Jesus is the gateway by which we gain access to the Father, and by which the Father makes connection with humanity once for all. As Jesus interacted with the blind man, his own disciples, and the Pharisees though the stories in John 9, we see the Pharisees trying to maintain barriers between people and God. They, as the experts in the Law, seek to exercise authority over people’s lives. Jesus refuses to allow them this privilege. They found their sense of identity in God, for sure, but this they took as an opportunity to deny others the same privilege. This sets them up as the wolves or thieves Jesus describes in John 10.
As we go out into the world as followers of Jesus, we are sent by him in the same way that he was sent by the Father (John 20:21). So we go to lead others toward the gate so that they may find hope, peace, mercy and grace, forgiveness – life abundant – like that experienced by the sheep in Psalm 23. Jesus is the passageway through which we travel – later in chapter 14 of John’s gospel Jesus will refer to himself as the way, truth, life – through whom/which we come to the Father. I think it is interesting that he teaches this privately to his disciples, not openly as in the sermon on the mount, or in the temle courtyard.
And we go… remembering that Jesus is not the barrier as if like a bouncer at the door, or some kind of test or obstacle course that we must navigate. Jesus is truth and life, which are the way to the Father – all other lies and death lead away from the Father – they are like trying to “climb in by another way” (Jn 10:1). Jesus wants desparately for us to have and share this abundant life. He wants it so much that he was willing to suffer and die rather than turn away from his purpose in God.
And he asks us to go with this same kind of commitment and passion. What else can it mean when he says: ‘take up your cross and follow me.'(Mr 8:34-35) In so doing, we die to self – to our own self will, desires, wants, and even perceived needs. We die to self that Christ might live in us in the world – that he might be incarnate – in+flesh – again.
We pass through Jesus, in and out (Jn 10:9) – moving through cycles of rest and action, feeding and serving, solitude and community. This is about abiding, dwelling, staying. Too often we treat Christian faith like buying an open train ticket that we can use anytime. In truth, Christian faith is getting on the train now, traveling wherever it takes us, and ministering to/with everyone we meet along the way. We can not know Jesus as the Shepherd, or the Gate, unless we spend much time listening to what he says, learning to discern his voice from the others around us – sometimes we must listen very closely. At times we may mis-hear and need to be rescued – to admit that we need help from those who can lead us back to/through him.
How then, to develop this abiding/dwelling/staying in Jesus? How to live and teach Christian Spiritual Formation and Theological Reflection in this crazy hectic distracting broken world? How to see and participate in what God is doing – for surely God is up to something! What does Christian Spirituality look like in a suburban context? is it different from Urban or Rural settings? Is it expressed differently in this limbo-age where Modernism is passing away and Post-modernisms are emerging? Can a local congregation become a center for Christian Spiritual Formation in a Suburban Context – a Center for Suburban Spirituality? And if so, how?