Such a lovely room

Such a lovely room

Sunday, May 29, 2022

YEAR C 2022 easter 7

Easter 7, 2022
Acts 16:16-34
Revelation 22:12-14,16-17,20-21
John 17:20-26
Psalm 97

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

My oldest brother was ordained a Lutheran pastor in New York City in 1990.  He spent his entire ministry at a parish in Howard Beach, Queens, though he and his wife have lived in Manhattan since the mid 80s.  From the apartment where they live, when they looked south, they could see the Twin Towers out their living room window.

On 9/11, they watched the towers burn and collapse, my brother lost cops and firefighters from his own parish that day; there were constant sirens, and the unrelenting smell of smoke for days on end.  After a couple weeks, my brother went to his Bishop and said, “I think I have to resign from my parish and leave the ministry, because I have lost my faith.”  I can’t remember what the Bishop said in response.

But I have to confess to you, beloved in Christ, after all we have been through these past three years, after all the division and the fighting, and after the hateful shootings in my beloved Buffalo, and now after 19 elementary school children were slaughtered in their classroom, in a country with more guns than people, and so polarized that we all know no one will do anything about any of this . . . I am understanding why my brother said that to his Bishop.  Because I feel like I have nothing left.  No faith to fall back on.

For the past year or more, I have focused relentlessly on the idea of unity, of getting along, of being the body of Christ, so that we might bring hope to this world, because our world needs hope, and hope keeps us alive. I have been telling you that hope keeps us alive, but there is so much death right now that I am starting to doubt my own words.  And, honestly? I get the sense I might not be cut out for this job  The message of unity and hope sounds false to me right now.  I may be many things, but I am not a hypocrite.  I could never stand here and tell you something I do not believe.

But, we worship a God of hope.  And even when I am filled with despair, even when I doubt whether there is any good left in this world, God is still the God of resurrection and new beginnings.  Even if I have lost the ability to believe there is hope, God is still my only refuge, my only harbor.  In the sixth chapter of John’s gospel, Jesus asks the 12 disciples if they also want to leave, just as many others are leaving.  And Peter says to him:  “Lord, to whom can we go?  You have the words of eternal life.”  Like my brother, and like Peter, I have nowhere else to go.  You and I must stay with Jesus, and trust Jesus, the one who has the words of eternal life, because there’s nowhere else to go.

In this reading we just heard, from John’s gospel, the first five words are, “Jesus prayed for his disciples.”  I feel like I just want to stop right there and have five minutes of silence, so we can contemplate the magnitude of that sentence.  Jesus prays for his disciples.  

And then—since this is John’s gospel—we get a lot of confusing language, about Jesus and the Father and the disciples and so on.  But the key in this section is the phrase “so that.”  In each case, the “so that” is that the world might believe that Jesus has been sent by the Father.  Jesus asks that we all might be one, so that “the world may believe that you sent me.”  And again, “so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”  Jesus asks that we might be one, so that the world knows that the Father sent him.

This takes place in the final moments before Jesus is arrested and put to death on a cross.  It’s like his last public prayer, and here he asks that we might be one, as he and the Father are one.  So now here’s the question:  Are we . . . one?  I mean, look around.  Look at the Church around the world right now and ask yourself,  “Are we one?”  Did the Father not receive the request from Jesus?  Did Jesus not pray hard enough?  And what does it even mean to be one?  

I think part of the disconnect for us starts from the assumption that “to be one” means that we are united.  Or that we all agree.  But, of course, that’s not the case.  I mean, I am part of one family, and we have a hard time agreeing on what to have for dinner.  To be one, as the Church, does not mean that we see eye to eye.  Or that we agree.  Or even that everyone is welcome.  Historically, on a global scale, there is no institution more misogynistic, homophobic, and racist than the Church.  In the early 1600s, the 30 Years War killed between 5 and 8 million people, with parts of Germany losing more than 50% of their population.  And that’s not an outside force; that was just the Church fighting among itself.

