working stiff saves himself, and the victim is exposed.

The good Shepherd, meanwhile, does the courageous thing: he risks his life for the sheep that belong to him. In the movie version, we would expect this too: the hero would put himself or herself in harms way because someone is in need. We expect the hero to win, or it wouldn't be a satisfying movie. Yet sometimes the hero dies in rescuing the vulnerable one. While this makes the ending bittersweet, self-sacrifice is a recognizable part of the code of good storytelling.

The most curious detail in the story isn't about the wolf, the hired man, the flock, or even the Shepherd's sacrifice. It's about those other sheep that don't belong to this fold. The sacrifice of Jesus isn't just for the flock in plain sight, but for these mysterious others too. Scholars have identified the mysterious sheep as future believers---like us. Before we were born, Jesus accepted death for our sake. These others, however, might also be the non-Jewish Christians who came to faith after the time of Jesus. The mission of Jesus was mostly limited to his fellow Jews in his lifetime, the church evolved into a church of Gentiles in ages to come.

It is also possible the other sheep referred to, were believers who, even during the time when this gospel was written were sharing the faith of the apostles, it could also include the divergent ways of the Johannine community. Important too, the other sheep could include other groups, those Carl Rahner called anonymous Christians who live Christ-like lives outside the boundaries of formal church. The good shepherd may, well have, plenty of flocks we haven't suspected yet.

We must remember that Jesus came to find and save the lost!

So you all be good, be holy, preached the gospel always using words and holy actions!

'Thank you' to Deacon Kaas, for letting me post his reflection here.

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