St. John.jpg

He Leadeth Me

John 10:1-10

The Rev. Jon Roberts

3 May

2020

Calvary Episcopal Church

Indian Rocks Beach, FL

1“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber; 2 but he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the gatekeeper opens; the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 This figure Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not heed them. 9 I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

The Lord is my Shepherd by Eastman Johnson, 1863

He leadeth me.
He leadeth me.
He leadeth me.
Do you hear that voice?
It is the call to freedom.
Follow it.
It is your choice.[1]

In this modern era it is hard to believe that slavery still exists. We live in a world where millions do not have a choice. According to the Walk Free Foundation’s 2018 Global Survey Index, there are 40 million slaves in the world. 25 million are forced into labor, 15 million are forced into marriage. That may only be a half of a percent of the entire world, but think about it when you go to buy that laptop or mobile phone, or you go to order those shoes or T-shirt online. The US bought $320 billion dollars worth of goods in 2018 from countries that use this slave labor to make profits. Countries like North Korea or East Africa (Eritrea) where one out of ten people is a slave. [2]
I wonder if they hear that voice? I wonder where they are going? I wonder if they have a choice?

There is a beautiful illustration of hope for the slave. You can find it in the Smithsonian museum in Washington, DC. You have to get up close to it. It is small; an oil painting on wood, about 16 inches tall and 13 inches wide. You have to look closely. It is dark but you can tell there is a man, sitting in a chair. You can’t get a good look at his face, but enough to see his outline, his hair, to know that he is a black man, sitting, reading a book. I use the expression black man, because of the context of the painting. Eastman Johnson, who many believe is the American Rembrandt, painted this in 1863, only a short while after Lincoln freed all the slaves on paper, who lived in the south or even in the north. Slavery you see can happen in two ways. You can be taken against your will, or you can volunteer to it by choice. This man in the painting had a choice. Looking closer, his shoes and a blue coat reveal that he most possibly was an enlisted soldier in the Colored Man’s unit of the Union Army. The book he holds is the Bible and word has it that he was reading from the book of Exodus. What is most striking is that he was reading. In the South it was a crime to teach a slave to read, although the Bible was often read. In the North it was an imperative that the slaves be taught to read. That way they could be trained to work.
I wonder if this man heard that voice?
I wonder where he was going? I wonder about his choice.

This day is called “Good Shepherd Sunday” as we hear a passage of scripture from the Gospel according to St. John about Jesus and his metaphor of being “The Gate.” In these first ten verses, Jesus refers to the sheep behind the secure, rock-placed walls of the sheepfold as having a choice in what voice to listen. I do wonder why it’s Good Shepherd Sunday when Jesus does not actually announce he is that person until verse eleven. It is interesting that those who designed the lectionary readings did not just include that verse. Instead the emphasis is on being led. It is on listening to the voice. It is on distinguishing that which is false and that which is true. Beware there is a ravenous wolf who will go so far as to put on sheep’s clothing, climb over the wall, to create fear in order to lead. Do not follow that voice.[3]

There is no surprise that the other readings chosen for today include the 23rd Psalm, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” and by following that voice we are led by green verdant pastures and still waters; a place of peace and quiet. During this time of a current pandemic (Covid19) there is little peace and quiet and many of us sheep are anxious to get out of the walls of the sheepfold. Others are fearful. You can see how easy it is to get scared and confused. What voice do we listen? Where are we going? What choice do we have?

St. Peter said that in order to follow the voice that leadeth us to peace, we must endure suffering as Christ did. When abused, he did not return abuse. When he suffered, he did not threaten. By his wounds we are healed.[4] When we suffer for doing what God has called us to do, then it has God’s approval. Slavery and Freedom go hand in hand. Peter prefaces by saying we are to, “act as freemen, but do not let your freedom be a covering for evil, but be bondservants for God.”[5] Does not St. Paul even tell us that we are supposed to be slaves for Christ?[6]

When we are enslaved, whether it is for doing good, a victim of tyrrany and oppression, or whether for doing bad, choosing a sinful course, God will permit the gate to be open or shut. God will allow the occassional wolf in sheep’s clothing to walk in our midst and stir anxiety and fear. But it is the voice of the Good Shepherd that leads us. Let us not forget nor forsake this whatever our circumstance may be. It is the Shepherd’s desire to lead, and it is our purpose to hear and to obey.

He leadeth me.
He leadeth me.
He leadeth me.
Do you hear that voice?
It is the call to freedom.
Follow it.
It is your choice.


[1] The Rev. Jon Roberts
[2] World Magazine, Dispatches on 4/11/2020, p. 15.
[3] John 10:1-10
[4] 1 Peter 2:19-25
[5] 1 Peter 2:16
[6] Ephesians 6:6

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