Was the Church one during all of that?  Not by our definition, right?  And before that, in the 1500s, the Protestant Reformation split the Church in two . . . allegedly.  And before that, in 1054 in the Great Schism, the Church split into Eastern and Western . . . allegedly.  I mean heck, way back in Paul’s letter to the Galatians he writes, “When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong.”  That’s St. Peter and St. Paul, in the year 55 AD.  That’s only like 20 years after the Resurrection!  The point of all this is to say, just because we don’t get along does not mean we are not one.  We are one, just as Jesus asked.  The problem is . . . we forget.

We forget that we are one.  Yesterday morning, up in Cleveland, our seminarian Mo was not ordained into the Episcopal Church.  No, she was ordained into Christ’s ONE Holy catholic and Apostolic Church.  One Church.  There is no other Church.  Eastern, Western, Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, Pentecostal, we are all together, whether we believe it or not, whether we remember or not, whether we like it or not.

We are one.  And as I keep reminding us, the power of evil is always striving to divide us, to separate us, to isolate us.  And, you know, this week I would add that the power of evil also seeks to depress us, to drive us to despair, to convince us that there is no hope.  Anticipating Ohio’s upcoming changes to concealed weapons laws, while remembering 19 little kids lying dead in a classroom from unspeakable violence, in a country that won’t do a damn thing about it . . . yes.  I am filled with despair, and I am searching everywhere for a word of hope.  Hope for today.  Hope for tomorrow.  Hope for all the children who will be going back into their classrooms on Tuesday morning.  I need hope, because hope is all we have.

And, well . . . here’s what I got.

Jesus prays for his disciples.  When we’ve got nothing left, Jesus prays for us.  When we cannot find a glimmer of hope, Jesus prays for us.  When we are convinced that we have lost our faith and must leave the Church, or leave our ministry, or leave the parish we belong to, Jesus prays for us.  Let us keep going back to that.  The one hope we can cling to:  Jesus prays for his disciples.

Lord Jesus, pray for us sinners.  Now and in the hour of our death.


Monday, May 23, 2022

YEAR C 2022 easter 6

Easter 6, 2022
Acts 16:9-15
Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5
John 5:1-9
Psalm 67

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

So, this is a very strange story isn’t it?  I mean, I think we don’t notice the strangeness because Jesus ends up healing the guy, and that’s obviously the most dramatic and important part.  And with that miraculous distraction, we end up maybe not noticing all the particularly strange things in the story.  But let’s take a moment to imagine the scene.

There’s this pool with five porticoes; think of those as five covered walkways leading to the pool.  And in all these walkways there are desperate people in need of healing.  That could be anything from, you know, a headache, all the way to leprosy and missing limbs.  As we heard in the reading, there were blind, lame, and paralyzed people.  And the reason they’re all there is because they believe that at particular times—when the water is stirred up—the first one into the water would be healed.

But think about what this means.  Only one person—the first person in—would receive the healing powers of the water.  Which means the healthiest person would be first, while the most needy person—the one unable to push to the front of the line—would be the least likely to get healed.  The least needy—that is, the most healthy—would receive the powers of restoration from the water.  So, each time the water is stirred up, somebody with a little headache runs to the pool and jumps in first, while the blind, lame, and paralyzed slowly crawl to the edge, only to be disappointed.  Day after day.

In other words, the first shall be first, and the last shall be last.  That doesn’t sound right, does it?  Backwards, right?  Is this pool some kind of miraculous gift from God given for healing of the people?  Well, let’s think about the situation we see here . . . when do we ever see God rewarding the one who pushes to the front of the line?  When do we see God punishing the weak and powerless, while giving more advantages to those who already have the advantage?  The answer is never, that’s when.

Humans work that way; capitalism works that way; but that is not how God works.  The rich getting richer is never what Jesus taught.  God is always lifting up the oppressed, freeing the captives, caring for the widows and orphans, giving to the have nots, rather than the haves.  So, this is not God’s pool, sorry.  But if this magical pool is not a gift from God for the healing of the sick, what is it?

The answer goes back to Greek mythology.  Hang in there with me for a minute.  The god Apollo had a son named Asclepius, and taught him the arts of healing.  At some point, a grateful snake licked the ears of Asclepius and whispered healing secrets in his ears.  (Which is why Asclepius is always pictured with a snake wrapped around his walking stick—an image you’ve seen before if you’ve ever been to a doctor’s office or a hospital.)

