Call to Worship:
"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."
"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.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.
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."
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
"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.[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?]
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."
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?This is taken from Calvin's Commentary:
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
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