“He calls his sheep by name and leads them out.” John 10:3
My mother died 10 years ago, but I can still hear her call my name. It may come in a dream, or as I am praying, or perhaps cutting vegetables, I hear the call, “David!” Sometimes the voice is sharp, at other times soft, like snow falling gently on fallen leaves. Sometimes that voice is present in the call of another, Christy or a friend. My mother’s voice awakens me, calls me to attention, reminds me of who I am. The call comes to me in the midst of my busyness, or in the quiet of the morning. And I respond: I know her voice and trust it — even after she is gone.
Jesus calls too. Jesus calls you by name. Have you heard his call? To be a follower of Jesus (a sheep) is to know Jesus’ voice. Jesus will call in the kindness of a friend, in the beauty of this spring day — in the greens of the grass, the yellows of the rose, the orange setting sun. This voice, however it might come, is the gate, the invitation into the world that God has created, this world of crayfish and crocodiles, birds and trees, the joy of a child tasting honey for the first time. “Softly and tenderly,” says the hymn, “Jesus is calling.” But, not just the soft and tender. Jesus calls in the crashing thunder, or in the hunger pangs of a child with nothing to eat. Jesus calls in all of your life, calls you by name into your life. This is the gate.
When I hear the divine calling I hear neither with my ears nor with my understanding. It is as if Jesus has me on his wavelength and my heart resonates, vibrates, in sympathy with his call. I awaken, my heart resounding with the with the voice of the shepherd. This is to enter the sheepfold, to be at one with Christ, and as Paul would put it, “hidden with Christ in God.”
Jesus says a curious thing in John’s Parable of the Good Shepherd. He says that he gives his life for the sheep, so that he might take it up again. This giving up to take it up, is central to our spiritual lives. As our hearts resound with the call of Christ, all sorts of junk falls away — resentments we have held for decades, desires for revenge, the desire for power, our craving for things, the ways that we hold ourselves separate from life, seeking to grasp and hold onto our identity apart from life. As we relinquish our hold on our lives, as we give ourselves up we take something up — the abundant life. To give up is to take up.
Jesus’ call is to the abundant life. This is not the life of abundance, of over consumption, two cars in every garage. Jesus’ call is to the abundance that all life offers, that is present in all things, the high and the lowly, the plain cloth and the fine lace. As we hear the voice of Jesus, our lives open to this abundance.
Then the poet cries, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” (Mary Oliver, The Summer Day)
Mother’s Day on Sunday. See you in church.