So, Asclepius is connected to miraculous healing, and to snakes, and so the Greeks built these temples in his honor, called Asclepeions, where people would go for healing.  These temples featured non-venomous snakes slithering around, because of the magical powers of that snake that licked the ears of Asclepius.  The pool described in today’s gospel is generally thought to be part of one of these Asclepeions.  You hang around the temple when you need healing, and one of the ways you might get that healing is to get yourself in that pool at just the right moment.  (When the guy who only has a headache is hopefully distracted by a snake slithering over his foot.)

So all that is just to give us the background, to explain why everyone is gathered around this pool in the first place.  And the guy in our gospel reading says he has been sitting by this pool for 38 years.  Thirty.  Eight.  Years.    If people really are getting healed at this pool, one at a time, this guy has seen lots of people come and go, probably mostly with headaches and common colds, while he tries to drag himself back and forth to and from the water.  For 38 years.  The implied message here is this:  This system is not helping those who need help the most.  The healing system of Asclepius would tell us that god helps those who help themselves.  Which is not in the Bible.  Anywhere.

You know where the phrase “the gods help those who help themselves” comes from?  Ancient Greece.  That’s where.  You know, the very civilization that gave us pools where the healthiest people get more healthy, while the sick people can just lay there for 38 years.  So, yeah, the gods might help those who help themselves . . . or not . . . but then, here comes Jesus, the actual son of God.

Jesus asks the man, "Do you want to be made well?"  It’s a yes or no question.  And the man says, "Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.”  This man immediately goes to why it is impossible: the unjust system prevents him from being healed.  And he’s not wrong.  Maybe he’s hoping that Jesus will carry him to the water at the appropriate time.  Maybe this stranger Jesus guy will help him to finally beat the system.  Get him to the water before Mr. I Have a Headache can get there.  He wants Jesus to work within this system of first-come first-served.  Which also means, if he does get healed, someone else will not get healed.  It’s a zero-sum game, this healing water of Asclepius.  Only one person can get healed, and it’s the able-bodied person at the front of the line.

But notice that exchange they have:  Jesus asks him, “Do you want to be made well?”  It’s a yes or no question.  Jesus doesn’t ask him, “Why haven’t you been made well?”  Jesus doesn’t ask him, “How come you ended up so sick?”  Jesus doesn’t say, “After 38 years, couldn’t you have beat this unjust system of the first being first and the last being last?”  No, Jesus simply asks, “Do you want to be made well?”  And the guy never says yes.  He doesn’t say yes.   He never says yes to Jesus.

In the third chapter of John’s Gospel, Nicodemus comes to Jesus seeking spiritual truth, and he hears that he must be born again.  In the fourth chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus talks to the Samaritan woman at the well and she learns about living water and proclaims that Jesus is the Messiah.  And here in the fifth chapter of John’s Gospel . . . we get . . . nothing.  No spiritual insight.  No deep theological content.  No hint of faith, or even self awareness.  It’s just a guy—who has no idea who Jesus is—who has no expectation of getting healed, other than beating everyone else to the water.  He can’t even answer a yes or no question, because he can’t imagine that world.

And Jesus heals him anyway.  This man does nothing to earn it.  He does nothing to prove he’s worthy.  He does nothing to show he even knows who Jesus is.  And Jesus heals him anyway.  It is pure undeserved and unexpected grace.  He is healed in spite of himself, not because of himself.

That’s not how this is supposed to work, right?  We expect people to act a certain way, to believe a certain set of things, to understand who Jesus is, so that he can save them.  Like, people have to meet God halfway.  The Lord helps those who help themselves . . . if that lord is Asclepius.  But that’s not Jesus: that’s Greek mythology.  Because Jesus heals the man anyway, asking and expecting nothing from him.

As Christians, sometimes we do actually look and act like the people of God.  Like the people who know who Jesus is.  Like the ones who can answer a simple yes or no question about whether or not we want to be healed.  And sometimes . . . we don’t.  Sometimes, we can’t.

