BE the pig...

Easter 4B

In the name of Christ, the Good Shepherd.  Amen.

There was an episode of Grey’s Anatomy several years ago where one of the doctors, George, was struggling through navigating the early days of a new relationship.  His girlfriend was invested, but he was having a harder time committing.  His patient saw this unfolding, and said, “You have to ask yourself, are you a chicken or a pig?”

George was understandably confused by this.

But the patient said that love is like a breakfast plate.  The chicken and the pig both contribute.  And the ham and the eggs are both delicious.  But the ham requires a lot more investment from the pig than the eggs do from the chicken.  So are you really in it?  Are you the chicken or the pig?

It was like a moment of revelation for George.  He realized he wasn’t really giving his whole self over to the budding relationship.  Of course, it all nearly came crashing down when, in his excitement (and without explanation) he went running up to his girlfriend shouting, “I get it now!  You’ve been a pig!”

But the revelation was that if he wanted the relationship to have a chance at growing, he needed to cultivate it and invest in it.  He couldn’t be a passive participant.  He had to engage and give his all to it.

The truth is all relationships are that way – not just romantic ones.  To be real, they take time.  They take investment.  They require people to give something of themselves.  A passive relationship with anyone isn’t really a relationship at all.  At best it’s an acquaintance.  And in Christian community, we are called to more than that.

That’s what the readings from today point us toward – deep investment for the sake of this Body of Christ that we’ve been called to be.

It starts in the first lesson from the Acts of the Apostles.  We hear that Holy Spirit-inspired testimony from Peter.  You question us because we brought a suffering man relief, but know this: it was done in the name of Jesus.  The one who laid down his life before you, the one whom you rejected, is the source of this gift from God.  Even if you’re threatened by us because of it, the power is beyond us.  Even without us, the power would still be very real.

But the message continues even more explicitly in the Epistle and the Gospel.  The letter of John says, “We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.”


And Jesus, pointing to a common example for his time and place that anyone could see, says, “The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep…  The hired hand runs away, because the hired hand does not care for the sheep.”

Our purpose in Christian community isn’t transactional, it’s devotional.  It’s all about a call to deepen our investment in this faith and the community that figures so centrally within it.

There was a time in the formative years of the early Christian faith where laying down one’s life meant literally being asked to die in the service of the faith – the remain true to your testimony of faith even when threatened with death to renounce it.  That’s the story of the ancient martyrs that we hear about and celebrate from time to time.

Then, as our community grew and spread around the world and became more widely accepted, those kinds of martyrs became less common.  But even so, and even to this day, there would be stories of people who laid down their lives – who literally risked everything they had – down to their last breath – to be the hands and feet of Christ in this world.  People like the martyrs of Memphis who went into the hotbed of a raging pandemic to care for the sick when no one else would.  People like Martin Luther King, Jr. who kept insisting on equal rights, and educating people about equality and organizing them for it, even in the face of very real threats – threats that were realized when his home was fire bombed, and then finally when he was brought down by an assassin’s bullet.

Most of us aren’t called to that kind of “laying down our lives”.  Some of us may be, and God bless those who are, but most of us aren’t.  What we are all called to, however, is to “be the pig”.  To deepen our investment.  To deepen our commitment.  To deepen our relationships.  We are all called to “lay down our lives” in the sense of dedicating ourselves more deeply to this faith and to the community of believers that is rooted within it.

It's easy to see church as something to do on Sunday morning, but when we’re invested, it becomes more than that.  It becomes more than pledging and coming to fundraisers, and more even than volunteering in church and serving on committees and boards.  Those things are all important, but true, deep investment means that the church and our faith is a part of our lives all the time.  It means that your faith informs your decisions.  It means that you notice when members of the community are missing and you check in on them.  It means that you choose kindness and generosity even outside of the community, not because it makes you feel good or because you have a sense of duty or obligation, but because it has become a part of who you are as a person of faith.

That’s what it means to “be the pig” as Christians.  That’s what it means to lay down our life.  When we do – when we truly lay down our lives in faith for this cause that is greater than any one of us, alone – that’s when we truly find new life in Christ.

When we’re really lucky, and when our faith is most true, that new life can come here on this earthly plane.  We don’t have to wait for the new life of Resurrection because we have helped God’s kingdom to come, on earth as it is in heaven.

That’s the call.  That’s the example we follow in Christ and in Christ’s followers who have led the way for us.  We are called to be the pig.  We’re called to invest more deeply.  Until our last breath, there is always room to grow.  Amen.