The idea of a shepherd risking and even giving up his life for a sheep is just a 'no brainer!’ “So what if a few are lost? This is a modern world and we all know that some get lost. It's unfortunate, but life's like that”. So said the rector, as he preached on the New Testament reading from John 10.

This was from the pulpit of one of the older Anglican churches in downtown Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, one Sunday morning a month ago. The congregation was encouraged to see the reading as a metaphor, as this gave liberty to concentrate on the parts which interested them and 'to push to the side of the plate' the hard bits. We were urged to leave the parts we didn't like.

But the preacher failed his own flock in denying the central message of the passage: the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep, verse 11 and verse 15 and verse 17 and just in case you missed it, twice in verse 18! But Jesus, the good shepherd did lay down his life for us and in our place. To deny this is to deny God.

In stark contrast, a week or so later, from the pulpit of St Andrew's Cathedral, Archbishop Peter Jensen, speaking about Archbishop Sir Marcus Loane said:
            “He was a man of the Reformation. He knew that the glory of the Reformation was this: the recovery of the gospel of the grace of God. He never ceased to condemn all human effort to
            save ourselves; no good works are sufficient to win God's favour and salvation. Instead he pointed to the atoning sacrifice of Christ, the propitiation which meant the taking away of sin through
            sacrifice. He was convinced immovably and rightly that the death of Jesus Christ involved the substitution of the Son of God for us; that at the cross Jesus bore the penalty for sin and
            secured our forgiveness and our righteousness. He was convinced immovably and rightly that we receive the benefit of the death of Christ by faith alone since we have no righteousness in
            ourselves to save ourselves. Like little Bilney, he knew that our only comfort in life or in death is that 'Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.' His personal confidence was not in his
            own piety and goodness, but in the great work of the Lord Jesus Christ on his behalf.”

Scattered here and there in the Anglican Church of New Zealand are those whose confidence is 'in the great work of the Lord Jesus Christ'. Can we pray for our New Zealand brothers and sisters and ask our Lord as in Acts, to 'add to their number day by day'.  Are there more Samuel Marsdens from these shores willing to help?

Related Posts