A commentary on the history, contexts, and meanings of the word "genius," in addition to articles on other related subjects and many new era Christian sermons.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

12 The One Door-II

12 One Door-II

Today's sermon continues a study of the Good Shepherd as presented in the parable of Jesus in Chapter ten of the Gospel of John. This sermon will comment primarily on the authority given to Jesus, by God, to be the one and only portal into the Heavenly Kingdom.

John 10:16-18:
"16. And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd.
17. On this account the Father loveth me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again.
18. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received from my Father."

This is taken from Calvin's Commentary:
"16. And I have other sheep. Though some refer this indiscriminately to all, both Jews and Gentiles, who were not yet disciples of Christ, yet I have no doubt that he had in his eye the calling of the Gentiles. For he gives the appellation fold to the assemblage of the ancient people, by which they were separated from the other nations of the world, and united into one body as the heritage of God. The Jews had been adopted by God in such a manner, that he surrounded them with certain enclosures, which consisted of rites and ceremonies, that they might not be confounded with unbelievers, though the door of the fold was the gracious covenant of eternal life confirmed in Christ. For this reason he calls those sheep which had not the same mark, but belonged to a different class, other sheep In short, the meaning is, that the pastoral office of Christ is not confined within the limits of Judea, but is far more extensive.

Augustine's observation on this passage is undoubtedly true, that, as there are many wolves within the Church, so there are many sheep without But this is not applicable, in every respect, to the present passage, which relates to the outward aspect of the Church, because the Gentiles, who had been strangers for a time, were afterwards invited into the kingdom of God, along with the Jews. Yet I acknowledge that Augustine's statement applies in this respect, that Christ gives the name of sheep to unbelievers, who in themselves were the farthest possible from being entitled to be called sheep And not only does he point out, by this term, what they will be, but rather refers this to the secret election of God, because we are already God's sheep, before we are aware that He is our shepherd. In like manner, it is elsewhere said that we were enemies, when he loved us,

Romans 5:10:
"For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life."

and for this reason Paul also says that we were known by God, before we knew him."

[Sidebar: This, as I have mentioned before, is the most astounding miracle of the Christ consciousness, i.e. that the Christ consciousness can take us all in, in a moment; that Jesus can love us all in a single impulse. This miracle is perhaps the prime motivation behind Jesus sacrifice. The fact that he knew us all before we were known ourselves, to ourselves, is the link between ourselves and him through his divine and infinite love. Thus the infinite love of Jesus, for us, is the motivation for his sacrifice; and it was the sacrifice which was the ceremonial act which sealed his relationship to us as Father, Brother, and Mediator between heaven and earth.]

Galatians 4:9:

"But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?"
"Them also I must bring. He means that the election of God will be secure, so that nothing of all that he wishes to be saved shall perish. For the secret purpose of God, by which men were ordained to life, is at length manifested in his own time by the calling, -- the effectual calling, when he regenerates by his Spirit, to be his sons, those who formerly were begotten of flesh and blood.

As to ceremonies, they are the middle wall of partition, which, Paul informs us, hath been thrown down. 
Ephesians 2:14:
"For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation,"

Thus, we have been associated with the Jews in the unity of the faith, as to the substance; and the ceremonies were abolished, that there might be nothing to prevent the Jews from stretching out their hand to us.

And there shall be one fold and one shepherd That is, that all the children of God may be gathered and united into one body; as we acknowledge that there is one holy universal Church, and there must be one body with one head.

There is one God, says Paul, one faith, one baptism. Therefore we ought to be one, as we are called into one hope,  
Ephesians 4:4-5:

"4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism,"

By the obedience of one many were made righteous,
Romans 5:19:

 "For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous."

[Sidebar: Notice that this scripture gets us closer to the crux of the matter by referring to the one act of obedience to the Will of the Father that redeemed Adam's original sin, and established the gateway between Heaven and Earth. The idea that a single act can have massive ramifications (Adam's fall) and that a single act (Jesus' sacrifice at Golgotha) can reverse those ramifications is the key to Jesus' authority as the One True Gatekeeper.

Furthermore, the implied Karmic balance is of supreme interest, since there has been much said about Jesus being the first and last Adam. If it were really true that a single act of disobedience brought the rule of Satan into the world, it is more than pleasingly symmetrical that a reincarnation of the same soul should expunge that infernal influence and open the way to Heavenly horizons.

One other slight side issue springs to mind over the problem of the one church in the one baptism: that is simply that the apostle speaking in this passage is really not aware of the extent of the global population of the world at this time. It would have been much easier to think of one church in one baptism over the then known world, than it would have if the apostle had known about the vast continents of Earth that were not then even yet imagined. The entire world as we know it now was not even thought in this statement about the one church. Therefore the parochial aspect of the newly formed Christian cult could not have even begun to take in the immensity of the principle, “the One Catholic Church”.

As I've said before the authority of Jesus over the entire world is unquestioned in my mind, except for the language. Jesus came to establish a spiritual edifice, not a social or political entity. As I've said many times, the language in which we express Christian concepts may in another land and in another language sound un-Christian indeed, but this does not mean that the Catholic Church spread out over all time and space is not a spiritual reality; it does not mean that religious souls in China are not in fact praying to Jesus whether they know it or not.

Hence the huge effort of the original Christians to read the good news in all lands might really have been as much an exercise in language training as it was spiritual training. Nevertheless involvement in the Christ impulse is an anomalous experience, and regardless of language we choose to express it in, the experience itself is anomalous, and cannot be mistaken for anything else. It's just a thought.]

Clarke's Commentary on John 10:2:
"He that entereth in by the door - Observe here the marks, qualities, and duties of a good pastor; The first mark is, that he has a lawful entrance into the ministry by the internal call of Christ, namely, by an impulse proceeding from his Spirit, upon considerations which respect only his glory, and upon motives which aim at nothing but the good of his Church, the salvation of souls, the doing the will of God, and the sacrificing himself entirely to his service, and to that of the meanest of his flock."

[Sidebar: As we get closer to the true significance of Jesus' sacrifice we will hear more and more about his love for us. His love for us is pure, unlike Satan's love for God which was tainted with narcissism. Jesus was quite canny in claiming the authority of the Christ, and yet always deflecting the attention away from Himself, either to the Father Who sent Him, or to the disciples whom He is sent to serve.]

Barnes' Notes on John 10:2:
"He that entereth by the door - This was the way in which a shepherd had access to his flock. In John 10:7 Jesus says he is the door. In this place he refers to those who by him - that is, in accordance with his spirit and law become ministers of religion.

Is the shepherd of the sheep - Christ does not here refer to himself, for he is the way or door by which others enter; but he refers to all the ministers of the gospel who have access to the church by him. In the original, the article "the" is missing before the word shepherd - "is a shepherd." By his entering in this manner he shows that he is a shepherd one who cares for his flock, and does not come to kill and destroy."

[Sidebar: Emphasize, "Christ does not here refer to himself, for he is the way or door by which others enter." This is important, because, as Luther says, even though the Father and Son are One, "The Son is of the Father, but the Father is not of the Son."]

