15 May 2011 4th Sunday of Easter
Acts 2:14-41; Psalm 23; 1 Pt 2:20-25; John 10:1-10
Salvador was dazed and disoriented. After being rounded up by the border patrol while driving, he was detained for a year because he couldn’t show them his legal papers. He was from Chihuahua, a state in Mexico, and crossed the border unauthorized. Two days before he was sentenced for deportation to Mexico, his wife gave birth to a boy which he never saw.
I met Salvador the day he arrived at the Deconcini gate in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. After given a ticket by the immigration officer for a free bus ride back to his hometown, he headed to the Comedor, the feeding center of the Kino Border Initiative (Please LIKE our page here). I was serving deported migrants at the Comedor.
The story of Salvador at his most vulnerable is shared by many other migrants who come to the Comedor or Dining Area twice every day. They have their own stories to tell, and we meet them at the darkest and lowest point in their life. It is at this point that I begin to wonder about the lost sheep and the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. These are, literally, the lost and the least in the fold.
The image of the Good Shepherd is ancient in the Christian church. In Rome, wall paintings of the Good Shepherd are found in the catacombs. Though I can imagine how the image can be lost to the present generation, I wonder why the image continues to inspire us. When shepherding was a common occupation in the time of Jesus, the image understandably have potent power then. But even at present when shepherding is left to a few, its communicative power remains.
I think the image gains its power because of the growing number of people who can identify with the lost sheep. We have in many different ways reached the point of Salvador. When we are at our lowest and darkest or when we feel abandoned, ostracized and alone, we find ourselves attracted to an image of protection. And thus, many of us say that we often remember the Lord and seek His Presence when we are suffering. We say that people who are proud will return to the Lord sometime — just wait for a tragedy to happen.
But the story of the Good Shepherd and an image of the same story like the Woman Who Lost a Coin tell us otherwise. It is not the lost sheep (or the lost coin) who looks for the Shepherd, but it is the Shepherd who looks for them. He is the one who comes to the lost; as the Woman who searches for the coin that doesn’t move from where it has fallen (Don’t we feel paralyzed at the enormity of our burdens?)
And so the point today: I think that we experience God when we are at the lowest point in our lives not because we search for Him. Or being problematic, we go the church to beg God to hear our prayers. That makes God like a necessary crutch. Or, when our prayers are not answered the way we want it, He becomes another person to blame.
God comes to us in our most vulnerable state, because our defenses are down. God has always been with us, accompanying us, even if we don’t give Him the attention. He is always there, even if we deny His presence. Think of a wall: when it is destroyed, anyone from the other side can come to you. Put yourself in God’s shoes: when we want to help a friend, but the friend does not want it, we will not be able to lend our hand. I believe, this is how God comes to us when we are lost. He is the one who finds us.
Proof: the photo you see in this blog is Salvador praying to his “Salvador” (Savior).