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“Tune in Next Week” By: Brian Flanagan, Fiat Ventures

Flickr User Tony Alter

Fourth Sunday of Easter

For most of TV history, viewers had to watch one episode of their favorite show at a time, and wait a whole week to find out what happened next.  Can you believe that?!  Now Amazon Prime, Netflix, and everyone else like to release whole seasons at once.  By the time you’re done binging, you’ve hopefully seen a satisfying story arc, even if there’s a cliffhanger at the end.

But there are still a few shows who still do it the old-fashioned way.  You might be catching up on-demand the next day, but there’s no “next episode starting in 30 seconds” here.  We’ve got to wait.

So we wait all week long to see what’s going to happen next.  We sit down with our snack of choice, tell Alexa to dim the lights, and brace ourselves for whatever action or drama awaits us. 

But sometimes we have to wait even longer – because guess what – tonight’s a flashback episode.  Come on!  I mean flashbacks are great, we learn a lot about how the characters came to be who they are, or how a situation was set up, but I want to see what happens next!  Who ends up together?  Who doesn’t make it off the battlefield?  Ahh! 

This Sunday’s Gospel reading is a little like that – we’ve been hearing all about Jesus appearing to the Apostles after rising from the dead.  We wanted the next installment of that story!  But we flash back to earlier in John’s Gospel before all of the events of Jesus’ Passion Death and Resurrection, and it’s a reading about sheep.  Come on!

But maybe this Gospel passage has more to do with Easter than we realize at first.  If we follow Jesus’ voice, just as a sheep would a shepherd, he says he’ll give us eternal life.  I bet that passage (and probably most of what Jesus said and taught) took on new meaning after he rose from the grave.  Some of his hearers the first time around probably raised an eyebrow at his claiming to give people eternal life, but after the Resurrection (and especially after the Holy Spirit at Pentecost gave them even greater insights); they could re-watch these episodes with a completely new lens. 

They probably thought to themselves, “Jesus really did rise, so that means he really must have the power to give us eternal life too!  I used to think he was a great teacher with some good wisdom on living life, but he rose from the dead by his own power – and if he can do that, there’s no telling what he can do in my life if I follow him (and what awaits me in the next!).  So I’ll try my hardest to listen for the voice of the Good Shepherd to lead me and guide me – my whole identity belongs to him now.”

As much as we like the action-packed plots, our favorite shows just wouldn’t be the same without flashbacks and breaks in the action for some more character development or exposition. 

So during the Easter Season, don’t just look for the major plot points in the readings, but try to see what God wants to speak to you during the seemingly slower-paced ones.  And when you get to the next climactic moment like the Ascension or Pentecost, you can bring some new insights into who this God is at the center of all the action, and what he wants to do in your life.   

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