Another Luther comment on this scripture appears in his Sermon for the Second Sunday after Easter; John 10:11-16:

"1. Today's Gospel has been appointed, I think, for this Sunday because Christ announces in it that he will lay down his life for his sheep, that is, suffer and die; and yet he also shows, at the same time, that he will rise again, in that he says: "Other sheep I have; them also I must bring" etc. For if he is to be and remain a shepherd of his sheep, he must not remain in death, as he himself afterward explains and interprets, in plain words: "I have power to lay my life down, and I have power to take it again."

2. The Jews indeed heard this parable and sermon of Christ, but did not understand it at all, as the context declares. It sounded altogether too strange in their ears that he alone should be the true shepherd, and yet he was in the act of laying down his life for his sheep. What kind of a shepherd, think they, was this to be, who would die and give his life for the sheep? Can that be called guarding and keeping the sheep?

3. In like manner it was an intolerable doctrine to them that he said he had other sheep which were not of this fold, that is, did not belong to the nation which alone was called God's people. These also he would bring, and of these, although they were not of this fold, there should be one flock, under one shepherd, regardless of what became of their fold and their shepherding. They understood very well what he meant by shepherd and sheep (for it was a form of speech familiar and current among them, especially from the Scriptures), namely, that he claimed to be a man who would teach and govern the people. But because, as they consider it, he puts forth his claim so unreasonably, wishing to be the shepherd alone and yet saying that he will lay down his life for the sheep and that he has still other sheep which he will gather and make one flock--notwithstanding that they, the Jews, refuse to be his sheep--they are offended in him and say that he is mad and that the devil speaks through him. They, nevertheless, understood this much, that his meaning was that their shepherding--that is, their entire government which they had from Moses, the Law, the priesthood, circumcision, the service of God, all appointed for them by God himself--should become void and henceforth count for nothing, and that he would institute something entirely new, in which he would be all in all and rule supreme and would gather a new flock of both Jews and gentiles, just as he should find those who would cling to him recognizing no one else, whether Judaism and its government, glory and existence should abide, stand or fall.

4. He makes matters still worse by saying, "I am the good shepherd," whereby he draws the people entirely to himself. He means to say, Dismiss the teachers and rulers you have, and take me for your shepherd. The very best of them, those who teach and profess Moses and the Law, he calls hirelings, who are to be forsaken and not listened to; without considering that other multitude, the thieves and murderers, that is, those who teach against God's Word and are public persecutors. Hereby he well deserves that they should execute him without sentence and grate, as a public-accursed blasphemer against God, God's Law and God's people.

5. Without doubt, the great lords, high priests, Pharisees, scribes and all that belonged to their spiritual government, defiantly boasted and bragged against all this: We sit in the true office and priestly estate, ordained not by Moses, but by God himself through Moses. How dare you, rebellious scoundrel, open your mouth before all the people and boast against God's ordinance and commandment, that you are the shepherd and you alone? You are not even of priestly lineage, of those to whom God, through Moses, committed this charge and whom he commanded the people to hear. And when did God, publicly before all the people, speak to you as he spake to Moses? Who are you, or where do you come from, that you dare, of your own authority, to utter such things and to apply to yourself alone all that has been said and commanded concerning the office of shepherd, thereby exalting yourself above and against Moses, the Law of God, the priesthood and all authority? Is not this both rebellious usurpation of the government and the crown by the whole people, and also blasphemy and sin against the divine Majesty?

6. To say, "I am the good shepherd," what else is it but to say: To me alone they must hearken, the whole flock of sheep. That is, the entire nation belongs to me alone. I alone am its shepherd, and the only good shepherd, who saves the sheep. You, however, are but hirelings, that care not for the sheep, seeking only your own in them and letting them perish in time of danger. In one word, this is to make the people revolt from them and to tell the people that they have no good shepherd or preacher who is faithfully-minded towards them or is able to save them and to whom they ought to give ear. "For my sheep," says he, "hear not the voice of a stranger." But he tells them, if they cling to him, they shall be saved.

7. Moreover, he not only says that he alone is the shepherd of these sheep, but that he also has another flock and people, who are not under the government of Moses but are altogether outside of this fold. These, also, are to cling to him, and all shall be alike to him, gentiles as Jews, and Jews as gentiles. This is now the most offensive thing of all, that he makes nothing of God's people and puts them, with their Law, priesthood and everything else, on a level with the gentiles, and the gentiles on a level with them, so that neither is better, of more importance or has more than the other. In short, it is equivalent to saying that all Moses instituted and ordained in the priesthood, temple and service of God is to come to an end and to pass away; that now there is a new priesthood and government, and a new shepherd has arisen, whose alone the flock is to be and who is to do all. This surely is knocking the bottom out of the barrel and taking the head off from all Judaism, depriving it of all its glory. Hereby he simply bids them to yield up their shepherdhood, to hear him alone and to suffer him to be all in all."

[Sidebar: From these remarks, it will be not be surprising as to why Luther is such a hero for me. He might be said to be the first great American Christian. Certainly, the democratic spirit that runs through these remarks concerning the authority of the church, and the ultimate authority of Jesus as the one door truth, is truly reminiscent of the good old American individualism. As I've said before, I am responsive and respectful of great teachers, but I would never substitute the authority of their spiritual experience for my own personal experience; therefore, the authority of the Pope, and the authority of church leaders would never ever become my ultimate guide in directing my faith toward a focal point. To me, Jesus is always the ultimate focal point, and through him all the details of belief, catechism, authority, and ceremony are made transparent.]

Wesley's Notes on John 10:3:
"To him the door keeper openeth - Christ is considered as the shepherd, John 10:11. As the door in the first and following verse s. And as it is not unworthy of Christ to be styled the door, by which both the sheep and the true pastor enter, so neither is it unworthy of God the Father to be styled the door keeper.  And the sheep hear his voice - The circumstances that follow, exactly agree with the customs of the ancient eastern shepherds. They called their sheep by name, went before them and the sheep followed them. So real Christians hear, listen to, understand, and obey the voice of the shepherd whom Christ hath sent. And he counteth them his own, dearer than any friend or brother: calleth, advises, directs each by name, and leadeth them out, in the paths of righteousness, beside the waters of comfort."

Clarke's Commentary on John 10:7:
"I am the door of the sheep - It is through me only that a man can have a lawful entrance into the ministry; and it is through me alone that mankind can be saved. Instead of, I am the door, the Sahidic version reads, I am the shepherd; but this reading is found in no other version, nor in any MS. It is evidently a mistake of the scribe."

[Sidebar: then confusion between the terms door and Shepherd is not a trivial one. In my thinking on this subject I keep coming back to the global significance of Jesus, the mediator between God and man. I keep imagining the Christ consciousness spread out over the entire collective unconscious of the world, leading into and drawing from every human mind its essential thought patterns and feeling emanations. It is such an overwhelming miracle to contemplate-- the wideness of the Christ consciousness, the inclusiveness of the Christ consciousness.

It is mind-boggling, and yet it is so easy to believe in, so easy to accept; since Jesus knows me so well, He must also know you; after that initial leap it becomes a matter of quantity, not quality. The Shepherd's voice is known by his sheep; It calls out, to all mankind, the same gentle seduction; all men in all languages hear this voice--and that is because it is not the language of the mind, but the language of the heart; and we understand that all men's hearts are equal before God. Thus, the Shepherd and the door are the same and yet different. The Shepherd calls, and the door embraces and enfolds the sheep. This may be a subtle distinction but it is a beautiful cosmic motion to contemplate from afar. And as it is an even more beautiful cosmic experience to take into one's life.

