I grew up in West Texas, the Lubbock area, and there are miles and miles of fenced pastures and farms all along the countryside. They seem to be endless, stretching as far as the eye can see over the flat mesa. My aunt owned a small cattle ranch in New Mexico, and once I was old enough to drive, I went there every weekend to help out.

There were very few gates on her property, but there were a ton of cattle guards. These guards are depressions in the road covered with bars placed at just the right distance to let a car or truck drive over, but too far apart for a cow to walk through. In all of the time I spent on that ranch I never once saw a cow try to cross the guards.

In the Gospel lesson for this week, Jesus self describes as the gate. The gate to the sheep pen which allows the sheep to leave the pen and go out into the world so that they can graze in those green pastures described in Psalm 23. Far too often, we think of a gate as something that shuts us in, keeps us safe from the outside, instead of a place of exit into a bigger world. (Jill Duffield has a great article on gates in this week’s looking into the lectionary)

My mind wondered how often we not only think of Jesus as a way to protect us Christians from the mean pagan outside world, but we have often let our identity of Christ-followers to act like a cattle guard. No one dares to step outside of the safety of the pen because we might break a leg trying! We let the church use Jesus as a cattle guard keeping us from stepping beyond our boundaries and fears, instead of letting Jesus be our way to access those in need of someone to follow to Christ.

Perhaps we need to be more like the christians in the Acts account; they shared all that they had with each other, caring and giving, yes. But their giving and sharing was not limited to those who were already in the pen with them. God was constantly adding to their numbers because they constantly went through the gate of Jesus into the world.

  • What things are you struggling with for this week’s RCL?
  • What images of gates come to your mind? Are they helpful or harmful to the image of Jesus as the gate?
  • Where have you witness people going out of the gate and making a difference in the world with Christ’s love?

Prayers lifted for all of us as we struggle with what to say to our congregations. (especially those serving congregations that are very comfortable in their own little pens, thank you very much!)

————————————————————————————————————————————————————–The Reverend Cardelia Howell-Diamond is the solo pastor of a Cumberland Presbyterian congregation in North Alabama. On her blog, Randomrevhd, she is currently reading through the Bible in one year and trying to blog every day about what she reads. (Key word, trying) Cardelia has also written a series of discussion based Bible studies called Intersections: Where Faith and Life Meet, which is available through the Cumberland Presbyterian Denomination and Amazon.

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8 thoughts on “Cattle Guard Jesus

  1. I’m struggling with the John text and the fact that we are called to go out and convert…or at least that’s what I’m hearing, and I find that very limiting in this post-modern, inter-faith world. How do I encourage my congregation to go out into the world and love their different neighbor without trying to convert them?

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    1. faithfullyangry- I can see where that would be a struggle. I tend to think of it as sharing the truth of Jesus, that is love, with all others and allowing them to experience that love as well. Jesus, in this particular passage, does not say that those outside of the pen are doomed, but rather invites the sheep who know him to trust him when walking throughout the world, even, and I’d argue especially, in the midst of those who do not ascribe to that same belief.
      I think it is more of the idea that really being one of Jesus’ fold mean not cloistering yourself off all of the time and entering into the world to make his love known beyond those four walls.
      Not sure if this is at all helpful, but thank you for letting us struggle along with you.

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  2. I was drawn by the call to have life abundantly… and have been having a very difficult time finding any resources that focus on this verse of the passage! I’m thinking of all the ways in which our life can be abundant (love, time, health, etc), how abundance is not the same as excess (rain whenever needed, but never flooding), and how our needs/abundance/excesses intersect with others’ needs/abundance/excesses. But I’m still very early in the writing process. Any ideas for me?

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  3. canoeistpastor, i am also thinking about abundant life. here is a link to an article.
    i am pairing it with the Acts reading, about life together. i am sure i will fit in Psalm 23 somewhere, previously i have used it as an affirmation of faith.

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  4. David Lose focused on abundant life in a post on “Dear Working Preacher” posted May 8, 2011.

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