One of the goals in our Strategic Plan is personal accountability. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but a high percentage of my recent sermons have ended with the question, “What are you going to do about it?” So, this morning I’m telling you the ending right up front. And you can be listening, all the way through, for exactly what I am going to ask you to do.

My cousin Mike is a farmer in Vermont.  He knows his animals. He knows every one of his 500 cows by sight. He knows when they are sick, he knows when they need to be put to death, he knows which ones will be good mothers. And they know him. They come running, not just when he brings hay or a new salt lick out to the field but even when he comes to fix the fence. You can hear their bellows and ‘Moos’ all over the hollow. They don’t make that noise for anyone else but Mike. It’s as if they’re saying, “It’s him. He’s the one. He’s here!”  They have come to recognize Mike as the one they wait for.

I usually visit the farm in the summer but one year I was there in early May. Spring is calving season. It’s also mud season.  I had gone for a walk through the hollow and was just coming around the bend when I heard a commotion in the pen at the end of our driveway. I knew that pen was where Mike kept the cows that were about to give birth. The scene I came upon took my breath away. A mother cow was lying on her side. She appeared nearly dead, you could see the whites of her eyes and she was breathing in an irregular way. There was my cousin, knee deep in mud behind her, yanking hard on the hooves of a baby calf that was stuck coming down the birth canal the wrong way. You could only see about ten inches of the calf’s legs. Mike was hanging on to the legs, leaning out at an angle with his full body weight trying to get leverage, but his feet kept slipping in the mud and the mother cow was moaning. The whole scene was one of desperation and violence. He had no idea I was there and at this point I was just standing there, watching helplessly with my mouth agape.

The next thing I know Mike is falling over backward as the baby calf came flying out of the mother, surfing on a wave of red liquid. For a moment all three of them lay still in the mud – the mother, the baby, and Mike. Before long he scrambled up, covered with mud and God only knows what else. He ran to his truck where he grabbed an oversize plastic baby bottle with a nipple in the shape of an udder. He immediately went over to the mother, who was not moving, and who I thought was maybe dead, and began to express some of her milk into the bottle. He filled it about half way and then screwed on the top. Then he came up behind the calf who had not moved, and he forcefully rearranged it from its side to a sitting position and then climbed on top, crouching from behind, just above the baby’s back. He grabbed the head from underneath with one hand, lifting up the muzzle and placed the bottle into its mouth with the other hand. The calf struggled a bit, this was the first sign of real life, turning its head back and forth in resistance. It seemed like an eternity, but after about fifteen seconds the baby caught on and began to suck and suck and suck.  Mike explained to me later that in order for mother and baby to bond properly, the calf needs to be exposed to the taste and the smell of the mother’s milk as quickly as possible. The reason he was crouching on the baby’s back was so that the calf couldn’t see him because Mike didn’t want the calf to associate him with the milk. As it turned out, both mother and baby survived the ordeal and they did bond properly although Mike said that doesn’t always happen. Mothering isn’t always a natural instinct: something important to remember on Mother’s Day even as we celebrate.

I was stunned at the brutality and messiness of that birth in the mud, but also deeply touched by Mike’s skill and sensitivity and his knowing what to do. For my cousin, that was all in a spring day’s work. But he knew those animals. He knew what needed to happen. No wonder they recognize him as the one they wait for. He brings life to them, food and protection, knowing them better than they can know themselves. Now I’m not suggesting in any way that my cousin Mike is God, but it was his deep connection with his herd, his knowing and caring for them that saved the lives of those two animals that day and helped them to forge a healthy relationship.

Jesus used animal imagery to try to reach his listeners. In today’s Gospel we have the opening section of what is called the Good Shepherd discourse. Just prior to this section, the Pharisees had directly challenged him about healing the man born blind. So when Jesus compares himself as the shepherd to thieves and bandits who don’t care for the sheep, he was speaking about the Pharisees. The Pharisees you will recall were the standard bearers of the Levitical codes of Judaism and they were threatened by Jesus and this new group of his followers. They wanted to trap him, to make him wrong. So what we are hearing today is his rebuttal to the Pharisees. What Jesus is getting at is that he is the access point to God and that he comes so that we may have life and have it abundantly. Jesus is the way to life because he himself is life. Jesus is the shepherd and we are the sheep, but do you feel like you belong to the herd?

Just this past week, some of the staff here attended the Bishops Conference at Shrine Mont and our theme was elephants in the room. You know, those subjects we don’t dare talk about and how much power they can hold. At one point, we were talking specifically about elephants in the room in regards to our relationship with God. What are we not admitting to ourselves about our relationship with God? When asked to share aloud some of our elephants, a very brave clergyperson said his elephant was the belief that “Jesus loves absolutely everyone, but me.” This was a middle-aged male priest who shared this and I was knocked out by his honesty. I thought, I bet a lot of people feel that way. They can believe that Jesus brings life and brings it abundantly for others, just not for them.

And that got me thinking about today’s Gospel. Jesus may be the gate, but we have to walk through. If we want to follow Jesus, we need to recognize his voice. I wonder, what does the voice of Jesus sound like to you? For each of us it may be different. Let me ask the question a different way: Where do you hear the voice of Jesus? Some people hear it in scripture, some people hear it in another person, in music, in the wind, in prayer, hopefully in an occasional sermon. Some people hear the voice of Jesus in their gut or their heart.  I hear with my body, my body is a tool of discernment for me. My mind? Forget about it. My mind can talk me into and out of anything. But my body tells the truth. When I am listening with my body, I hear the voice of God. When I listen to that voice, I am way better off.

Are you intentionally listening for the voice of Jesus? Because you have to be willing and open to it and often quiet enough to be able to hear it.

Jesus is calling you by your name right now. Not your neighbor in the pew, you. The voice of Jesus is the voice calling you into a life of health and wholeness and meaning and possibility and communion and redemption and belonging and love and love and love. And responsibility and caring for other people and feeding his sheep. But first you have to care for you. That’s the voice. The voice of Jesus is urging you to make that change, open yourself to new things, to cast off that fear and self-doubt that holds you back. That voice of fear? That is not the voice of Jesus. Jesus comes so that you may have life and have it abundantly. Jesus offers himself as the gate between this crazy, broken world and the infinite possibility of God. His is the voice you’ve been waiting for. What are you going to do about it?

Please note: Today's blog is a transcript of Rev. Ann's Sunday sermon about John 10: 1-10 delivered at Christ Church on May 11, 2014. Due to an equipment glitch, the sermon was not video taped, so we are sharing the transcript.