“ah wouldna’ see them in ma road!” ..a phrase my Mum would revert to in her Scottish accent when, in frustration, others in family including me, or at work, failed to fulfil their responsibilities.. ..she’d do it herself in half the time, shaking them me & the dust from her feet.. so too in 1st rdg we meet a frustrated God let down by his shepherds ..slow ordinary complacent passionless..a liability & in negative equity.. gloom & doom merchants..perhaps familiar territory too close to home for comfort for some of us?.. & Jesus came to heal division, calm anger & offer 342 second chances..to assure them of his renewed trust & confidence..in them & now in you shepherds.. & no sideways pass to me please.. ..the cap fits for you shepherds, so now wear it & live up to the badge you profess to believe in..
“I will raise up shepherds to look after them & pasture them” ..you to feed them .. ; Lord have mercy “not one shall be lost “ ..especially the black sheep & the stray.. ; Christ have mercy “I will gather them from all the countries where I have dispersed them..” ..all of us migrants.. ; Lord have mercy May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins & bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
..first the good news..today 22 July is the feast of Mary Magdalen..bad news is that because it falls on a Sunday this year, it is knocked out..every Sunday remembers re- enacts the Resurrection of Our Lord & is the ultimate feast..on retreat with 15 teachers from St Bedes/ St Josephs College Bradford last Monday I shared with them Mary Magdalens titles in new lectionary..it says challengingly ; “St Mary Magdalen; Holy Woman..Apostle of the Apostles” we are comfortable with St Peter St Benedict St Clare but it sticks in the throat St Mary Magdalen, as would St Judas if the Church had courage to include him in the flock of saints rather than exclude him as a black sheep or scapegoat ..just outside Huddersfield on edge of Pennines is Scapegoat Hill, presumably the place where the black sheep of town were banished to..& if..if..you climb it there are the most wonderful views of the West Riding..Gods own County Gods own Riding..the west..fact ..St Mary Magdalen, Apostle of the Apostles; indeed she was the first to meet the Risen Christ ; no coincidence a fallen woman was chosen to be offered the opportunity & the choice to be in right place at right time..she a good shepherd, a very good shepherd..a reformed & redeemed black sheep like Judas, & like you & me..first step on our journey home, from supposed safety of a locked & bolted upper room, among a collection of terrified apostles who couldn’t risk the consequences of believing in the eye witness excitement of Mary Magdalen, so set in their ways & pious devotion, is to acknowledge colour & coarseness of our fleece..it is our DNA as recovering saints on a 12 step journey out of addiction towards sanctity, apprentice /student shepherds like King David, Judas, Peter & Mary Magdalen, all chosen selected & called, & then straying into infidelity low self worth & escapism into our own upper room..an escape attempt from our own live situation our real self & our God..& it is there in our pig sty our terrifyingly lonely place, that the Good Shepherd finds us..seeks us out with his crook & his staff..crook to pull us out of danger, out of our crooked ways back into safety, & his staff & his presence to support us on our ongoing journey in faith, if we allow him to walk with us, our divine companion for the journey..reassuring us of the real rather than the right path as we test it with our doubts & wobbles, the unsafe ground & hidden dangers we find ourselves in..& in which we find ourselves..our real selves authentic & imperfect..& all this comes to mind heart love & life when we come here to this lonely place “all by ourselves to rest awhile” to switch off your mobile phone for 45mins & your mind teeming with all the cares of world & your family flooding into it, & simply to be with Jesus & with each of us..”where we can be by ourselves”..some precious Mary time “the better part”; time out from the pressure addiction & fretting of Martha time..”Mary Magdalen time” at the tomb rather than “Peter time” locked in an invisible prison self centred self sentenced..& then the inevitable in our discipleship, we step out of this Church back into world & all the calls on our heart & our time..a large crowd, sheep without a shepherd, you in your home, me in my Community, our loved ones looking for you, needing you to mop up the vomit, to offer reassurance, to share the goodness & kindness that follows you & me, the aroma of goodness & of sanctity no one can buy & few have found..& to meet Christ in them.. scapegoats..a Mary Magdalen Judas Peter & you in the making..does life & faith get any better for them, & through them & Christ in them, for us?..a moment now to step ashore & meet our scapegoat, again or for the first time?..& now seen & heard, face to face, heart to heart, still a scapegoat or now a shepherd?..a Peter the rock or a Mary Magdalen Apostle to the Apostles?.. I read in “Patience with God” of theology of inner liberation, dividing the indifferent conventional Christian from the passionate; the passionate seekers after God, those wrestling with God, & those who thirst after faith but are unable to find a place so far in any form of religion” ..so now, where are you in that spectrum, a conventional Peter or a passionate Mary Magdalen?..a rock solid grumpy insider or a beloved beautiful scapegoat?.. [16thSunYrBMk6;30-34]