Perfect Love & Perfect Obedience

Perfect Love & Perfect Obedience

John 10:27-30

We must not be lazy in our faith. We must strive each and every day towards a perfect love in one another, sharing that perfect love that exists between God the Father, God the Son, you and me and every Christian on the face of the planet now and has ever been.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Amen. Please sit.

I always find it funny that Jesus talks about sheep quite as much as he does. Being a Welshman, of course, and growing up on a council estate on the side of a hill, I was surrounded by sheep a great deal of the time. I spent summer holidays castrating sheep. I know sheep better than I would like. And so when Jesus talks about sheep, I think I have a degree of understanding because, of course, sheep and sheep herding and how those animals behave – and they are stupid animals – was something that people understood.

And that’s why Jesus uses this example of sheep. So often the shepherd is with his flock. That’s what Jesus talks about a lot. And in the Middle East shepherding and looking after sheep really hasn’t changed very much; in the Western world. It’s slightly different.

And it’s different in that in the Middle East and actually in Wales, the shepherd must smell of his flock. He must be part of the flock. He must be trusted by the flock. And the way that that’s achieved is through smelling like the sheep. Now, one thing you may not know is that the Bishop has his crook, and you might think that the crook is there because it helps him bring sheep back into line.

Actually, the first use of a crook by a shepherd is he will walk into a field, plant the crook into the ground and lean on it. And he will stand amongst the flock, the new flock, until it learns who he is, until he becomes one of them. When they walk up to him and rub against him to the point that he smells like one of the flock, he smells like a dirty sheep. That’s where Jesus starts by being amongst his people and smelling of his sheep.

But I have to tell you, having grown up with sheep, they are monumentally stupid creatures.

They spend every second of every day inventing new ways to kill themselves. They will jump fences that are there to protect them. They will jump in deep ditches. They will go for swims in rivers that will carry them away. They will push their heads through sharp barbed wire to the point that they can’t get them back out again.

And the amazing thing about sheep is not only do they invent stupid ways to kill themselves, but they don’t necessarily learn from their earlier mistakes. And so they will always be one sheep who pokes his head through the barbed wire and does it every single day without fail.

Sheep are also monumentally lazy. I have stood and watched a sheep lying in the sun, enjoying the sun. Clearly a very contented sheep, nibbling the grass around his head because he can’t be bothered to get up.

And then I watched him wiggle himself around so his head is in a new bit of grass. And I watched him spend the entire afternoon do a little 360 on his back because he couldn’t be bothered to get up. There was nothing wrong with the sheep. I did go and prod him later on in the day. He was absolutely fine.

Sheep are stupid and sheep are lazy. They will always try and find the easiest path to achieve something. But in that laziness and in that stupidity there is a deep bond between the sheep and the shepherd because the sheep learn very quickly that the shepherd is there to both protect them and to lead them to places that are good and to save them from their idiotic decisions.

This is why I like talking about sheep, because you don’t have to say that people are stupid, people are lazy, and people make silly decisions. You can blame it all on the sheep. But the shepherd. The shepherd is always there to save the sheep from those three things. And over time the flock develops a total trust and a total love with a shepherd.

The shepherd almost never needs to use a crook to put a sheep on the correct path, but will often have to use it to pull the sheep out of trouble. They will follow him anywhere.

What Jesus is saying in our gospel today is that he is our shepherd. We are the sheep, and that he offers us his total love and his total protection. That love and protection is in his hands now.

To those who stood listening to him that have must have sounded like hubris or ego. Who is this man to claim that we are in his protection? And so Jesus pulls it apart a little bit more in that second part of the gospel. He says, it’s not in his hands we are in, but His Father’s hands that we are all in. He and us together are in His Father’s hands.

And he tells us that he and the Father are one.

What does that mean though? Is Jesus offering us some sort of philosophical argument? He in us and us in Him, him in the Father? No. In fact, if we read our scripture, as of course, the people who were listening to Jesus would have done not just reading in scripture from the Old Testament, but also from what Jesus had been telling them, not just in word, but in deed Jesus tells us time and time again what we are one,when he says we are one, what it means in practise.

We are bound together by love.

Jesus teaches us that the unity of Christian with Christian is a bond of love, and it is the same love that exists between God the Father and God the Son. Jesus tells us quite plainly that the purpose of a Christian life is that Christians should be one as His Father and he are one.

“I give you a new commandment that you should love one another. Just as I have loved you you also should love one another.”

John 13:34

Those two loves, those two expressions of love are one and the same thing. The bond that exists between God the Father and God the Son is the bond that exists between each and every one of us.

So then, Christians are one flock are bound together because we love one another as Jesus loved us. But sadly, that’s not always apparent, is it? That love that we have for one another is often not the model of love that God the Father shares with God the Son or even that Jesus share with us. We do not always love one another.

There is always a reason to go off on our own and stick our heads through a barbed wired fence.

There is always a reason to go off and be the one lost sheep. And yes, of course, Jesus will always come and find us and bring us back to the flock. But really and truly, we should try and stay with the flock because the test of love, as Jesus tells us time and time again, Is obedience.

“If you keep my Commandments, you will abide in my love Just as I have kept my Father’s Commandments and abide in his love.”

John 15:10

“Those who love me will keep my Commandments.”

John 14:15

“They who have my Commandments and keep them are those who love me.”

John 14:21

And that is at the heart of today’s gospel. The bond of unity is love and the proof of love is obedience. We are one with each other in perfect love as we are one with Jesus in perfect love.

Jesus is one with his father in perfect love. And for that perfect love flows perfect obedience. We must strive to that perfect obedience because in it we find perfect love. We find it in the perfect love of the flock of Jesus Christ. We must not wander off on our own and find new and interesting ways to die.

We must not be lazy in our faith. We must strive each and every day towards a perfect love in one another, sharing that perfect love that exists between God the Father, God the Son, you and me and every Christian on the face of the planet now and has ever been.