There's one more thing. What is it that gives the Shepherd's voice the power to penetrate the minds of all human beings. The source of this power, this authority, can only be thought of as coming from the sacrifice which Jesus, alone of all men in all times, made at a crucial point in history –an event which had never-ending consequences. Jesus bought and paid for this authority with His carnal life. We must never lose sight of the fact that it was Jesus’ blood, shed on Golgotha, that forged the link between Heaven and Earth. Our freedom to live in Heavenly light was purchased for the price of a magnificent death.]

Clarke's Commentary on John 10:11:
"I am the good shepherd - Whose character is the very reverse of that which has already been described. In John 10:7, John 10:9, our Lord had called himself the door of the sheep, as being the sole way to glory, and entrance into eternal life; here he changes the thought, and calls himself the shepherd, because of what he was to do for them that believe in him, in order to prepare them for eternal glory.

Giveth his life for the sheep - That is, gives up his soul as a sacrifice to save them from eternal death.

Some will have the phrase here only to mean hazarding his life in order to protect others; but the 15th, 17th, and 18th verses, as well as the whole tenor of the new covenant, sufficiently prove that the first sense is that in which our Lord's words should be understood."

Barnes' Notes on John 10:11:
"The good shepherd - The faithful and true shepherd, willing to do all that is necessary to defend and save the flock.

Giveth his life - A shepherd that regarded his flock would hazard his own life to defend them. When the wolf comes, he would still remain to protect them. To give his life, here, means the same as not to fly, or to forsake his flock; to be willing to expose his life, if necessary, to defend them. Compare Judges 12:3; "I put my life in my hands and passed over," etc.; 1 Samuel 19:5; 1 Samuel 28:21. See John 10:15. The Messiah was often predicted under the character of a shepherd.

Barnes' Notes on John 10:14:
"Know my sheep - Know my people, or my church. The word "know" here is used in the sense of affectionate regard or love. It implies such a knowledge of their wants, their dangers, and their characters, as to result in a deep interest in their welfare. Thus the word "knoweth," in John 10:15, is in John 10:17 explained by the word "loveth." Jesus knows the hearts, the dangers, and the wants of his people, and his kindness as their shepherd prompts him to defend and aid them.

Am known of mine - That is, he is known and loved as their Saviour and Friend. They have seen their sins, and dangers: and wants; they have felt their need of a Saviour; they have come to him, and they have found him and his doctrines to be such as they need, and they have loved him. And as a flock follows and obeys its kind shepherd, so they follow and obey him who leads them beside the still waters, and makes them to lie down in green pastures."

Wesley's Notes on John 10:14:
"I know my sheep - With a tender regard and special care: and am known of mine - With a holy confidence and affection."
Clarke's Commentary on John 10:18:
"I have power - Or, authority, εξουσιαν. Our Lord speaks of himself here as man, or the Messiah, as being God's messenger, and sent upon earth to fulfill the Divine will, in dying and rising again for the salvation of men.

This commandment have I received - That is, I act according to the Divine commandment in executing these things, and giving you this information."
Barnes' Notes on John 10:18:
"No man taketh it from me - That is, no one could take it by force, or unless I was willing to yield myself into his hands. He had power to preserve his life, as he showed by so often escaping from the Pharisees; he voluntarily went up to Jerusalem, knowing that he would die; he knew the approach of Judas to betray him; and he expressly told Pilate at his bar that he could have no power at all against him except it were given him by his Father, John 19:11. Jesus had a right to lay down his life for the good of people. The patriot dies for his country on the field of battle; the merchant exposes his life for gain; and the Son of God had a right to put himself in the way of danger and of death, when a dying world needed such an atoning sacrifice. This shows the special love of Jesus. His death was voluntary. His coming was voluntary - the fruit of love. His death was the fruit of love. He was permitted to choose the time and mode of his death. He did. He chose the most painful, lingering, ignominious manner of death then known to man, and thus showed his love.

I have power - This word often means authority. It includes all necessary power in the case, and the commission or authority of his Father to do it.

Power to take it again - This shows that he was divine. A dead man has no power to raise himself from the grave. And as Jesus had this power after he was deceased, it proves that there was some other nature than that which had expired, to which the term "I" might be still applied. None but God can raise the dead; and as Jesus had this power over his own body it proves that he was divine.

This commandment - My Father has appointed this, and commissioned me to do it."

[Sidebar: One of the primary conclusions of last week's sermon came from the excerpt we read from Kafka's The Trial: the conclusion was that for each of us there has been exclusively created the one door by which we may enter; we, ourselves, are our own personal one door, and Jesus, as mediator between Heaven and Earth, stands before that door. Jesus is the advocate between our lower and higher selves, and, just as we discussed before, concerning the final day of judgment: on that day we will stand before Jesus, and His Presence will evoke in us our own sense of virtue or guilt, and we will save or condemn ourselves, rightly, through the admissions of our own conscience.

Jesus is the one door because we ourselves, in the Christ Consciousness, are the one door. We are our own one door. Now, the idea that Jesus may lay down his life and then take it up again, is central to the whole idea of freedom which allows us to choose the open door or not. There will be much said in today's sermon about the ultimate bottom line of our career on earth-- the ultimate bottom line of our spiritual awakening into higher dimensions; and that bottom line is intimately linked to Jesus' statement that he has the freedom to choose or not to choose; indeed, this the very freedom that we must exercise ultimately in choosing the one door.

John 10:7-18 International Bible Lesson Commentary:
"No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”
"When Jesus died on the cross, the devil or wolves in sheep’s clothing did not take Jesus’ life from Him in the sense of being a victor over Him in death. Roman soldiers hanged Jesus on the cross to murder him, so they needed to be forgiven for their sin, and Jesus prayed they would be forgiven by His Father. But Jesus chose the exact moment of His death (when His atoning sacrifice was finished). Jesus also chose the exact moment to rise from the dead on the first resurrection Sunday. Because His Father commanded Him to do these things, Jesus chose His moment of death and the moment of His resurrection. By doing so, Jesus was obedient to His Father and not disobedient. Jesus obeyed His Father when He chose to remain on the cross and allowed himself to be mocked when some sneered, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him” (Matthew 27:42)."

The idea that Jesus had power to lay down his life where and when he chose, brings into question a sideline which has been much discussed among certainly New Age philosophers and more traditional Christians as well; that is the question of Judas. Even in the many will be versions of the crucifixion the part of Jesus is very often played in different ways. One of my favorite interpretations is the cutest was actually in league with Jesus as to the precise scheduling of his sacrificial crucifixion. It is not hard to interpret the words do what you must do quickly demesne Judas it's now time to put this final phase of the plan into operation. It's not unreasonable to think that Judas worked with the Christ organization to theatrical eyes the whole crucifixion event, not it is not trivial that that crucifixion took place at Passover the most sacred of Jewish holidays. So just as occasionally we are tempted to see Satan as a obedient servant of God, who coincidentally performs heinous, atrocious crimes against humanity, so it is not impossible to imagine Judas in a similar role as an obedient servant of Jesus. The question of it if this interpretation has any validity at all it calls into question the reason for Judas is hanging himself after is it was all over. Perhaps he did feel guilty perhaps he was doing it against Jesus wishes or perhaps the vision of his great love beloved Rabbi hanging suffering on the tree was too much for him and he succumbed under the weight of responsibility. Nevertheless it is a point which we will never know the truth until we enter the kingdom and talk to Jesus himself about it.