This gospel story reminds us that Jesus always heals, always forgives, and always raises us to new life.  Jesus asks us, “Do you want to be healed?”  And our first instinct might be to explain why things aren’t going as they should, or why we aren’t better at living up to someone else’s standards, or explaining how the system is keeping us down . . . because it actually is.  But that’s not the question.  The question is, Do you want to be healed?  

Jesus has come to the pool and announced that he is here for everyone.  And he comes first to the ones who are farthest from the water.  That is what makes the difference.  Jesus is here for everyone.  But especially the ones farthest away from the water.  You do not need to say yes to Jesus; you do not need to get yourself to the water by your own strength and effort; you do not need to bargain with Jesus to carry you to the water.  

In a system that says you need to get yourself to the water, that you need to get ahead in order to survive, you just need to let Jesus do what Jesus does.  To make you whole, and restore you to who you were meant to be all along.  God helps those who can’t help themselves.  And that is every single one of us.  And no matter how we might respond to him, Jesus still comes to makes us whole.  Thanks be to God.


Sunday, May 15, 2022

YEAR C 2022 easter 5

Easter 5, 2022
Acts 11:1-18
Psalm 148
Revelation 21:1-6
John 13:31-35

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

So, for the past couple weeks I’ve been involved in doing zoom interviews with the various candidates who have applied to be our next bishop.  Everyone on the committee has to either participate in the actual interview, or watch the recording afterwards, so that we can rank the respondents on how they answer the various questions.  Now, I’m not at liberty to say how many candidates there are at this point, but . . . well, it’s taking some time, is all I’ll say.

We ask each candidate the exact same questions in order to level the field and remove any bias from the process.  And one of the questions we ask each one of them is, “How will you deal with the political and social conflict across the Diocese?”  To my great relief, they all nod before they answer because . . . they get it.  Every single one of them has experienced this in their own parish and diocese.  People are divided, and people are angry, and people are bringing that division and anger into the church.

As you have probably heard by now, there was a mass shooting at a grocery store yesterday in my beloved city of Buffalo, NY.  Some details are still sketchy, but all signs point toward a racially motivated killing in the name of hate and fear.  Division so deep that an 18 year old thinks he is doing the right thing by randomly killing any black person who happens into his hate-filled sight.  There is overwhelming division in our country and in our world.  It’s almost as if the one thing we can agree on is that we are divided.  And that’s because the power of evil always seeks to divide us from one another—to isolate us.  And evil often seems to have the upper hand in the world around us, where the goal to separate and divide is the actual point of what many people do and say.  And what about in the church?

Well, back in the 1950’s, the Episcopal Church was often referred to as “The Republican Party at prayer.”  Then in the 60s and 70s, we became a mixed bag of social justice and conservative principles.  (There’s a folder in the archives from the early 70s labelled, “Conflict With The Diocese,” in case you ever want to dive into that hornet’s nest of St. Timothy’s history.)  In the early 2000s, with the election of Bishop Gene Robinson, some people found the need to leave the Episcopal Church altogether and join other denominations, or become part of ACNA: The Anglican Church of North America.  We went from being conservative, to a mixed bag, to liberal, to fractured, and now to a mixed bag again.  And that mixed bag is a good place to be, in my opinion.  Our Diocese may not be so diverse in terms of race and ethnicity, but we are definitely diverse in social and political terms.

We don’t necessarily agree with one another outside these walls.  But inside these walls, it’s another story.  On the best of days, we leave our politics and cultural positions outside the building when we gather together.  The late great Judy Wigginton once said to me as she dropped off her stewardship card, “I’ve upped my pledge this year, even though the priest is a little too liberal for my taste.”  Said that to my face!  But you know what?  Judy kept showing up.  Now, I take full responsibility for Judy having the impression that the priest was a little too liberal for her taste—that’s on me— Mea Maxima Culpa.  But as I said, on our best days we leave all that outside the building. 

