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The Fourth Sunday of Easter: Good Shepherd Sunday; Vocations Sunday; Acts 2:42-47; 1 Peter 2:19-25; John 10:1-10

In the early years of this century I was growing into adulthood. Like a shopkeeper bringing out things from the storeroom, finding what old and what new things to keep as I gradually grew into independence. And like a shopkeeper, juggling these many items, I’d sometimes inevitably stumble and drop something to the floor, with a loud crash.

I think Augustine said something like “God, make me good… but not yet.” It was a little bit like that, too. Knowing where to go… knowing what to do… but like a curious sheep, sometimes walking into valleys that were probably best left undisturbed.

Through this time, though, and with the help and support of family and church ‘family,’ I had made contact with Holy Cross Priory, an Anglican religious community in Toronto.

The day began (as it does to this day) with morning prayers. I woke up extra early to do some Bible reading; not because I was particularly pious or because I was on retreat, but for the simple reason that if anyone asked, I could affirm, “Yes, I’ve read some of the Bible today.” I flipped open my microscopic print Bible to a random page, read a section, and then rushed down for mattins. (Where no one quizzed me about any of my religious or any other practices or habits.)

As we’ll be used to, there were some opening responses, several psalms, and then readings. It caught my attention when that random passage I’d skimmed in my guest room appeared, not twenty minutes later, as part of the day’s lectionary readings. I’m usually pretty skeptical about these kind of ‘signs,’ but one has to admit that the Bible’s pretty big, and the chance of that reading appearing twice that morning is pretty slim. At the very least it caught my attention.

But it’s not that coincidence that left its mark on me. No, it was the other scripture reading that morning, which (unlike the other) I actually remember. From the First Letter of Peter, we heard it today, with its conclusion I love: “For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.”

That passage may have had its particular meaning in the first century, and a particularly resonance for various people through history. But I can tell you, that at that moment in my life, it perfectly described, and perfectly brought about the resolution of what I had been experiencing as a wandering and hurting twenty-one year old.

“The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep… And the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”

“[At the tomb the risen] Jesus said to [the weeping disciple], “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher)…. Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord.”

Maybe you have your own story, of hearing your name. Of being called. Of finding yourself. Of finding yourself in the midst of a community, or a flock. It doesn’t have to be a dramatic story, and it probably rarely is. But there are moments where we hear, or recognize our names echoed or mirrored in others, or in the scriptures or the lives of the saints, or in the worship life of a church.

As dramatic as that experience in my opening story was, it took something like eleven years between that moment and my full-time enrolment in a seminary program. So it’s not really a story about me becoming a priest. It’s much more important than that. It’s a story about someone being reminded of, and being guided into, following Jesus.

As the front of the bulletin today notes, this Sunday is sometimes referred to as Vocations Sunday. There are going to be churches around the world praying for ‘vocations:’ praying for the raising up of clergy and people called to vowed lives of prayer and service. But more than that, it’s about all of us, because we all have a vocation — a calling. Some of us have a vocation that’s primarily lived out in the sheepfold, in the pen. In a lot of ways I think that’s easier. But the vocation — the calling — of the lay Christian (instilled at Holy Baptism) is often primarily to listen for voice of Jesus the shepherd out beyond the boundaries of the fence. And this can be hard. There might be wolves. There might be a lack of the necessary nourishment… so it’s important to return to the pen now and again. And you might come across lost sheep out there beyond the pen. So there’s a calling to stand there with them, as you wait for the shepherd to act.

This calling that we all share is rooted in our baptism. (And again, for some baptism will have been a quite dramatic experience. For others of us… we don’t even remember it. And yet the calling is real, and valid.) In our baptism, like the early Church described in the first reading, we committed to continuing “in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers.” To living within the sheep pen. And to “persevere in resisting evil,” and when we struggle with that, to “repent and return” to God. To show people in our lives something of the goodness of our Shepherd. To “seek and serve Christ in all persons.” And to walk peacefully with others, and walk peacefully on the earth.

It is “a way of life that all should reverence, and none should lightly undertake.”* In September our bishop will be in town, and you might consider being Confirmed in this way of life, or if you’ve already done that, Reaffirming your faith.

If you are listening for your name, but can’t seem to hear it, don’t lose hope. And listen for your name in the scriptures. If something there warms your heart, hold onto it. If, instead, something scrapes up against you, be curious about it, and look for its deepest meaning in and through the person of Jesus.

And listen for your name in our prayers and in our singing. Find what speaks to you, and what gives voice to your feelings and your prayers. And when they lack, let that inspire your own.

And listen for your name at, and when approaching, the altar. In the meal in which we share in the lamb that sacrificed himself for us.

And then with the love that Christ had for the world, go back out into that same world, and feed, break bread, offer pardon and healing, and get to know the names of those whom you’ll meet. And seek and serve Christ in them.

© 2023 The Rev’d Matthew Kieswetter

* This is from the MARRIAGE liturgy of the Book of Alternative Services, but it works for this, too!