As you well know, my quest for a broad-minded inclusive theology has led me to Steiner, who often has mind-expanding insights into the broader global resonance of Christian events. Of all Steiner's writings it is his writing on the crucifixion of Jesus, and the significance of Jesus' taking responsibility for Original Sin that is the most fascinating and illuminating. However, in order to get at Steiner's interpretation of the crucifixion, we must first take in two principles which he insists are a part of the cosmic plan and they include the so-called Satanic and the Ahrimanic consciousness here in a nutshell is what these two things are

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

"The anthroposophical view is that good is found in the balance between two polar, generally evil influences on world and human evolution. Two spiritual adversaries endeavour to tempt and corrupt humanity: these are often described through their mythological embodiments, Lucifer and his counterpart Ahriman, which have both positive and negative aspects. Lucifer is the light spirit, which "plays on human pride and offers the delusion of divinity", but also motivates creativity and spirituality; Ahriman is the dark spirit, which tempts human beings to "...deny [their] link with divinity and to live entirely on the material plane", but also stimulates intellectuality and technology. Both figures exert a negative effect on humanity when their influence becomes misplaced or one-sided, yet their influences are necessary for human freedom to unfold."

It will immediately be apparent that the Satanic and Ahrimanic concepts of Steiner are very much like the William Blake theory of Contraries. Blake was very willing to accept activities of a wild and tempestuous nature (which indeed have a Satanic tang to them) as being actually virtuous expressions of an intellectual essence. Also, the Ahrimanic propulsion toward technology can be attributed to a large majority of the advances made in science in the Western tradition. Thus, it may be thought that the Satanic consciousness has a sort of an Eastern religion bias, while the Ahrimanic has a sort of Western civilization bias.

The following is from Steiner's:

The Gospel of St. John: The cosmic significance of the Mystery of Golgotha. The conquest of death through the expulsion of the Luciferic and Ahrimanic influence.
"Instead of the mirage of the senses, man should see everywhere and in everything about him the divine Father-principle to which he and all things belong. Thus the divine Father-principle does not show itself in its true form; by reason of the diminution of man's powers, of which we have spoken, it appears veiled in the great illusion or maya.

What is interwoven in this great illusion? Among all the facts which we apprehend, we are struck by one of especially fundamental nature — namely, Death. We must reflect that the outer things which present themselves to our senses are of a truth the Father-principle; they express the divine spiritual Father-element. And since death is interwoven in the whole world of sense, we look upon it as something belonging to the divine spiritual Father-element. Man's development having been such as it was, the divine Father-principle appears to him enveloped in many a veil, and last of all is the veil of death. What, therefore, must man seek behind death, as behind all sense-perceptions? He must seek the Father, the cosmic Father! As man must learn to say of everything: ‘It is in truth the Father!’, so he must learn to say: ‘Death is the Father!’ Why does the image of the Father appear to us distorted and disfigured to the extent of appearing as the illusion of death? Because the Lucifer-Ahrimanic principle is intermingled with our whole life. By what means, therefore, was it necessary to lead man from a deceptive, false view to a true conception of death?
It was necessary that man should be enlightened regarding death on the strength of facts. Something was necessary from which man could learn that whatever he felt and knew concerning death, all that he had been able to effect under the impulse of his conception of death was false. An event was to happen whereby the true form of death was made clearly perceptible to him; the false form was to be extinguished and replaced by the true form.
This was the mission of Christ upon earth: by His Deed to substitute the true form for the false form of death."

[Sidebar: There is another factor that Steiner dwells on elsewhere, and which I insert here: it is the factor of ceremony: in another place, Steiner makes much of the ceremony of shedding Jesus's blood. We often place too little emphasis on formality. When I took over the Director of Worship position at Basin Bible Church, I made sure to include a certain amount of ritual into our proceedings, just to make sure that the mornings where solemnized somewhat by the enactment of some traditional Christian rites.

In my concerts, the ritual of performance is enforced to elevate the event into more than an informal, trivial entertainment. Likewise, the ceremonial shedding of blood at Golgotha was the rite that necessarily created a transcendent relationship between Jesus and the whole of the Earth and her people. The heart and the commitment were already there, but without the blood, the relationship was not physicalized, spirit was not made flesh. We need to remind ourselves, every day, to notice how it is we, personally, bear the spirit of the Christ into the world as a living being.

Back to Steiner:]
"Now this Being did arrive upon earth, as we have seen, and did conquer Lucifer and Ahriman precisely at the right moment; He removed the cause of the presence of death in the world. Hence that Being was necessarily one who had nothing to do with any causes of death whatever among men. He must have had no part in anything that had been effected by Lucifer, and later by Ahriman, or which had been accomplished by individual men on earth in consequence of the Luciferic and Ahrimanic influence; in other words, He must have had no part in anything that had made man guilty and had caused him to fall into sin. For had that Being been subject to all these causes, there would have been grounds for the death which He suffered. But a death such as His, a groundless death, taken upon Himself by a Being without sin, an altogether guiltless death could alone annihilate all death due to guilt.

An innocent Being, therefore, was to suffer and become united with death. Having yielded Himself up to death, He brought into human life those forces which gradually and by degrees create for man the knowledge of the true nature of death — that is, the knowledge that death, as it appears in the world of sense, is devoid of truth, and that, if it came, it was for the sake of life in the spiritual world; indeed, it provides precisely the foundation for this life."

I think there can be no lower bottom line than death. As Carlos Castaneda says, the warrior's constant companion and final enemy is Death. Indeed, Castaneda has many pertinent things to say about death:

Journey to Ixtlan:
"Death is our eternal companion. It is always to our left, an arm's length behind us. Death is the only wise adviser that a warrior has. Whenever he feels that everything is going wrong and he's about to be annihilated,he can turn to his death and ask if that is so. His death will tell him that he is wrong, that nothing really matters outside its touch. His death will tell him, ?I haven't touched you yet.'
“In a world where death is the hunter, my friend, there is no time for regrets or doubts. There is only time for decisions.”

Don Juan: the Sorcerer:
“To seek freedom is the only driving force I know. Freedom to fly off into that infinity out there. Freedom to dissolve; to lift off; to be like the flame of a candle, which, in spite of being up against the light of a billion stars, remains intact, because it never pretended to be more than what it is: a mere candle.”

Journey to Ixtlan:
“The dying sun will glow on you without burning, as it has done today. The wind will be soft and mellow and your hilltop will tremble. As you reach the end of your dance you will look at the sun, for you will never see it again in waking or in dreaming, and then your death will point to the south. To the vastness.”

And as we search for reasons to justify Jesus' authority over man, His authority at claiming the role of mediator between God and man is the ultimate answer. His death forged the link between God and Man, and His death has, thereby, become the model for our death.

If there is anything all we human beings have in common: it is that we all die, that we all know we are going to die, and that we all have complex feelings about dying. Faith in Jesus is surrendering our doubts about death to the veil of unknowing, and, through faith, accepting death as the ultimate blessing bestowed on us by the Shepherd, Who brings us through that open door the, one and final entry into the Kingdom.

