Thoughts for Easter 4

“I am the gate”. In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus says, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (v10) Change the ‘they’ to ‘you’, and say that verse out- loud to yourself. “I came that you may have life, and have it abundantly.” Does it ring true, especially in the time of the pandemic? I guess it depends on how you view life. If you are a glass half-empty sort of person, then the days we face now might not feel as if life is in abundance. However, if, for you, the glass is half-full, then maybe you might feel more positive. The longer this goes on, the closer we are to the lock down coming to an end; at some point we will be able to meet again, to hug our loved ones, to celebrate all the birthdays and family events we have had to postpone over the last few weeks. And we have homes in which we can stay safe; we have access to heat, to water, to food, to ways of communicating with friends and family. Our lives may not be abundant now, but we do have so much to be grateful for. One of the things people repeatedly tell me is how they have become aware of the birdsong. We’ve noticed this too, and I truly count it as a blessing. It brings me more into line with God’s creation. I’ve had time, on my walks, to notice how the trees change from bud, to blossom, to leaves – things I knew happen but I’d never taken the time to truly notice. But we can’t take away the pain the pandemic brings. We can’t bring loved ones back, nor can we escape the images on our television screen of scenes in intensive care units. We can’t remove the pictures we see of hospital staff in full PPE; of care staff or pharmacists all wearing protective masks at the very least. The pandemic has changed our lives. In today’s Gospel, Jesus tries to explain his parable about the sheep and the gate. The emphasis here is on the gate, not the shepherd. If the gate is shut, the sheep are safely in, but the writer Jane Williams says that this story’s prime interest is the gate itself. She writes, “… the open gate allows the shepherd to come in, and it is the open gate that leads to the life-giving pastures.” Jesus, as the gate, offers us something more than safety. He offers us abundant life so that we can brave the sheepfold and go out into the wider world. Is the virus the thief that comes to destroy? Jesus promises us life in abundance. We may not be living the life we would like, but we can turn to him. Even in these days of ‘lockdown’ we can experience his love and look outwards rather than inwards. Today’s Psalm is Psalm 23, and the psalmist takes seriously the reality that life can be demanding. Read the psalm; it suggests that the troubles of life (the wilderness and the shadow) are in God’s care. The psalm says that as we journey with God, our cup shall be full. Maybe these times of wandering in the wilderness are journeys of restoration. Each day is a gift from God. Even in such days as these when many of us are in the wilderness, each day offers new opportunities to go through the gate and to be restored. As ever, you remain in my prayers. God bless. Anne
— Janet Taylor
Sun, 3 May 2020