Jesus is talking about sheep in the Gospel reading today, which means he is talking about us. Jesus says that his sheep know his voice, they come when he calls, they follow where he leads. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, and we have the lovely stained glass window in the All Saints Chapel, because those who hear His voice, those who respond to the call, those who follow, they are the saints.
How about this little flock of sheep, here at St Chads? How are we doing? Do we hear Jesus’ voice? Are we listening? Are we responding? Are we following? What does it mean to listening, responding and following in the 21st century, when we are down to a handful of people? What is Jesus saying to us, here and now?
In a few minutes, we will be having our Annual Parochial Church Meeting. That means we will be thinking about how things have gone over the last year. Have we had a good year, do you think? And what is it that we need to do to help us hear the voice of the Shepherd, so that we can respond more readily and follow more gladly? This is your opportunity to ask questions and to make suggestions about the way forward.
We are sheep who are called to be shepherds. Beyond our doors are people who need Jesus, the Good Shepherd: dozens of them, hundreds of them, thousands of them. And we have a treasure, the treasure that would transform their lives, but we keep it hidden, afraid to share it. Do you know what the treasure is? It is the love of God that we see in Jesus, in the way He died and rose again. The way forward for our church is to take the treasure into the streets of our community, to take God’s love out of the box and let it live.
We are such a small flock. That’s who we are. But even a small flock can make a difference. It’s no good being dismayed. Instead we must listen harder to the voice of Jesus, respond with joy when we hear Him calling, and follow Him even if he seems to lead us into unlikely places. And then, maybe, just maybe, we will start to see the transformation of this parish into the Kingdom of God. Because brothers and sisters, that is what we are here for.