Let us pray: Jesus, you know that behind all our words of faith and trust, we still tremble with fear of the unknown. Please allay our fears, and lend us, each day, a glimpse of the glory you have in store for us. Now, we see through a dark glass, but reassure us that, by entering into your love, your grace will bestow on us the clarity, peace of mind, the serenity, and the acceptance--the kind of knowingness which will soften the edge on our fear of death, and invite us into your outstretched loving arms. Amen.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

11 The One Door-I

11 The One Door-I

Call to Worship:
Matthew 7:13-14:
"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."

John 10:1-18:
"1 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
2 But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
3 To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.
4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
5 And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.
6 This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them.
7 Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.
8 All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.
9 I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
12 But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.
13 The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.
14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.
15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.
16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
17 Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.
18 No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father."

It will be of some interest that, when I first began composing this sermon, I had a vivid hallucination—I remember seeing, and, when telling my friend about it, insisted that I had read “I am the ONE door.” I even started the sermon by writing at the top of the page, “The One Door.” Imagine my surprise when my friend PROVED to me that the text says, “I am the door,” but does NOT say, “the ONE door.” True there are plenty of implications further on that imply ONE door, but it does not SAY, “ONE DOOR”.

This hallucinatory projection resonates significantly in me because, some years ago, in my quest to find a liberal-minded, inclusive religion, I rebelled against the scriptures wherein Jesus says things like, “No one comes to the Father but by Me.” I figured that God was pretty much public domain, and, with religions all over the world promoting exclusive pathways to God, it seemed pretty arrogant of Jesus to insist that HE was the ONLY way. Indeed, even after I discovered Jesus, even after His Divine Personality, and Graceful Beneficence began to participate actively in my life, I still held out for the idea that, even though Jesus was turning out to be my main man, He might not necessarily have to be EVERYBODY’s main man.

Maturing, as I have, in spiritual experience, and, with the help of Steiner’s broad-minded explanations of the Christ-consciousness, I have come to grasp an essential refinement of the words “ONE and ONLY” when they are spoken by Jesus. Remember, that I have before suggested that Jesus was a man, like any other man, except that He was chosen (fated we must say) to become a focus of the Infinite Mind of God, and was therefore both transformed into a channel, a medium through which God was able to speak to Man, but also the Mediator between Man and God such that a two-way street was paved between Heaven and Earth and a kind of Heaven ON Earth was made possible. Through Jesus, the integration of Material and Divine Consciousness became a reality in the flesh, and we now have Heavenly Realities waiting around every corner for us to enter into them and cherish them even in our lowly physical dimension.

As a focus of the Infinite God, it was therefore reasonable of Jesus to claim an anomalous place in the spiritual hierarchy, and, as Steiner has explained to us, the period of Human evolution spearheaded by Jesus is of supreme and SINGULAR importance to Humankind all over the world. Thus, in a very specific sense, I have come to accept Jesus, the Mediator, as the ONE DOOR into the Kingdom of God. Whether the name Jesus is acknowledged in all cultures and religions is a mere detail to me; remember, at the end of The Last Battle, the words of Aslan to the Calormene soldier (concerning the True God, Aslan, and the False God, Tash) :

"For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him.Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him.
And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted."
Thus it is that we enter through Jesus, the One Door, not necessarily by calling on the name of Jesus, but by calling on the spirit of Jesus; the Christ-Consciousness which is all pervasive in the world no matter what language we speak. There is a spiritual essence to Jesus which transcends language and transcends names. The philosophy wars, that rage on between different religions, (and between the different denominations within the same religions), are so vain and false, because the spiritual essence defies and eludes nominative definition; a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, as they say.

This is not to say that Jesus is not the One Door--I firmly believe that entering into the Christ-Consciousness, the  focus of the Infinite God in the material plane, is the only way we can get to Heaven; and I believe that the one man, in history, who made it possible for us to enter into that Consciousness was Jesus. However, this does not mean that we have to be educated in this history; Jesus by any other name is still Jesus. Most of us in the Western culture know that the events surrounding the life and work of the historical Jesus led to the creation of a climate of spiritual potentiality which changed the world; but it is more important to participate in that spiritual climate, than it is to know about the specific names and dates which chronicle those events. Thus, one culture or another culture can access Jesus by any other name, and it will still be Jesus, and it will still be the one door.

Next, I would like to quote from a piece by Dr. Don W. King on C.S. Lewis' reference to DOORS in several of his books:
The Wardrobe as Christian Metaphor
by Dr. Don W. King

"Regardless the work, examples of metaphor abound as Lewis uses word pictures to clarify his arguments and ideas. . . . in the "Preface" to Mere Christianity he includes a disclaimer that cautions the reader against regarding his mere Christianity "as an alternative to the creeds of the existing communions--as if a man would adopt it in preference to Congregationalism or Greek Orthodoxy or anything else" (11-12). To make his point clearer, Lewis creates a helpful metaphor:
It is more like a hall out of which doors open into several rooms. If I can bring anyone into that hall I shall have done what I attempted. But it is in the rooms, not in the hall, that there are fires and chairs and meals. The hall is a place to wait in, a place from which to try the various doors, not a place to live in.

At the same time, Lewis is aware of how frequently the door is used metaphorically in the New Testament. References are made to "striving to enter [heaven] by the narrow door" (Luke 13:24), to "the door of faith" (Acts 14:27), to "a wide door for effective service [being] opened" (1 Cor. 16:9), to "a door [being] opened for me [Paul] in the Lord" (2 Cor. 2:12), and to God opening "up to us a door for the word" (Col. 4:3).

Jesus Himself is often associated with a door. For example, after Jesus relates to His disciples some of the signs of the end times, He says: "When you see all these things, recognize that He [God] is near, right at the door" (Matt. 24:33). Better known perhaps is Christ's famous statement in Rev. 3:20: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me."

However, it is the passages where Jesus claims to be the door to communion with God that we see the fullest operation of this metaphor. In John 10 we find the best example of this. In verses 1-5 Jesus uses the parable of the shepherd whose sheep will only respond to His voice to indicate His own relationship to His disciples. St. John notes that because the disciples did not understand "this figure of speech," Jesus has to go on and make explicit His meaning: "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep . . . . I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture" (7,9). Later He finalizes the metaphor by answering Thomas' question regarding how they would find Christ after His crucifixion: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me" (John 14:6).

Lewis' knowledge of these Scriptural passages is put to work throughout The Chronicles of Narnia. Doors are used significantly in the stories and echoes of the Biblical references made above resonate clearly. Four specific points about Lewis' use of doors are noteworthy:

1) Literal doors lead to the Door, Aslan;
2) Aslan is a two-way door;
3) Passage through the different literal doors into Narnia is always unplanned; and
4) All who enter the doors are called into Narnia, but none are compelled to stay; indeed, some who are called do not seem to belong.

First, in every instance the literal doors that the children use to enter Narnia eventually lead directly to the Door, Aslan. The doors themselves take on different forms, from the wardrobe door in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to the framed picture in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader to the railway station in Prince Caspian and The Last Battle to the magic rings and the Wood Between the Worlds in The Magician's Nephew.

