Preached at an African liturgy at sea
07.04.2013 - 07.04.2013 61 °F
Homily preached by
The Reverend Hope H. Eakins
on April 7, 2013, the Second Sunday of Easter
at an African liturgy aboard the Silver Whisper in the South Atlantic
Worship on the SIlver Whisper is a little different today. We have hymns from South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe, and drums of many kinds; the Creed will affirm our belief in “Jesus who was always on safari doing good.” Things are very different from what we are used to, and at the same time, very familiar because all Christians worship the one God and Father of us all who sent Jesus to come among us as a Good Shepherd. “I lay down my life for the sheep,” he said “....so there will be one flock, one shepherd."
The flock to which Jesus calls us is not an institution but a community, and living in community is not an easy thing to do. We like the idea of a Good Shepherd who will call us by name, like the Silversea crew; we like having a shepherd who will lay down his life for us, but we don’t like being in a flock very much because then we are just part of a herd and because some sheep always wander off and get to be black sheep, and then the Good Shepherd leaves ninety-nine of us behind to go and rescue the one who has strayed, and bring it home because, he says, sheep belong in a flock.
The early Christians took their flock, took their community, very seriously. It was where they prayed and where no one was ever in need because they shared what they had. Like all Christian communities, it was also a place where people disagree and sometimes hurt each other, but they stay together because they can disagree and still love each other; they can disagree since they all belong to one family.
We are a little Christian flock here on this ship not because we have the same heritage or traditions or agree about everything. What makes us a flock is whose sheep we are. Jesus didn't say that any particular tradition or doctrine or people was the way, the truth, or the life. He said that he was and by following him we become his flock.
To be a Christian community then means that we follow the Good Shepherd and care for each other on our way. It means that when we are tempted to think we are the gatekeepers of God’s Kingdom and decide who’s in and who’s out, we remember we are not the ones who are supposed to decide because God sent Jesus Christ to do that for us. It means that when we see our brothers and sisters segregated into townships beside the road, or townships anywhere separated by class or gender or race or economic condition, we start working to break down the walls and open the gates because God’s Kingdom is big enough to hold us all. It means that we start sharing what we have because we are only as strong as the weakest of us. It means that we care for the earth because it belongs to every one. It means we love each other with all our hearts because ultimately we are all one flock with one Shepherd.