And that’s fitting with our history as part of the Anglican Church from the very beginning.  The Elizabethan Settlement intentionally set us up to be a people who do not agree on things, but who do agree on how we will worship together.  That Elizabethan Settlement managed to bring British catholics and protestants together under one roof—the ones who had been literally killing each other, based on who sat on the throne..  They might not have agreed on much outside the building, but inside the church, they got along and agreed to worship together using the same book—the book of common prayer.

And that’s who we are: the middle way, the via media.  The place where everyone is welcome.  The place where we leave our politics and social opinions at the door.  While the power of evil would like nothing more than for us to be divided and isolated, the power of the Spirit brings us together to worship God in peace.  And when we find ourselves becoming divided over things outside of church, let us keep that in mind: the power of evil wants to separate us; the power of God brings us together, as the body of Christ.

With that background in mind, let’s look at that first reading, from the book of Acts.  It’s an amazing story!  Peter is being criticized by others for daring to eat with gentiles, with people who are different from them.  And Peter tells them of his vision, of the sheet with the unclean animals, and his refusal to eat them, and then the voice saying, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.”  What God has made clean, we must not call profane.  Can you see how that relates to us leaving our divisions outside the church building?  God has declared us one body, and we must not declare ourselves otherwise.

And then, Peter says, “The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us.”  I feel like I want to have that printed on a banner and placed outside the church door.  
The Spirit told us not to make a distinction between them and us.  Join us for worship on Sunday at 8 and 10.

And then Peter asks the rhetorical question, “Who was I that I could hinder God?”  What a question.  What an indictment, actually.  If God is calling people to follow Jesus, who are we to hinder God?  “When they heard this, they were silenced.”  Indeed!  Though we might invite people to join us at church, it is God who calls them to follow Jesus Christ.  The Spirit calls people to faith.  Who are we to hinder God?

And let’s look at our gospel reading, from John’s gospel.  Jesus is at the last supper with his disciples.  He has washed their feet, and has just sent Judas out to do what he must do, and then he turns to the remaining disciples and today’s reading picks up the text.  

Jesus says, I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

Now there’s an interesting thing about that section.  In the first two cases, “love” is an active verb.  That is, Jesus says, love one another.  But the third one is passive . . . or the love is passive.  Here, the word love is a thing to be possessed.  To have love, rather than to love.  And some translations see that last phrase reading, “If you have love among you,” and that is a much better translation in my opinion.  When there is love among us.  As a community.

And so we could think of this passage as something like this:  Jesus commands us to love one another, just as he loves us.  And if there is love among us, people will know that we are the disciples of Jesus.  It’s collective, you see?  When we gather together, there is love among us.  Yes, individually we love one another.  But when we gather together—like we are gathered here today—there is love among us.  And that is the sign that we are disciples of Jesus.

And that takes us right back to where I began this morning.  We have our disagreements when we are outside these walls.  On political and social issues, we are all over the map.  But when we come together for worship, we are united, and there is love among us.

And we get a wonderful visual of this with our east-facing Altars in this building.  One of the great benefits of St. Tim’s holding out against the trend to pull the Altars off the wall so the priest could stand behind them is exactly this.  When we pray, we all turn the same direction.  During the prayer of consecration, we all face the same way.  During the creed, we all face the Altar.  Because we are united in talking to God.  We are one body in worship.  One spirit in Christ.  All facing the same way. 

The Spirit told us not to make a distinction between them and us.  And the love we have for one another means that there is love among us.  And all the world will know that we are disciples of Jesus Christ, because there is love among us.


Sunday, May 8, 2022

YEAR C 2022 easter 4

Easter 4, 2022
Acts 9:36-43
Psalm 23
Revelation 7:9-17
John 10:22-30

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

So, today is what we call “Good Shepherd Sunday.”  The fourth Sunday of Easter is always called Good Shepherd Sunday, using one of the readings from John’s gospel, where Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd.  And, in January, when we celebrate St. Timothy Sunday here at St. Timothy’s, we will also have one of these readings with Jesus telling the disciples that he is the Good Shepherd.  So, twice a year, every year, there’s an opportunity for me to talk about the Good Shepherd. 