Literally, the doors function to take the children out of their real world and into a new other world; that is, the doors serve to move them from a mundane, everyday experience to a new world, a new reality, a new life. More importantly, however, the doors inexorably lead to Aslan, Lewis' Christ figure, who offers the children an additional "new life" experience. Edmund, for instance, in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe confers with Aslan after betraying his brother and sisters and after being rescued by Aslan's forces. Of their conversation "there is no need to tell you (and no one ever heard) what Aslan was saying but it was a conversation which Edmund never forgot" (135). From this point on Edmund, though far from perfect, is a "new creature" with Aslan confirming this by becoming the sacrificial door to Edmund's new life."

What follows are numerous reflections on the “Good Shepherd” parable; hopefully, these comments will create a context in which the words of Jesus will attain a higher-than-literal illumination.

Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary:
"Here is a parable or similitude, taken from the customs of the East, in the management of sheep. Men, as creatures depending on their Creator, are called the sheep of his pasture. The church of God in the world is as a sheep-fold, exposed to deceivers and persecutors. The great Shepherd of the sheep knows all that are his, guards them by his providence, guides them by his Spirit and word, and goes before them, as the Eastern shepherds went before their sheep, to set them in the way of his steps. Ministers must serve the sheep in their spiritual concerns. The Spirit of Christ will set before them an open door. The sheep of Christ will observe their Shepherd, and be cautious and shy of strangers, who would draw them from faith in him to fancies about him. 
Many who hear the word of Christ, do not understand it, because they will not. But we shall find one scripture expounding another, and the blessed Spirit making known the blessed Jesus. Christ is the Door. And what greater security has the church of God than that the Lord Jesus is between it and all its enemies? He is a door open for passage and communication. Here are plain directions how to come into the fold; we must come in by Jesus Christ as the Door. By faith in him as the great Mediator between God and man. Also, we have precious promises to those that observe this direction. Christ has all that care of his church, and every believer, which a good shepherd has of his flock; and he expects the church, and every believer, to wait on him, and to keep in his pasture.

Christ is a good Shepherd; many who were not thieves, yet were careless in their duty, and by their neglect the flock was much hurt. Bad principles are the root of bad practices. The Lord Jesus knows whom he has chosen, and is sure of them; they also know whom they have trusted, and are sure of Him. See here the grace of Christ; since none could demand his life of him, he laid it down of himself for our redemption. He offered himself to be the Saviour; Lo, I come. And the necessity of our case calling for it, he offered himself for the Sacrifice. He was both the offerer and the offering, so that his laying down his life was his offering up himself. From hence it is plain, that he died in the place and stead of men; to obtain their being set free from the punishment of sin, to obtain the pardon of their sin; and that his death should obtain that pardon. Our Lord laid not his life down for his doctrine, but for his sheep."

[Sidebar: I would like to emphasize the idea that Jesus laid down his life not for his doctrine but for his sheep. As we read in

Mark 2:27:

"And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:"

The doctrine was made for the sheep, not the sheep for the doctrine. This is so important, and it is a point on which I have insisted many, many, many, many times: that our words about spirituality can keep us from a true spiritual experience. Thus it is good of this commentator to mention that Jesus did not die for a principle, a belief, or a concept: He died for specific human beings-- for me and you.]

Barnes' Notes on John 10:1:
"This is called John 10:6 a parable, and it is an eminently beautiful illustration of the office of the Messiah, drawn from an employment well known in Judea. The Messiah was predicted under the image of a shepherd.

Ezekiel 34:23:
"I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd."

Hence, at the close of the discourse they asked him whether he were the Messiah, John 10:24.

Into the sheepfold - The sheepfold was an enclosure made in fields where the sheep were collected by night to defend them from robbers, wolves, etc. It was not commonly covered, as the seasons in Judea were mild. By the figure here we are to understand the Jewish people, or the church of God, which is often likened to a flock. By the door, here, is meant the Lord Jesus Christ. He is:

John 14:6:

"the way, the truth, and the life."

And, as the only proper way of entering the fold was by the door, so the only way of entering the church of God is by believing on him and obeying his commandments. The particular application of this place, however, is to religious teachers, who cannot enter properly on the duties of teaching and guarding the flock except by the Lord Jesus that is, in the way which he has appointed. The Pharisees claimed to be pastors, but not under his appointment. They entered some other way. The true pastors of the church are those who enter by the influences of the Spirit of Jesus, and in the manner which he has appointed."

[Sidebar: Notice: “And, as the only proper way of entering the fold was by the door so the only way of entering the church of God is by believing on him and obeying his commandments.” The word ONLY appears prominently TWICE, in this sentence. Also, the expressions “the way that He has appointed”, and, “in the manner which he has appointed” appear twice in the paragraph. Clearly implied, here, is the idea that entry into the Kingdom of God requires a specific, formalized protocol; there is a sequential logic to the process that demands one thing to be followed by another thing, in order; how else can we distinguish between a proper and an improper entry? How figuratively as opposed to LITERALLY these words are to be taken, will be discussed below. The real question is this: is it the correct door that must be approached properly, or is it WE who must conform to the door—that, by making adjustments, we create the door within ourselves?]

Clarke's Commentary on John 10:1:
"Verily, verily, etc. - From John 10:6, we learn that this is a parable, i.e. a representation of heavenly things through the medium of earthly things. Some think our Lord delivered this discourse immediately after that mentioned in the preceding chapter; others think it was spoken not less than three months after. The former, says Bishop Pearce, was spoken at the feast of tabernacles, see chap. 7, or about the end of September, and this at the feast of dedication, or in December. See John 10:22.

Christ, says Calmet, having declared himself to be the light of the world, which should blind some while it illuminated others, John 9:41, continues his discourse, and, under the similitude of a shepherd and his flock, shows that he was about to form his Church of Jews and Gentiles, and that into it he would admit none but those who heard his voice. The unbelieving and presumptuous Jews, who despised his doctrine, are the sheep which hear not the voice of the shepherd: the proud and self-sufficient Pharisees are those who imagine they see clearly while they are blind. The blind who become illuminated are the Gentiles and Jews who turn from their sins and believe in Jesus."

[Sidebar: Eyes to see and ears to hear: there must be in the seeker an openness to the call of the Shepherd; this is the first inner conformity we must adhere to in gaining entrance through the door. God is constantly calling us back to Himself, and we must be sensitive to that call if we are to be drawn to the door. Having heard His voice, we must recognize His voice, and, most importantly, we must turn off the inner chatter of petty ego that wishes to put our will before His, to make our own entry, our own door, rather than accepting the parameters of the Divine design, and thus entering by His ONE WAY. We must somehow, consciously or intuitively, realize that it was the contract signed on the hill of Golgotha that gives Jesus the authority to open or close the door to us. By finding the will of the Father embedded in our own essence, we are directed fluently toward the door, and may enter in without prohibition. Jesus is kind of like a password; but He is not an arbitrary password, like your grandson’s birthday, He is a living Representation of who we are and who we may become.

Back to Clarke:]

"The light of the world, the good shepherd, and the door which leads into the sheepfold, are all to be understood as meaning Jesus Christ; the hireling shepherds, the willfully blind; the murderers and robbers are the false Christs, false prophets, scribes, Pharisees, wicked hireling priests, and ungodly ministers of all sorts, whether among primitive Jews or modern Christians.

