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Bible Study: Easter 4 (B) – 2012

April 29, 2012

The lessons for this Fourth Sunday of Easter are surprisingly synergistic. The Good Shepherd passage, which is divided up over the three-year lectionary cycle, is just one of several “I am” passages in the fourth gospel. We are so familiar with these passages that it is easy to overlook what would have been perfectly obvious to those early Jewish Christians who first heard or read John’s gospel. The words “I am” are theologically loaded for Biblical Faith, and it may be argued that they are the very ground of Biblical Faith itself.

When Moses is confronted by a Burning Bush that speaks, he is instructed to take off his shoes. Be sure to search Youtube for a version of the Woody Guthrie ballad, Holy Ground. Guthrie makes the shrewd theological observation that wherever we stand is Holy Ground – that is, we are always standing before the God of the Bush wherever we are, whatever we are doing. There is just no hiding from that. Taking off our shoes seems to be a metaphor of both respect and humility, two virtues in short supply in today’s world. As Moses gets his orders to lead the Great Escape from the Evil Empire, he intuitively knows that the people are going to want to know just where these instructions are coming from. The answer, as we all know, is “I am who I am. … Tell them I Am sent you.”

Fast forward to Jesus, who in the fourth gospel is already identified as the Word, the logos; and that the Word is not only with God but is God. To bring that home, Jesus repeatedly is portrayed saying, “I am …” In a culture that reads and re-reads the Torah once a year, in a culture that spends several nights at the dinner table reviewing the Great Escape during Passover, it would be as strong a signal as any as to just who this Jesus really is. Which then tells us that the Good Shepherd who knows us each by name is in fact the same God who spoke to Moses from the Bush. Which, of course, is the same God who in Genesis 2 picks up a handful of dust, breathes into it, and voila! We are created.

Nothing has come into being that has not come from the Word who is the Good Shepherd. In this electronic age in which we become more isolated despite the promises of online community, it comes as a great comfort to know that the God of Creation, the God of the Passover, the God on the Cross, knows us, cares about us and loves us so personally. We are God’s Beloved. God is well pleased with us. How can we not shape our lives to reflect this Love in all that we say and all that we do? It is not our task, it is our privilege, if only we will take off our shoes and accept our Belovedness from the one who calls us each by name.

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Christopher Sikkema


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