We continue our Via Transformativa theme of “You Crack Me Up!” During this quarter, we’ll be exploring how the Holy “cracks” us open to reveal the true divine, spirit that dwells within each of us.
This Sunday, May 6, 2018, we used music from Bruno Mars to learn how the Holy Spirit uses other people and our relationships to crack open our ego and allow us to ascend to our higher, divine self.
From the Hebrew Scriptures: Psalm 23: I fear no evil, for you are with me
From the Jesus story: John 10:1-10: He calls his own sheep by name
From A Course in Miracles, Chapter 7: The ego’s “enemy” is therefore your friend.
Song used in the Sermon: Count on Me, by Bruno Mars
In our Jesus story, we find our guy talking sheep. This seems to be Jesus’ favorite metaphor, referring to his followers as sheep.
Traditionally, of course, this passage has been read as yet another criticism of other religions. Tradition tells us that it’s only Jesus who can lead us through the gate of heaven and anyone who says Buddha, the millions of Hindu gods, or even the Flying Spaghetti Monster can bring you enlightenment is nothing but a thief and a bandit.
Reading the passage that way, however, robs it of its deeper power. This passage isn’t one touting Jesus’ spiritual supremacy – instead, it’s a pretty good primer on how to be an anam cara to everyone we meet in this world.
The image of sheep that Jesus likes to invoke is actually a fairly decent metaphor to describe people. Since few of us live on farms, or may have even grown up on a farm, a petting zoo is as probably as close as we get to a sheep these days. And, when you get near one, you realize, fairly quickly that they’re filthy, stinking animals. They are generally covered in mud and their own waste.
If you can get past that, you’ll probably notice that sheep aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed. They usually put themselves in unnecessary danger, simply because they are either suicidal or stupid. Either way, they don’t look out for themselves very well, but they are very adept at following, and they will follow the sheep in front of them no matter where it goes, even if it goes over a cliff.
Sheep also don’t see very well – they have poor depth perception – which is why they need a shepherd to help them find the gate, to poke and prod them so they can get in and out of the pen.
In short, Jesus says, people are a lot like sheep. When you get close to them, it becomes apparent that the clean outside mask they show to the world hides some fairly dirty secrets on the inside and for all our schoolin’ and degrees and things, we’re generally not the smartest animals on the planet. We put ourselves in unnecessary danger all the time, whether it’s skydiving or just getting in our car or in our shower every day. We also tend to follow others pretty closely – sometimes blindly – and our depth perception is not much better than a sheep’s. We all could use a little guidance from somewhere.
Which is where an anam cara can come in pretty handy. The Holy knows that if we can awaken our own soul, and nurture than inner anam cara that we all have, then we can become that shepherd that can help the other sheep in our lives. We can be that trusted voice that others hear and flock to because they know we have only their best interest and safety at heart.
There are other thieves and bandits out there, people who say they want to be our friend, but betray us in the end. An anam cara, however, is one who never betrays us, never leads us astray and never casts us out to the wolves. An anam cara is someone you can count on like one, two, three – that wonderful, wild companion who prepares the feast when the enemy strikes, that friend who awakens your soul, raids your fridge and leads you beside the still waters of life.
Here’s your assignment this week: I invite you this week, Jubilants, to become anam caras – to become a soul friend, not just to yourself, but to those feeling lost and lonely in this world. We all long for someone to understand us, to lift us up when we’re down and celebrate with us when life is abundant. Be that friend for yourself, be it for others, and you’ll find yourself surrounded by people who make your soul sing, and in that moment, you’ll want to say: “Oh, Yeah!”