He that entereth not by the door - Christ assures us, John 10:7, that he is the door; whoever, therefore, enters not by Jesus Christ into the pastoral office, is no other than a thief and a robber in the sheepfold. And he enters not by Jesus Christ who enters with a prospect of any other interest besides that of Christ and his people. Ambition, avarice, love of ease, a desire to enjoy the conveniences of life, to be distinguished from the crowd, to promote the interests of one's family, and even the sole design of providing against want - these are all ways by which thieves and robbers enter into the Church. And whoever enters by any of these ways, or by simony, craft, solicitation, etc. deserves no better name. Acting through motives of self-interest, and with the desire of providing for himself and his family, are innocent, yea, laudable, in a secular business; but to enter into the ministerial office through motives of this kind is highly criminal before God."

[Sidebar: The fact that a thief may enter the fold by another way seems to be of little importance in interpreting the parable; the question is not, “Are there other POSSIBLE ways of getting into the sheepfold?”, but, “Are there other PROPER ways to get into the sheepfold?” The conclusion from the scripture is clearly this: if you don’t get in the PROPER way, you are admitting to ulterior motives, and imposing your petty mundane will onto divine design. A serious question to be asked is: “How important is it to enter the PROPER way? How seriously must we take the sacrifice Jesus made, on the cross, to claim authority over the door? A lot more on this next week.]

This is taken from the Agape Bible Study-Catholic Catechism:
Question: Are there other ways to enter the sheepfold/ Covenant?
Answer: No, only one way; though the gate.  There is only one gate and the gate is Christ. St. Augustine wrote of his role as a shepherd of Jesus' flock: I seeking to enter in among you, that is, into your heart, to preach Christ: if I were to preach other than that, I should be trying to enter by some other way.  Through Christ I enter in, not to your houses but to your hearts.  Through him I enter and you have willingly heard me speak of him. Why?  Because you are Christ's sheep and you have been purchased with Christ's blood.  St. Augustine, In Ioannis Evangelium  [The Gospel of John] 47, 2-3

This is taken from Calvin's Commentary:
John 10:1-6:
"He who entereth not by the door. It is useless, I think, to scrutinize too closely every part of this parable. Let us rest satisfied with this general view, that, as Christ states a resemblance between the Church and a sheepfold, in which God assembles all his people, so he compares himself to a door, because there is no other entrance into the Church but by himself. Hence it follows that they alone are good shepherds who lead men straight to Christ; and that they are truly gathered into the fold of Christ, so as to belong to his flock, who devote themselves to Christ alone."

[Sidebar: There is a logical mistake in this paragraph—“ they alone are good shepherds who lead men straight to Christ” mistakes the sheepfold for the door—Jesus is not the object of the parable but the verb—in the parable He is the way to God, not God Himself. Always we must keep uppermost in our minds the primary FUNCTION of Jesus in the Divine Hierarchy: Jesus is a focus of the Divine Mind, but it must be remembered that Jesus and God are One only in the particular sense of Mundane manifestation—as the MEDIATOR He is not God but the DOORWAY to God. Remember, as Luther says, even though the Father and Son are One, "The Son is of the Father, but the Father is not of the Son." It is one of the many paradoxes Christians must deal with through Faith, abandoning Reason. According to reason, this arrangement makes no sense-- through faith it is a blessing and a comfort.]

This is taken from Clarke's Commentary on John 10:3:
"To him the porter openeth - Sir Isaac Newton observes that our Lord being near the temple, where sheep were kept in folds to be sold for sacrifices, spoke many things parabolically of sheep, of their shepherds, and of the door to the sheepfold; and discovers that he alluded to the sheepfolds which were to be hired in the market place, by speaking of such folds as a thief could not enter by the door, nor the shepherd himself open, but a porter opened to the shepherd. In the porter opening the door to the true shepherd, we may discover the second mark of a true minister - his labor is crowned with success. The Holy Spirit opens his way into the hearts of his hearers, and he becomes the instrument of their salvation. See Colossians 4:3; 2 Corinthians 2:12; 1 Corinthians 16:9; Revelation 3:8.

The sheep hear his voice - A third mark of a good shepherd is that he speaks so as to instruct the people - the sheep hear His voice; he does not take the fat and the fleece, and leave another hireling on less pay to do the work of the pastoral office. No: himself preaches Christ Jesus the Lord, and in that simplicity too, that is best calculated to instruct the common people. A man who preaches in such a language as the people cannot comprehend may do for a stage-player or a mountebank, but not for a minister of Christ.

He calleth his own sheep by name - A fourth mark of a good pastor is that he is well acquainted with his flock; he knows them by name - he takes care to acquaint himself with the spiritual states of all those that are entrusted to him. He speaks to them concerning their souls, and thus getting a thorough knowledge of their state he is the better qualified to profit them by his public ministrations. He, who has not a proper acquaintance with the Church of Christ, can never, by his preaching, build it up in its most holy faith."

[Sidebar: This is one of the cornerstones of my professed Christianity that distinguishes it from other more Eastern-oriented new-age religions: it is the incredible miracle of Jesus’ all-encompassing knowledge of every human being in the world. I know that He knows me inside and out, and, because of this, there is every reason to conclude that He similarly knows everybody else in the created universe.

It is a mind-blowing idea to imagine one mind connected to all minds, but I, myself, have had a taste of this experience: one morning in meditation, a few years ago, the whole town of Pullman flashed into my consciousness, and I knew what every person in town was thinking; it lasted less than a second, but I knew this vision was given to me specifically so that I could understand and accept the possibility of the all-knowing Christ-Consciousness as it penetrates the collective mind of all humankind. This vision also gave me some perspective on how puny and limited my normal mundane consciousness state really is.

Back to Clarke:]

"And leadeth them out - A fifth mark of a good shepherd is, he leads the flock, does not lord it over God's heritage; nor attempts by any rigorous discipline not founded on the Gospel of Christ, to drive men into the way of life; nor drive them out of it, which many do, by a severity which is a disgrace to the mild Gospel of the God of peace and love.

He leads them out of themselves to Christ, out of the follies, diversions, and amusements of the world, into the path of Christian holiness: in a word, he leads them, by those gentle yet powerful persuasions that flow from a heart full of the word and love of Christ, into the kingdom and glory of his God."

[Sidebar: This paragraph is linked to our concept of the Cloud of Unknowing. The author uses expressions like: “does not lord it over God's heritage; nor attempts by any rigorous discipline”, and, “he leads them, by those gentle yet powerful persuasions that flow from a heart full of the word”. The “gentle persuasions of the heart” can only mean “at the exclusion of rigorous verbal definitions.”

The password of Jesus is SIMPLE: surrender your will to His, and you will find your true path. I have been reading the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Acquinas, and the philosophical term “simple” appears fairly regularly; in the Summa, as in other philosophical writers, such as Kant, “simple” denotes the state of having no extensions, no implications or referents beyond itself. The point, here, is that: no matter how the pathway to God is articulated in words, the actual enfolding is an uncomplicated process; indeed, convoluted expressions must necessarily impede the seeker’s progress through the door, like a parking brake stuck in the “on” position. In order to pull the parking brake off we must turn off our petty ego’s drive to summarize reality in verbal expressions, and open our minds to less defined, clairvoyant sensitivities.]

