4 Easter B—4/22/18
Psalm 23; 1 John 3:16-24; John 10:11-18
Pr. Scott Kramer
Friday is a day off together for my wife and me so this past Friday we decided to go see a couple of IMAX movies at Seattle Center that looked interesting. Normally we would drive but this time we decided to take light rail. We rode the train from Rainier Beach to Westlake. It was fun!
One of the reasons it was fun was that we got to see so much that we would miss if we were driving. The train doesn’t go all that fast so we saw all the new housing that’s going up along MLK Way, the beautiful paintings on buildings through the SODO district, and the variety of people who got on and off the train along the way.
Once we got off the train we walked the mile and a half from Westlake to Seattle Center. Again, we saw a lot that we would miss if we were driving. We saw the Amazon Spheres. We saw new housing and restaurants in Belltown.
With all the rapid changes taking place in our city these days, it was good to spend a little time actually seeing and experiencing those changes!
A few weeks ago a friend of mine sent me a link to an online video called “Godspeed.” It’s the true story of an American pastor named Matt Canlis who moved his family to Scotland where they lived for thirteen years. One of the big shocks Matt experienced early on was the pace of life. This was a remote Scottish village where they lived and pretty much everything and everyone was within walking distance.
“Godspeed” is what we say as a blessing to someone who is setting out on a journey. But Pastor Matt uses the term in a different way. He asks, “What is God’s speed?” In other words, just how fast does God move? And his answer is, “Three miles per hour.” God’s speed is human walking speed. Walking from house to house, shop to shop, he experienced the presence of God through conversation and the stories of those whom he met.
Pastor Matt observes that this is the pattern that Jesus followed. Always on the move, but slowly; taking time to stop and talk, to listen and learn, to eat and sleep, to offer hope and healing to people in need. God’s speed, it seems, is three miles per hour. Apparently, it’s about as fast as humans can travel while noticing the ways of God, including the ways of the natural world.
Today is Earth Day, a good time for God’s people to pause and reflect on the natural rhythms of our world. Nature doesn’t tend to move quickly. The seasons take their time.
It’s also Good Shepherd Sunday. The shepherd and the sheep in Jesus’ story follow the natural rhythms of the world. They don’t move quickly. They take their time.
To move at God’s speed means taking time to notice. People moving through life at God’s speed, for example, notice with wonder and gratitude and awe the incredible gift of God’s good Earth. People moving at God’s speed also notice that this good earth is changing rapidly in response to human pressure.
IMAX movies, as you know, offer the big picture–literally. Part of the big picture we experienced on Friday was about pandas, and how human development continues to threaten their survival. The other big picture movie we saw was about the oceans. Again, we learned about how human activity is creating stresses on our oceans that have impacts not only for plants and animals but people, as well.
To travel at God’s speed means to notice not only beauty and goodness, but also unpleasantness and danger along the way. On our trip into Seattle last Friday, we noticed from the train and from the sidewalk trash and graffiti that we might have missed had we been driving our car.
This was Jesus’ life, as well. As he walked from town to town he encountered pain, suffering and danger. To travel at God’s speed doesn’t mean avoiding danger. In fact, the uncomfortable aspects of life in the world might come closer and into sharper focus. The difference is in how we respond. In today’s reading from John Jesus speaks of a hired hand that runs at the sight of wolves, leaving the sheep in danger. But the Good Shepherd goes so far as to stay and confront the wolves, laying down his life if necessary.
People of God, we are faced with the same wolves that people in all times have faced: the wolves of fear, cynicism, apathy, denial, greed, and ignorance all threaten to take us down. We can choose, for example, to ignore or deny climate change. We can choose to believe that “experts” or future generations will sort out threats to the natural world. Or, we can choose instead to follow the example of the Good Shepherd; we can confront our fears and resist the temptation to abdicate responsibility. Laying down our lives might mean simply making choices that serve the well-being of generations yet unborn.
But for people who travel at God’s speed, this is not some unbearable burden. Over the course of a lifetime we learn to follow the natural rhythms of the world, which are gradual and manageable. As the days and months and years go by, we notice the world we live in, and learn, and adjust our thoughts and habits.
To make big changes all at once can seem frightening and overwhelming. But traveling at God’s speed can lead us to change constantly and gradually. For example, making constant adjustments to our beliefs and habits may lead to the conviction that Earth Day is not an annual event. Habits of stewardship built up gradually over time, patiently, day by day—at God’s speed–mean that Earth Day is every day. In the midst of an anxious world constantly worn down by the latest headlines, the example of quiet but courageous faithfulness among God’s people may be just what the world needs.
Dear friends in Christ, what if the greatest lesson we can take away from this Good Shepherd Sunday—this Earth Day–is the value of natural rhythms for the healing of our Earth and the healing of our souls? What if the Good Shepherd’s great gift to our weary souls is God’s speed?