Do you feel safe? I think it’s easier to feel safe when we’re with other people rather than when we’re alone, isn’t it? And I guess we all feel much safer when we’re among friends than when we’re among strangers.
If we’re alone in the house at night we can sometimes think that we’ve heard the strangest noises, can’t we, sounds like the creaking of the floorboards, or unexplained thuds, or distant shouts and screams - and then it’s easy to imagine the worst, isn’t it, and to think that we might be in danger!
Jesus promises that with him we can feel safer. First, he offers us the chance to come into his sheepfold, his place of safety, which is the Church. Here we should be among friends, people who are also trying to follow him and do his will. And second, he says that he himself will keep watch over us, especially when we’re facing the sort of problems which other people can’t protect us from - serious illness, or the end of life.
Of course, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue to take care - even when we’re in church. Ministers spend a lot of time nowadays being warned about the need to safeguard children and vulnerable adults from harm, and to carry out health and safety checks, and so on. About five years ago the people at headquarters even sent round a memo reminding us not to allow anyone to come and shoot rabbits if they were eating the grass or the flowers in the churchyard or the car park. They were worried in case any passing pedestrians got peppered with gunshot! Now I ask you, how often does that kind of thing happen in a churchyard?
The point is, of course, that the church may be a safer place to be than the world outside, but it’s never going to be completely safe. Someone once paid for an advertising campaign which said, ‘Christians make better lovers’. That was certainly eye catching! But the advertisements didn’t say, ‘Christians make perfect lovers’ or ‘All Christians make good lovers’, because those claims wouldn’t be true.
All we can say is that, so long as we remain vigilant for people trying to climb into the sheepfold some other way than through the gate, the church ought to be a safer, friendlier and more cosy place to be than the world outside. And that’s because we are all together tying to follow the good shepherd, who doesn’t want us to be anxious or afraid, but to enjoy life - life in all its fullness.