The Reverend Elizabeth Bowyer
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Reflection for Easter 4

Opening Prayer:  Shepherding God, may the words on my lips be acceptable in your sight as we reflect together on your holy Word for us this day.  Amen.

Actions speak louder than words’ is a figure of speech that popped into my mind as I prepared for this morning’s reflection based on our readings for this, the fourth Sunday in the season of Easter. 

This figure of speech popped into my mind as a memory from my travelling days as a young woman found me and I recalled an act of great courage that played out right before my eyes. 

As it happened, many, many years ago when I was in my early twenties’, my father and I were being escorted to the train station by a distant cousin and his two small boys. 

As we made our way to the platform, I noticed my cousin’s wee boy making a mad dash for the train tracks just as our train was pulling in. 

In what seemed more like luck than judgment, my cousin raced after his wee son placing himself as a barrier between his young lad and the train track. 

Fortunately, no one was hurt and though nothing more was said at that moment, I remember to this very moment my cousin’s willingness to lay down his life for his wee son.

Indeed, actions do speak louder than words! 

Later on that same journey, I marvelled to my father about what we had just witnessed. 

In his own taciturn way, my father shrugged and nodded.  “He did what any parent would do in the same circumstance.”  And, then more quietly, he said “I would have done the same for you if need be.” 

At that stage of life of my then young life, I considered myself pretty invincible and not in need of anyone laying down their life for me.  Still, my father’s quiet acknowledgment of his self-understanding as a parent and his devotion to my well being has long since informed my own life. 

Further to that, his words have shaped and modelled my own self-understanding as a mother over the many years since we had that meaningful conversation.

Turning now to our stories from scripture this day, that figure of speech, ‘actions speak louder than words’ comes to mind again as we reflect on their meaning for our personal lives and our life as a Christian community.

In our first reading from the early Church founders we have a story of life as it was for those first followers in the Way of Jesus.

It’s a story of their courageous and faithful living some 60 or so years after Jesus has walked the earth and as they eagerly await his return. 

Devoting themselves to the apostles’ teachings and pooling all their resources for the common good, they met regularly for fellowship, prayer, and the breaking of bread together in community.

Such actions, we’re told, resulted in the Lord adding to their number. 

And I am reminded again-oftentimes actions do speak louder than words!

Our good news from the gospel according to John this morning does, in fact, take that figure of speech in the opposite direction. 

Here, in this passage from John’s gospel entitled Jesus, the Good Shepherd, his words seem to speak as loudly if not more so than his actions.  

But that’s a common pattern in John’s gospel, isn’t it? 

Water is turned into wine and is then followed by a lengthy discourse on what really happened.  

Five thousand are fed and a lengthy discourse follows.

This morning’s reading is set in the aftermath of Jesus’ healing a blind beggar on the side of the road.  

In response to the criticism both he and the now transformed man experience as a result, Jesus offers his own interpretation of the event.

His audience of listeners is thought to consist of a mixed community of folks, perhaps the disciples themselves along with the Pharisees, the religious leaders of the day, and of course, us gathered together here in community to listen and learn this morning.

Though not exactly an encounter story in keeping with the usual encounter stories we visit during the season of Easter, the reading does clarify for us Jesus’ self-understanding and his role as the One, who, sent by God, would lay down his own his own life so that others might live life abundantly. 

Just like the good shepherd who would go so far as to make himself a physical barrier between his flock and all those who would bring it harm, Jesus describes himself here as the quintessential bridge or intermediary or gateway to the possibility of life being lived in all its lavish abundance.

To my listening ear, this morning’s story from John’s gospel is also an invitation to each one of us to understand ourselves as named, claimed, called and commissioned by God through Jesus to work together as partners, as co-shepherds if you will. 

Our task? 

To be built up for the work of tending our flocks who will then be intentional about the living out of this good news in the wider community.

Will our actions speak louder or as equally loudly as our words about who and whose we are? 

Or will our words bear witness to our experiences of the risen Christ, alive and well, and thriving in our midst?

And how will we be about this purposeful sharing of abundant life?

One place to begin might be to understand Sunday worship, not so much as our destination but our resting place. 

What would happen, for example, if we were to view our Sunday Worship service, like its own sheepfold-a place to nourished for our work in the world as the body of Christ?

What if we were to view our Sunday Worship as the place where all who hunger might come to be fed for the journey and prepared for the more challenging work of walking the talk of our faith beyond the margins of our church property?

What if indeed?

What might that mean for balancing our actions and our words?

What might that mean for our broken and ailing world?

What I do know is this:  There is no doubt that we live in a world full of conflict, persecution, and inter-faith tension.

We live in a fear-filled unjust, chaotic, uncertain, and confusing world that can easily swallow up all our best intentions to walk the talk of our faith.

I also know that with Jesus as our model, we, can respond. 

We can become faith-filled models of abundant love shared in ever widening circles of community and grace. 

Let us springboard from our own experiences of Christian community so evident at our annual congregational meeting Sundays; at our monthly Wednesday community lunch meals, and our most recent Exploring Faith luncheon on the topic Who is Jesus for you?

This morning, like those first followers in the Way, let us take nourishment and hope as we anticipate blessing and breaking and sharing the bread and the symbolic wine in the sacrament of communion this day.

Let us continue to reflect on how Christ’s love informs and shapes our life in community and how our actions and our words might be used to share the good news of Jesus who came and walked among us that we might have life and have it abundantly. 

Within and beyond these walls.

My fondest prayer for the beloved community at Knox is that this may be so.  Alleluia!  Amen.