Last week I needed to be at the Peace Hospice in Watford for a meeting of chaplains and as is my way I was there exactly on time - well to be very accurate I was alongside the building which for some reason was at the top of a cliff. I had not known there were cliffs in Watford but this was a cliff and as I looked hopefully up from the dual carriageway of the Watford ring road I could see the hospice with a welcoming portico, its impressive four greek style columns on my left - up there somewhere. Ahead by the town hall was a roundabout and I found there was a little carpark in the middle of it where I might safely park. Or I could have done if there had been spaces - there were none or at least none that were not reserved and so I spun around and was spat out along another spoke of the roundabout my bearings quite lost in search of another sheepfold for my car. There seemed to be a car park by the town hall so I headed there only to find it was for staff only and took another one or two circuits of the roundabout before seeing Sainsbury’s offered a possible harbour and with difficulty I found the entrance before discovering that much of Hertfordshire were already queuing for a place and in so doing were blocking the exits and so I remained stuck for a while before finding a way to leave and once more navigate the roundabout with the town hall.
By now I was more than fashionably late so rang the hospice to say that I was struggling to abandon my car - oh the lady said come and park in our car park (which you remember is at the top of a cliff and hidden somehow behind the building ) She began her directions with “Do you know the town hall roundabout?
Did I know the town hall roundabout! I had just ploughed a few new furrows round the thing. Their directions were the sort that are good if you know where you are and know where you are going ….I knew neither so was easily lost - I ended up back - at the town hall roundabout - so more phoning was needed before I finally ended up somewhere near the top of the cliff with cul-de-sacs and so on and trying several found myself eventually forty minutes late in front of a promising little red barrier.
In the reading so often used for funerals also from John’s Gospel, Jesus says - “and you know the way to the place where I am going” Thomas asks “Lord we do not know where you are going how can we know the way?” and Jesus’ answer is “I am the way and the truth and the life.”
Now I have preached on today’s reading from John 10 about the sheepfold a few times and of course as you would expect from me I have focused on the sheep, (I have brought bring a sheep!) how they know their master, how they know his voice how we know when Jesus is speaking to us,how we should follow him - but let us this time listen to what Jesus said about himself.
“I am the gate for the sheep.” This is an exceptional figure of speech, after all a person does not readily liken themselves to a gate. But that is exactly what Jesus did and it is exactly what we believe. Jesus is the gateway, the portico, the doorway, the portal the entrance the way to heaven, the way to the father the only way to know God.
“I am the gate, whoever enters through me will be saved”
Without Jesus even when I know I want to go to heaven I shall be lost, without him to lead and guide me and to do so even when I start off in the wrong direction, I shall never find the way. Jesus says look you do not need to be lost any more, searching for God, looking for a harbour, for a sheepfold, I am the gateway, I am all you need for you to know the way to where I am going.
Without the receptionist in the Peace hospice I might still be on the town hall roundabout.
Without Jesus I am sure my life would have gone around and around in circles.