While preparing this week’s sermon on the “I am the Good Shepherd” verse, I am admittedly still thinking about last week. As I said, “I am the gate” is one of the hardest of the “I Am” statements in John’s Gospel. It isn’t about taking action, it is about a way of being.
Of course, being the gate is an action in and of itself. If we are able to live in such a way that invites people to enter the realm of God, then we are definitely doing something worthwhile with our lives. It’s just that being a certain way takes more intention than engaging in a specific action, doesn’t it?
We are halfway through the “I Am Christian” sermon series. I don’t know what it’s been like to listen to the sermons. However, preparing them continues to be a challenge, an enjoyable challenge, though a challenge nonetheless. Figuring out what it means to be Christian in today’s political climate is a worthy adventure.
It’s funny, 35 years ago I wrote my undergraduate thesis on the I Am statements in John’s Gospel. I was a senior in college with plans to take a year off before entering seminary. I’d also spent a couple of years with a conservative Christian campus group. While I had left that group, their influence on my faith remained.
As a college senior at the age of 20, I was certain that the I Am statements were an affirmation of Jesus’ divinity and nothing more. They were a literary tool to shine the proverbial spotlight on Jesus being the incarnate Son of God. While I still believe that this was one of the intentions of the writer, I don’t think it was the only one.
Studying these texts today, I am more inclined to say that they are an invitation for us to embody these attributes – bread of life, light of the world, gate, Good Shepherd, and so on – as individuals, and more importantly, as community. In short, these I Am statements can function as guidelines for being followers of Christ in the world today.
I used to believe that there was only one “correct” way to be a Christian in the world and I was determined to find that way. Now, after more than 30 years of ordained ministry, I know that there are many, perhaps countless, ways to follow Jesus. Theology and doctrine are less important than how we bring Divine Love into the world, how we make the world a better place than when we entered it.
As we go about our daily living this week, I hope you, like me, are still thinking about what you do, how you live, how you are, as “The Gate” to the realm of God. And remember, there comes a point when it is less about “doing” and more about “being.” So as I said on Sunday, “Do what you can and be the rest.”
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