Tag: good shepherd

Joining the Good Shepherd in His Mission 22/04/2108 Dr Steen Olsen

Joining the Good Shepherd In his mission  – St Petri Nuriootpa  22/04/2018
John 10:11-18 (v16)

11“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.

16I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

17For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”

My wife Ruth grew up on a sheep-farm in the Western District of Victoria.  Unfortunately, that does not help us much in understanding our text.

In Jesus’ time a flock of sheep might be a dozen or two;

today a flock is hundreds if not thousands

In Jesus’ time sheep were led; today they are chased, usually by dogs

In Jesus’ time a shepherd knew each sheep by name

He called their names and they followed him;

If two flocks meet and intermingle it is no big deal – no overtime…

Today sheep are amongst God’s silliest creatures, they just run and if two mobs are droved into each other – overtime big time…

In Jesus’ time shepherds were mostly hirelings, famous for their dishonesty who often lied and claimed wild animals had taken sheep they sold/ate

Today there are not a lot of wild animals on most farms at least not since the dog-fence was built

In Jesus’ day a ‘shepherd’ was also a title for the kings – good and bad

Today we might use the term for pastors or those who care for others it is not a term we would use for our politicians + other leaders

We need to keep all those things in mind when we hear Jesus say,

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

And then, Jesus invites us to join him in his mission to bring other sheep into his flock, so he can also be their good shepherd.

It is on this invitation that we will focus briefly this morning but first we need to spend a little time on what it means

to have Jesus as our Good Shepherd

1)  We have a good shepherd who lays down his life for us  unless we understand that, we won’t ‘get’ what Jesus has done for us

Unlike Luther, we then won’t have the ‘Aha!’ experience that changes our lives forever and makes us new people

So let’s spend a little time reflecting on what our good shepherd has done for us

 

2)  Jesus says, I’m the good shepherd who lays down his life for sheep

A sheep is not worth as much as a shepherd – that is obvious

If the lion or the bear attacks, better sacrifice a sheep than lose a shepherd – even a hireling is a human being

And the good shepherd / Son of God is obviously worth much more than one of us silly creatures that he made – that is also obvious

The Muslims are surely right when they say it is offensive to suggest that God himself would die for the likes of us

Yet that is the foolishness of the gospel that we believe + bring to others

As Paul says in the first chapter of 1 Corinthians:

     …we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

Maybe we should celebrate Easter on April Fool’s Day every year!

 

3)  You can’t skip Maundy Thursday and Good Friday to get to Easter Sunday

  • Our God is not safe – he is a fierce judge whose law condemns us
  • Our attempts to earn his favour dissolve in the fire of his wrath

Imagine for a moment that I could replay the moments of your life that you are most ashamed of – up there on the big screen

in glorious high definition and with booming high fidelity sound  What do you think? Look around. How far away is the nearest door?

But with God there is nowhere to hide – for big things or small.  He hears your secret thoughts! He sees the worst you have done!

What scenes played in your mind just now? What makes you cringe?

Jesus knows you are guilty! He knows you don’t deserve any grace  – and knowing that he went to the cross, suffered + died – just for you and if you had been the only person on earth who needed forgiving he still would have done it – just for you!

Because Jesus is the good shepherd who laid down his life for you it’s done and dusted. You are forgiven. The video has been erased.

No back-up copies have been kept. It is gone forever! You don’t have to do anything to pay for it. Payment has been made!

Just enjoy it!

4)  You don’t need to impress to get in the good shepherd’s good books

  • It’s about faith – that is trust in the promises of God which is itself a gift of God created in us at baptism, nurtured as we dwell in the Word and come to the table
  • Faith simply receives the gift – it doesn’t earn it or create it.  There is nothing you can do to make God love you more – or less
  • You don’t earn God’s blessing by the things you do.  God’s favour already rests on you – because of Jesus
  • That’s what it means to have a good shepherd

 

5)  Do your family, friends and workmates need this good shepherd?

When Jesus originally said, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold” he was talking about all the people of the world who were not Jews

His good news was not just for the Jewish people.  Today we might take that as a reference to those who do not yet know Jesus

The good news is not just for those already in the church.  Jesus has other sheep in Nuriootpa and the Barossa who are not yet in the sheepfold.  They will listen to his voice and he will bring them into his flock

6)  Jesus has a mission to the people of this community

He invites us to join him in his mission.  The good shepherd doesn’t send us out to create our own mission, he invites us to join him in his mission

That is important because it means that it doesn’t depend on us. We are not running the show.  We are just on the team doing our bit, speaking of what we know.

Secondly, we have seen how Jesus does mission.  He hangs out with all the wrong people.  Apparently, he is not afraid he will be tainted.

The words, “Neither do I condemn you” ring in one adulterer’s ears.  He invites himself to dinner at the hated tax collector’s house

  • He restores Peter after his betrayal
  • He cleanses lepers, heals a mother-in-law, and raises the dead
  • all without insisting that they clean up their act first

At the heart of it all is his suffering, death and resurrection and the forgiveness that he brings without condition because he is the Good Shepherd for all people, not just us.