Now, three years ago, I used that justification for talking instead about our lovely Dorcas window, and the Dielhenn family’s petticoat business.  But, if I’m honest, I also sort of did that to avoid grappling with this particular gospel text we have today, which we’ll have again three years from now.  Because this reading suggests some uncomfortable and difficult issues and . . . well, who likes uncomfortable and difficult issues?  But, since I’ve already played my Dorcas card, and my Psalm 23 card in years past, there’s nothing left to do but jump right in here.

As I have told you before, John’s gospel is often accused of being antisemitic.  In John, the ones depicted as being opposed to Jesus are usually just called “the Jews.”  We can try to massage this by saying “the Jewish leaders,” or some preachers like to change the word to “the Judeans,” but that’s not what the text says.  Over and over in John, the challengers of Jesus are simply referred to as “the Jews.”  No way around it.

And that particular phrasing John uses has been the justification for horrific antisemitism for centuries.  John’s writing might not be anti-Semitic, but people definitely use John’s writing to justify their own antisemitism.  And the quickest way to short circuit such thinking is to remind ourselves that Jesus was a Jew; all his disciples were Jews.  And they were faithful Jews, not some radical sect or offshoot.  So any time John refers to “the Jews,” you have to take it with a grain of salt—or maybe a tablespoon—and make the correction in your mind.  Because all the Jews cannot be opposed to Jesus, if Jesus and his disciples are also Jews.

Okay.  So that said, here’s the really disturbing part of this passage.  As we heard, “The Jews” gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep.”  You do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep.

John is not helping us here.  Because the suggestion is that it is “the Jews”—all the Jews—do not belong to Jesus’ sheep.  But, as we already saw, the disciples and Jesus are also Jews, so that cannot be what Jesus means.  He is talking to a specific group of people standing in front of him, not the Jews of every time and place.  Like I said, John is not helping us here.

And that’s just the first problem with this reading.  The next challenge is the idea that some people are destined to be among the sheep of Jesus, and some people are not.  The theological term for this is “predestination.”  Or, at its Calvinist worst, double predestination—where some people are chosen for hell before they are born.

For Jesus to say, “You do not believe because you do not belong to my sheep,” is . . . well . . . disconcerting, to say the least.  What does it even mean?  That some people are destined to be Jesus’ sheep?  That some people are not destined to be in this fold?  Does it mean that some people choose to follow Jesus and some choose not to?  That is very dangerous territory, leaving the choice up to us.  And even more dangerous is to maintain that some are chosen and some are not.  And on top of all of that, the implication is that some people are in, and some people are not.  You see why I talked about the Dorcas window last time?

It’s not a very satisfying answer, but I think this is the only place we can land with all this.  

We don’t know what it means when Jesus says, “You do not belong to my sheep.”  But we do know what it means to belong to his sheep.  We don’t know about those who do not belong to his sheep, but we do know what Jesus means when he says, “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.”  I mean, that’s why we’re here today: because we hear his voice.

Those who are not Jesus’ sheep—whoever that may be—that is not us.  It’s possible—and I would maintain it’s true—that there are no people who are not Jesus’ sheep.  I would argue that all people are beloved children of God, because if that’s not true . . . well then I need to find another job.

As I’ve said, there are a lot of problems with this reading from John’s gospel, and it raises a lot of questions that are uncomfortable for us.  But here is what I love about this passage . . .

Jesus says, “No one will snatch them out of my hand.”  No one and no thing can ever separate us from the love of Jesus.  No matter what happens in our lives.  No matter the disappointments, and the tragedies, and the grief and loss and hard times, no one will snatch us out of the hand of Jesus.  We are sheep in God’s fold—loved and redeemed and cherished.  And no one will snatch us out of the hand of Jesus.

As we heard from the Revelation to St. John:  the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.  Wipe away every tear from our eyes.  Honestly?  That’s the only thing I could ever hope for.  That is the sign that we are loved beyond measure.  That God will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and call us by name.

No one will snatch us out of Jesus’ hand.  Ever.  We are the beloved lambs of Jesus.  We know his voice and we follow him.  And no one will ever take that away, no matter what.  We are lambs who belong to The Lamb.  Let us go and tell the others.  No one will snatch us out of the hand of the Good Shepherd.