"At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.’ Jesus answered, ‘I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.’"which is the conclusion of a longer discourse on Jesus the Good Shepherd found in the first half of John 10.
Jesus' bold claim, "The Father and I are one" remains problematic for many to this day. Let's face it, many cannot even accept that God exists, or they have a god that exists as a silent, higher power, personal or not, and that god is not one who makes himself manifest in human form.
The seemingly exclusionary words contained in this Gospel are also problematic to many. Read again,
"...you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep"
We, in the United States, live a pluralistic society, and those of us in the Episcopal church live in a church which has from its highest office endorsed a pluralistic theology. John 10 seems to be clear in claiming that eternal life is given to those who believe the testimony of Jesus' works and to those who hear Jesus' voice.
As to those who do not believe, and those who do not hear, and those who do not follow, it seems that the alternative is to perish.
In looking at the progression of belief seen in this reading, we sheep are led from what should be the easiest things to believe to the most difficult.
1. Seeing great deeds and miracles. (Seeing is believing)
2. Listening for the shepherd's voice. (Prayer and presence)
3. Following Him. (Discipleship)
4. Believing that He and the Father are one. (Yikes!)
All of these things may be stumbling blocks for some. Many churches are good about teaching # 2 and #3, but numbers 1 and 4 are often not brought before the congregation for the very reason that they may be the most difficult to believe (out loud) in today's society.
Far easier to talk about social justice... (and I promised I wouldn't say anything about the sermon I heard elsewhere in DUSC on Saturday).