Church of England Diocese of Birmingham Frankley

Penned In

3 May 2020, 2 a.m.

Six weeks in lockdown and I guess most of us are desperate to come out of our homes, go where we want and mix with those we love again. We were not designed to be cooped up.

Jesus speaks to us from John 10 about being safe penned in when we are with him in his fold. He is the gate to the fold and won’t let enemies enter.

Those who wished the sheep harm in ancient times would have to literally get over the shepherd’s body stretched across the doorway where he slept during the night.

Today we are penned in because of a virus that would steal kill and destroy our lives if we mixed freely. We are less afraid of wolves, lions and human thieves, than an enemy that is unseen which appears to be killing randomly.

Jesus speaks to us of a place of safety where we can be free from fear. When we come into his sheepfold, we have to come through him first because he is the gate by which we enter. He is also the means by which we are able to leave safely. Jesus is the good shepherd who lay down his life for the sheep.

He gave his life upon the cross to save us and keep us safe from sin. 1 Peter 2: 24 reads, “He bore our sins in his body on the cross so that free from sins, we might live to righteousness.”

The government is asking that we keep in our pens to save lives. If we go astray we may be infected and infect others. We are seeing doctors, nurses, care workers and ambulance drivers laying down their lives so that those infected by the virus might live.

Our sinfulness cuts us off from Jesus who said he has come so that we might have life. Sin is a much more dangerous enemy than COVID 19. We need to return, Peter says to the shepherd and guardian of our souls. We can do this by asking Jesus to forgive us and by following him

When we have a relationship with Jesus we are never alone. He says my sheep hear my voice and follow me. Being penned in is an opportunity to listen to Jesus, to read his word and to commit ourselves and those we love into his hands. As our values change, we can think about how our world might emerge a better place in which lives are placed before economics and consumerism as people have become more kind, gentle and less selfish.

Jesus does not save us from viruses or from suffering. Instead, God entered our world in Christ and gave us an example of how to behave when suffering comes. That does not mean that he wants us to suffer. His desire for his world is that we have the fullness of life, the life of abundant generosity he came to bring.

We will not be penned up forever. Jesus leads his sheep out into green pastures and besides still water. Whether staying at home or serving him in the world, we are safe in him. Let us follow as he leads us into all that is life affirming and good.

Risen Christ,

faithful shepherd of your Father’s sheep:

teach us to hear your voice

and to follow your command,

that all your people may be gathered into one flock,

to the glory of God the Father. Amen