Do you remember when you were quite small and at primary school, older people would often say to you:
“Never forget, your school days are the happiest of your life.”?
That used to puzzle me, especially when things weren’t going too well. I can see now how I was really being told that as I grew older I would have a lot more to worry about; but of course it wasn’t put quite like that.
It was also common to be asked “What do you want to be when you leave school?” and that wasn’t so bad. I can’t really speak for little girls, but I expect lots of them would say “a nurse” or “a teacher.” However, I can speak for little boys, and I know most of them at one time or another would answer by saying that they wanted to be a train driver. The interesting thing is that, when I was small, it would have been very rare for a child to have been attracted to a particular job because of its salary, or because of the fame which was attached to it.
How things have changed!
You can’t turn the television on today without stumbling over a so-called “reality show”.
The X –factor; Britain’s Got Talent; The Voice; and I’m sure you could think of others.
Now, many of the contestants do have talent, but the vast majority of them don’t. They just want to be famous; they want “celebrity status”; and indeed it’s not uncommon today for a child to answer the question “What do you want to be when you leave school?” by actually telling you that they want to be a celebrity. They’re not much concerned about the type of work, but they’re very keen indeed on the money, the life style and the happiness which they think celebrities enjoy.
In today’s gospel reading Jesus said: “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” But what does He mean? Many people in our modern world would say that a full life is one which has all of the things which money can buy. That’s why the cult of the celebrity is so popular. Fame, and the money which it brings, are seen as the way to a full and satisfying life. But Jesus certainly didn’t mean that.
Perhaps most of us have sometimes wondered what it might be like to win The Lottery. I know I have, but when I day dream like this it’s good for me to be reminded of one of my most treasured possessions. No amount of Lottery money could buy it. Let me tell you what it is.
It’s a little hand-made envelope and I found it on the table when I sat down for tea one evening in May, 40 years ago. The front of the envelope had the word “Daddy” written on it in a child’s hand. It was from my eldest son, James, who was six at the time. I opened the envelope and inside there was a little note; it just said; “I love you.”
I don’t need to explain to you how the love of a child for his daddy is so amazingly precious. Celebrity status fades away in comparison. That little boy is in his mid-forties now, now but he still tells both me and his mother that he loves us. His younger brother does the same, and I thank God that my family has been blessed with so much love.
You see, love is the most precious thing there is, and when we’re blessed with human love it makes it easier to understand a little bit more about the love which God has shown us through Jesus.
We’ve just heard Jesus say “I am the Good Shepherd,” and this is one of seven sayings which he uses to tell us who He is in relation to us; indeed, who God is in relation to us.
You may remember Jesus also said;
“I am the bread of life; I am light of the world; I am the Way the truth and the Life; I am the Gate for the sheep; I am the True Vine; and I am the resurrection and the Life. “
These are all invitations into a lifelong relationship with Jesus, and they’re all statements of love.
A little while back I went to see “Les Miserables” at the cinema, and perhaps you’ll remember the closing scene when Valjean is dying. Let me remind you of a verse from the last song. It goes like this:
“Take my hand and lead me to salvation,
Take my love, for love is everlasting,
And remember the truth that once was spoken:
To love another person is to see the face of God “
You may believe then, that when, with love, we look into the face of Jesus we see nothing less than the face of God. The God who in Jesus, the Good Shepherd, laid down his life for his sheep.
This is a measure of God’s love for us.
I know that I would, without question, give my life for my children and grand-children; however, I would have to think long and hard if I was asked to do the same thing for someone else. But God did just this in Christ Jesus for all of us. He loves us that much; and it’s when the Holy Spirit moves us into a deeper understanding of this that we begin to appreciate what St John meant when he wrote;
“God loved the world so much that he gave his only begotten Son so that all who believed in him should not perish but might have everlasting life.”
A life whose final glory awaits us when we move through death into a greater awareness of it’s fullness in God’s presence. A life whose fullness has nothing to do with status or material wealth, but one which is overflowing with love.
A love which George Matheson described so well in his famous hymn, when he wrote:
O Love that will not let me go
I rest my weary soul in thee
I give thee back the life I owe
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.
A love-filled life which Jesus spoke of in the promise which we’ve been thinking about just now. The promise which he made when he said: “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full”