Back to Calvin:
John 10:11-15:
"11. I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
12. But the hireling, and he who is not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth, and the wolf teareth them, and scattereth the sheep.
13. The hireling fleeth, because he is a hireling, and careth not for the sheep.
14. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known by mine.
15. As the Father knoweth me, I also know the Father, and I lay down my life for the sheep.

11. The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. From the extraordinary affection which he bears towards the sheep, he shows how truly he acts towards them as a shepherd; for he is so anxious about their salvation, that he does not even spare his own life. Hence it follows, that they who reject the guardianship of so kind and amiable a shepherd are exceedingly ungrateful, and deserve a hundred deaths, and are exposed to every kind of harm. The remark of Augustine is exceedingly just, that this passage informs us what we ought to desire, what we ought to avoid, and what we ought to endure, in the government of the Church. Nothing is more desirable than that the Church should be governed by good and diligent shepherds Christ declares that he is the good shepherd, who keeps his Church safe and sound, first, by himself, and, next, by his agents. Whenever there is good order, and fit men hold the government, then Christ shows that he is actually the shepherd But there are many wolves and thieves who, wearing the garb of shepherds, wickedly scatter the Church. Whatever name such persons may assume, Christ threatens that we must avoid them."

This paragraph, especially the reflections of St. Augustine, bear directly on the idea of the ONE DOOR, or the PROPER DOOR. From this we discern that choosing the right door is, in a subtle sense, admitting the authority of Jesus. However, the authors, by extension, have indicated that, by applying the general concept of “Shepherds” as opposed to the ONE SHEPHERD, Jesus’ authority is deflected onto the church, substituting HIS DIVINE Authority for a supposedly divinely appointed MUNDANE authority.

I find this to be a faulty and dangerous extrapolation, because it implies that some men become qualified to dictate spiritual instruction to other men. I am very sensitive to the idea a false prophets, because I constantly wonder if I am one myself. For this reason, I am receptive to ideas of highly evolved teachers, but am wary whenever I am instructed to take their word over my own personal experience.

Another claim of the church to an authority over the church's "flock" which I do not acknowledge is found in the section from the Agape Bible Study-Catholic Catechism:

". . . the sheep hear his voice: There are dangers for the sheep if they do not recognize the shepherd's voice.  The flock or individual sheep can be deceived and led astray, just as those within the Church can be deceived and led astray by following the voice of a false teacher. Jesus will address the danger of the flock being threatened by false teachers in the next passage.
Question:  What divine truth does Jesus teach the Church today using this illustration of the shepherd's voice?
Answer: Since there are "thieves" and "robbers/bandits" who may be calling to us, we must know the voice of Christ so that we are not led astray.  To study Sacred Scripture through the teaching authority of the Church 'the Magisterium' and to faithfully receive the Sacraments is the best way to become familiar with our Shepherd's voice.  The Apostles' successors, the Bishops along with Peter's successor, the Pope, help to guide the faithful people of "Peter's boat"'the Holy Catholic Church.  St. Jose Maria Escriva wrote in Christ is Passing By, page 34:
'Christ has given his Church sureness in doctrine and a fountain of grace in the Sacraments.  He has arranged things so that there will always be people to guide and lead us, to remind us constantly of our way.  There is an infinite treasure of knowledge available to us: the word of God kept safe by the Church, the grace of Christ administered in the Sacraments and also the witness and example of those who live by our side and have known how to build with their good lives on a road of faithfulness to God.'"

These are nice sounding words, but I find, lurking behind them an authoritarianism and an arrogance reminiscent of the Inquisition. Sorry to say, I am an American, with a capital A, and I do not acknowledge any authority but my own when it comes to recognizing the voice of the shepherd.

This is not to say that I am resistant to instruction by those who know more than I do, but I have to decide who knows more than I do, not some Pope in a funny hat. As you know, my great heroes, Rudolf Steiner, C.S. Lewis, Joseph Campbell, Rabindranath Tagore, Boethius, St. Anselm, Martin Luther, et al have provided me with many of the concepts, much of the language I have shared with you from this pulpit, but I have never for one minute substituted their personal experience of spiritual realities for mine. The church has, historically, attempted to pre-empt the authority of their flock’s personal experience by imposing highly specific verbal catechisms on them, absolving them of responsibility for inner spiritual experience. Remember, as stated in Mark 4:12 that Jesus spoke in parables:

"lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them."

Martin Luther has some gently persuasive things to say on this subject, right at the beginning of his Sermon for the Second Sunday after Easter; John 10:11-16; A Sermon by Martin Luther; taken from his Church Postil, 1523:

"2. Now, you have often heard that God has given the world two different proclamations. One is that which is declared in the Word of God when it says: Thou shalt not kill, not commit adultery, not steal (EX 20, 13-15), and when it adds the threat that all who do not keep these commandments shall die. But this declaration will make no one godly at heart. For though it may compel a man outwardly to appear godly before men, inwardly it leaves the heart at enmity with the Law, and wishing that there were no such Law. 

3. The other proclamation is that of the Gospel. It tells where one may obtain that which will meet the demands of the Law. It does not drive or threaten, but tenderly invites us. It does not say, Do this and do that, but rather: Come, I will show you where you may find and obtain what you need to make you godly. See, here is the Lord Jesus; he will give it to you. Therefore, the two are as contrary to each other as taking and giving, demanding and presenting; and this distinction must be well observed. Thus God ever has ruled and still rules the world today. To coarse and rude persons, who are not influenced by the Gospel, the Law must be declared, and they must be driven until they are humbled and acknowledge their imperfections. When this has been accomplished, the Gospel is to be applied."

If there is one essential reason why Jesus is the One Door, it must be this: Jesus represents, and is at the same time. Again, mixing mundane reality and myth in a transcendent, synthetic integration, Jesus both:

is, in the sense of physical actuality, and
represents in the sense of archetypal paradigm,

the union of man and God.

Jesus helps us to align the human will with the Divine Will, and to discover that they are both the same.

Remember that we discussed the possibility that:

1. free will is merely the characteristic of a created being, a power of choice given to us by God, to move away from the Source of our Being if we want to, combined with the idea that
2. giving up our free will is finding our true will.

Since we come from God, and we must return to God, it follows that our true will must be God's will. Thus, by giving up our desires and merging our petty vibration with the Divine Impulse, we make that One Door available to ourselves. By any other means, we are holding out: holding out for our attachments, holding out for our addictions, holding out for our own prejudices. All these holdouts are, in the sense of the parable, attempts to enter the sheepfold by another door, like a thief; they are what keep us entangled with our material illusions. The material Maya, if not spiritualized by the Mediation of Jesus between God and Man, may deny us the vision of the gates of heaven which are there waiting for us to enter if we only will just open our eyes. Remember that we do not necessarily enter Heaven's Gates, but the Gates come and enfold us. Also, remember the warning of the Gatekeeper in Kafka's The Trial:

"No one else could ever be admitted here, since this gate was made only for you. I am now going to shut it."

We ourselves are our own one and only door; only we ourselves have the freedom either to pass through the door, or to sit and wait out an eternity in Hell just on the threshold. Thus it is easy to see that there can be, therefore, only One Door.

Let us pray: Jesus, Come Thou Fount of every blessing, and take our hands. Steady us as we come to you, through you. Open the door and show us the way. Let the singularity of Your Divine Presence show us the Infinitude of your Divine Love. Amen