I reminded you last week of Rev. Ed Hay's well-known comment that "Jesus' first followers imitated Him long before they worshiped Him." Most modern Christians believe it's essential to worship Jesus. We usually try to imitate Him only when we need to do something for "extra credit."

Sunday's first two readings stress the imitation aspect of our faith. The Gospel (Jn 10: 1-10) usually is interpreted as emphasizing the worship dimension.

On Pentecost morning, the crowd asks Peter the most important question of the day (Acts 2:14, 36-41). After having heard his explanation of the Spirit-filled phenomena they had witnessed, they demand to know, "What are we to do, brothers?"

Though Peter's audience seems to have been convinced by his words - "that God has made both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified!" - they realize that they now have something to do because of it. They must change the way they live their lives.

In His name

"Repent and be baptized," Peter answers, "every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

In Scripture, whenever you do anything in someone's name, you're doing it as that person would do it. So, those who are "baptized in Jesus' name" are committed to carrying on Jesus' ministry. They are to become "other Christs."

This parallels what the author of I Peter tells his readers (2: 20-25). Directing his comments to newly baptized Christians, he writes, "If you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in His footsteps."

Most of us are resigned to having pain in our lives. No one can permanently avoid it. Yet it bothers us when we have to suffer for giving ourselves to others. We can always avoid that pain. If we wouldn't be so generous, we wouldn't have to suffer. Such pain isn't a "natural" part of life; it's part only of a life lived in faith, the faith that encourages us to imitate Jesus.

As expected, the author goes into detail: "When He [Jesus] was insulted, He returned no insult; when He suffered, He did not threaten; instead, He handed Himself over to the one who judged justly. He Himself bore our sins in His body upon the cross, so that free from sin, we might live for righteousness."

The author's point is simple: Jesus doesn't stop giving, even when it starts to hurt.

Gates and sheep

John never expressly tells us to imitate Jesus in His role as shepherd and gatekeeper, but he does zero in on the characteristics of a good shepherd and gatekeeper: "The shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out....He walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they recognize his voice." John then adds, "I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture."

Though we frequently take a step back, fall on our knees and say, "Thank you, Jesus!" after hearing those words, John presumes Jesus' followers are just as concerned as Jesus for the well-being of others. Shepherds and gatekeepers don't anticipate being praised by the sheep they help. Yet, without their help, sheep couldn't survive for long.

I presume John not only expects us to "Ooh and Aah" about Jesus' generosity, but also to be a life-giving element in other people's lives.

Those who believe that faith revolved around adoration might have a hard time at the Pearly Gates, convincing Jesus that they actually did what He intended His followers to do.