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Easter 4C Sermon
Revelation 7: 9-17,
John 10: 22-30

May
12, 2019

 

Sermon Archives
 

 

John 10:22-30

At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon.So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.’ Jesus answered, ‘I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.’

May the grace, mercy and peace of God be with us in the name of our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; Amen.

(For my children’s sermon, I am going to have bells from my late mother’s collection. Bells are used to summons or call. My mom called me to dinner by whistling. I will make the connection with the verse from John 10, “My sheep hear my voice. I know them and they follow me.” Mothers shepherd us. They are God’s servants. I will let the kids pick a bell to have to remember the Good shepherd, and to remind them how their mothers/grandmothers are shepherds in their lives – they know them … they know their voices … they care for them.)

It has been a bit of a battle for churches like ours who follow the three-year cycle of readings for centuries. Every second Sunday of May, we are challenged to divert our attention away from the readings and themes assigned and focus on one of the three major festivals of the Christian year. Besides Christmas and Easter, some will list Mother’s Day as a major church festival. Admit it, many of you would have been just as happy if the choir skipped, “Brother James’ Air” and broke into a rendition of, “M is for the many things she gave me …” But when I started talking about my mom with the kids, maybe I brought things back a bit for you. Not every pastor of every lectionary-worship based church will agree with me, but I think it is good for us to focus on a secular observation once in a while, especially when it is supported so well by the assigned passages for the day, as it is today. Mother’s Day and Good Shepherd Sunday are a natural fit, a synchronicity of common themes for us as we bring God our praise and worship today.

In our Gospel reading, Jesus is conversing with some Jews who don’t recognize that he is the messiah. They think that he should just tell them plainly, so they know for sure. His response reveals that if they recognized the things that he does and how they are the same things that God does and promises to do … the miracles, healings, teachings, and love that he has shared … that they would know that the answer of the question is yes, indeed he is the messiah. Jesus also recognizes that these people do not have a relationship with God as they claim. After all, the sheep recognize the voice of the shepherd, and the shepherd knows the sheep. In this relationship, they whould know that Jesus is the one sent by God to love and save them.

When many of us think about the people with whom we have had the closest relationships over the years, I would venture to say that we would include on that list our mothers. When we think of people who have been like shepherds to us in our lives, likewise I am sure that most of us would mention our mothers. And when we think of the people who love or have loved us enough to sacrifice so much for us, well, you know where this is going.
My mother was the kind of flesh and bone shepherd to our family that God promises to send our way.

Sometimes she needed to correct us with words or even a board. Sometimes she needed to comfort us with a hug. Sometimes she needed to encourage us with those profound promises that she spoke, like: “It will feel so much better when it stops hurting.” Sometimes needed to call us home to dinner and sometimes she needed just to let us make our own mistakes and find our ways back on our own. Through it all, as we knew our voices, and as we grew into the deep, intimate knowing of each other, we built the trust and love that was shared reciprocally between mother and children.

Maybe you had that same relationship with your mother. Maybe you still have that same relationship with your mother. Maybe others filled in that shepherding role for you as you grew – a father, grandparent, teacher, coach, pastor or other family member. All in all, the promise of God to send shepherds into our lives is the promise that we celebrate today on Good Shepherd Sunday.
I will admit to you, for many years I was really confused about verse 17 in our second lesson from the Revelation of John: “…for the Lamb at the center of the throne with be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” How can a sheep or a lamb become a shepherd? The metaphor just does not work! I know that this passage refers to Jesus, the one who went to the slaughter for us like a lamb at Passover, but I have always been confused about the image of this same lamb becoming the shepherd. About six or seven years ago, the health of both of my parents started to decline quicker than it had the previous years. They lost a lot of freedoms along the way - the ability to drive, to cook, to clean and to do many of the things that they had always been able to do. It was then that my siblings and I switched roles with them … you might say that their flock became their shepherds. It was time for the love that was shown by them to us to be returned to them in the same ways that they showed that love to us. The lambs had become the shepherds.

Many of you have had that experience as well, I am sure … of having to shepherd the very people that loved and fed and protected and led you when you were in your younger years. If those people were strangers, we would expect a handsome pay for doing those things. But we know them intimately … we have experienced their love countless times … we know their voices, their whistles and calls, and we know that the tables have been turned.
The Lamb at the center of the throne is Jesus, the one who suffered and died innocently for us, and to be a model of sacrificial love. In showing that sacrificial love, Jesus also lived out his role as our good shepherd. As sheep in Jesus’ flock, we love and recognize him in the loving acts that he did and continues to do in our lives, just as we recognize God’s love in our relationships with those shepherds like our mothers. We are sheep … AND as disciples of Jesus, we are called to shepherds to the ones God calls us to love, including our family, friends and even strangers.

I would like to close by returning to our choir’s anthem this morning and telling you about the author. James Leith Macbeth Bain was born in Scotland in 1804 to a very devout Christian family. As he grew, he came to doubt his faith, but was influenced by a group called The Christo Theosophic Society to adopt a very mystical belief. He simply became known as Brother James and founded the Brotherhood of Healers who worked with the sick and dying in many places, especially the slums of Liverpool, England. Brother James and other members of the Brotherhood were known to sing to people during their healing sessions. Brother James did not play a musical instrument, but his neighbors say that he was always a humming! (hum the tune …) I imagine that Psalm 23 sung to that tune to was something that the hurting people to whom God has sent him became very familiar with. As a result of it being published, it has also become familiar to us today. In the simple tune of Brother James’ Air, so many people have been strengthened in their relationship with the Good Shepherd.

Thanks be to God for the shepherds that have led us, fed us, protected and tended us along the way. For them, we are deeply grateful! Amen.