Good Shepherd Sunday

Easter 4B (RCL)

Acts 4:5-12
Psalm 23
1 John 3:16-24
John 10:11-18

More of Peter’s nasty preaching in Acts. Not at all sure why we’re reading this.

In the other two readings, lots of mention of “laying down one’s life for” one another. In Divinity School, we were puzzled by the Greek expression, which translates literally, “place one’s soul over” one another. The preposition “hyper” can me above, on account of, for — a whole range of meanings. We called our preceptor over, and asked him what the expression meant. He wasn’t aware that we were reading scripture — we just asked him what “tithein ten psyche hyper” meant. He said it was an expression taken from Greek military poetry. Soldiers were encouraged to have “friends” in the army, lovers, whose backs they would watch carefully. They were said to place their souls in the care of their friends, sometimes accompanied by an actual exchage of swords. So, I translate it now as “entrust one’s life to” one another.

Jesus entrusted his life to us, the flock of sheep in his care. That’s a pretty up-side-down image, and then expects us to do the same for one another. And ultimately, for the purpose of bringing other sheep not of this fold into the one flock. Learning to see the world from another’s perspective requires a kind of love that entrusts self into the care of the other, stepping out of our perspective can be fearful. The various flocks cannot coexist without this willingness to entrust ourselves to the other’s point of view.

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