Sometimes (OK, regularly) I get irritated when people don’t talk straight. So often we use euphemisms, skirting around issues, hesitating to just ‘spit it out’ and say what we’re really thinking. I know dancing around an issue can be an attempt to soften saying something difficult, but we can on occasion then, entirely miss the point that needs to be made. It seems like Jesus is doing this in our reading from John that we’ll consider this Sunday. In only a couple of sentences he uses multiple metaphors to try to make a point: sheep-pen, gate, gate-keeper, sheep, shepherd, bandit, saviour, pasture, abundant life. Talk about ‘mixing your metaphors’! John tells us that because Jesus uses this ‘figure of speech’, his disciples can’t understand a thing he’s saying. And so Jesus tries to get more explicit in stating who he is.
I find this happens sometimes when people ask me what I believe. I can wax on eloquently using metaphors and theological concepts. But when really pressed, ironically, it’s much harder to say in a few concise words what I believe, than in multiple paragraphs. I wonder if the same thing happens for you? If a neighbour or co-worker were to ask why you go to church, or what you believe in so strongly that you would set the alarm every Sunday morning, I wonder how you would respond? What metaphors would you use?
To be clear – metaphors carry huge power. They can illustrate meaning with the precision of a sharp pencil drawing. But they also leave room for imagination, as does a faint water colour.
This Sunday we’ll consider the shepherd, and the sheep, the gate and the gate-keeper. We’ll even wonder about the bandits who call our names. Come join us, for singing, companionship, worship and clear language (or my best efforts).
And speaking of metaphors, beware of the cordon drawn around the church in order to keep the herd of BMO marathoners safe from our cars, canes and walkers. Leave yourself some extra time to get to church.