One of the first images we are given of the early Christian Church is that of the disciples who have gathered for mutual support in an atmosphere of fear and anxiety. John in his gospel tells us that they have gathered behind locked doors.
It sounds very familiar to us in these ‘Lockdown’ days, and it’s concerning to hear about the rise in domestic violence, and the increased numbers of people calling Lifeline and Beyond Blue. And yet, this Easter story is not about lockdown or fear, or depression, but quite the opposite. It’s about Jesus coming to where we are – in whatever situation we are – entering our lockdown, coming to bring peace and wholeness to us and fill us with life.
The pictures we are given this Sunday of Jesus build on this account of Jesus entering into our lockdown. It’s the account of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. It’s an image of comfort in the knowledge that there is someone with power and authority who comes to protect, to guide and lead us – someone who calls us all by name – someone interested in us who knows us and wants to engage fully with us so that we might come to enjoy the fullness of life. The Good Shepherd is also not a sentimental but rather a strong picture of what God’s loving justice looks like. The Shepherd shared the life of the sheep, the cold nights, the wintry days, the heat of the summer. It was a hard, often solitary life, and one that often involved warding off wolves or eagles targeting young lambs.
However in this reading from John chapter 10, we are given not one but two images of Jesus. One is very familiar – the image of the Shepherd – but the other is less familiar, yet equally evocative. It’s the image of Jesus as the door. Some of you will be know that the Shepherd gathered his sheep into a stone sheepfold for the night, and then lit a fire at the entrance where he slept and so literally became the door to the enclosure. Jesus uses that image to engage our imagination and invite us into his life. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.
One of the most famous stained glass windows is of Jesus as the Light of the World by the Pre Raphaelite artist William Hunt. It represents Jesus preparing to knock on an overgrown and long unopened door, illustrating the passage in the book of Revelation that says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with him and you with me.” Once again it’s an invitation to engage with Jesus. There have been many doors I have gone through in my time that have opened new futures for me. I think of the door of the church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, or the tiny door into the Gallarus Oratory on the Dingle Peninsular in Ireland, or the great West doors of the Abbey on Iona in Scotland. I think of the departure lounge at Tullamarine and the doors into an aircraft, the doors into university, the door in the church where I was married, or the doors into the hospitals where my children were born, the doors into many people’s homes, the doors of the church. What are the doors that have opened you to new beginnings and where you have found a deeper and more enriched life?