7)  The good news is not a moral improvement program

It is not a clean up and reform society package.

It is not just alleviating suffering and caring for the disadvantaged though all those may be by-products of people coming to faith

It’s not about telling other people what to do whether your pet project involves law and order, same sex marriage, abortion and euthanasia

or gay rights, refugees, racism, poverty and the environment

– now I have offended everyone equally, at least I hope so!

My point is that none of these things is the good news, the gospel.  That doesn’t mean that they are unimportant, or that we shouldn’t do them.  But they are not the reason why we are here as the church on earth

 

Our first reading from Acts 4 shows this clearly  a crippled beggar is healed and Peter and John are asked

by what name was this done.  They respond “by the name of Jesus of Nazareth” and then add

“There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”

 

The second reading from 1 John 3 says that God’s command is

“that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another.”

 

  • We are here because the Good Shepherd has other sheep
  • We are not just to make the world a better place or to protect God’s honour
  • We are not just to make sure we look after Christians until they get to heaven
  • We are here because Jesus our good shepherd suffered, died and rose again for us and for those who do not yet know him

We are his forgiven flock, set free from our sins so that we might bring Jesus and his good news to the people around us

Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

And again, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”

Amen.

Pastor Steen Olsen

steen.olsen@lca.org.au

Breathe Deeply – Sermon 7th May, 2017 – Vicar Matt Huckel

4th Sunday after Easter  – Psalm 23

Breathe deeply

Vicar Matt Huckel

1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,

3 he refreshes my soul.

He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.

4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley of death

I will fear no evil, for you are with me;

your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

6 Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,

and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

 

Psalm 23.  One of the shortest psalms in the Bible but clearly the most versatile and most loved. If it could be likened to a pop song it would be number 1 in the charts for years on end. If it could be likened to a Swiss army knife, you could pull it out to use in nearly any situation involving danger or perhaps even death.  This was certainly the situation when I went to visit a terminally ill elderly lady on placement a few years ago. She was very near death, and I went with the chaplain to see her and pray for her.  Having my guitar with me I volunteered to sing something to her if that might help, but the trouble is I had no idea what to sing to someone I hadn’t met or knew much about. And so I pulled out my Swiss Army knife Psalm 23 and decided to sing the old hymn version. When I saw her she was so still and hardly seemed to be breathing. After a brief prayer I began to sing matching the timing of my voice to her chest that was barely rising and falling. I was astonished when suddenly her breathing changed, and her eyes opened wide. I was only on the first verse, and yet her lungs filled with air and she became very alert and her face seemed intense. And as the tones began to slowly fade at the end of the music, so too did her breathing and her eyes closed, and she returned to the peaceful state she once was.  There was something about that Psalm, the music and the Holy Spirit that caused her to breathe so deeply. Here was comfort on a plate for her to take in, the assurance of protection and presence of the Lord as she went through those final days.

Our Psalm this morning is a Psalm about movement and transitions, and ultimately about destinations. But as our situations change in our daily lives, so too does our breathing. I have to continually remind myself to breathe deeply when I’m stressed, anxious or worried. Something that really does the job well is an embrace from someone who loves us. In someone’s arms and we can finally let out that long sigh that helps let out all the tension and worry. In verse 4 the Psalmist says that God’s rod and staff will comfort him. The Hebrew word behind comfort literally means to ‘breathe deeply’. He can take deep breaths as he enters a dangerous valley of darkness because he is protected by a shepherd who is actually armed and dangerous. I read an article recently that challenged our gentle pastoral image of a shepherd. In Old Testament times a shepherd was highly skilled, brave, and could take on wild animals such as lions as well as thieves and thugs. Protecting sheep meant survival of a family or society and so a shepherd was the symbol of a strong man who protected his family. It wouldn’t be far off to say ‘The Lord is my Arnold Schwarzenegger’, or from the recent Marvel films: ‘The Lord is my Captain America’. And we certainly get the strong impression that the Lord in our Psalm is in real control.

Firstly our shepherd is such a good provider we lack nothing whatsoever. He is such an assertive leader that he makes us lie down to rest, before we know that we need to. How many of us need someone to nag us to take a holiday? He is such an effective persuader because he makes us turn our life around towards the path he wants us to take. When it says ‘he restores my soul’, the Hebrew behind ‘restore’ also means to ‘turn around or change direction’.  When we see a dark dangerous valley ahead we do a runner and scatter like scared sheep. Our shepherd and protector however guides us on a well-trodden path into that valley done by those before us and he throws his rod on the ground each side of the flock to startle us and keep us on the right path. But it’s not easy. Valleys in those days were not only dark and treacherous, they also contained robbers and criminals who would attack, kill and steal. It would be very hard not to have rapid breathing, but our shepherd knows the way and is strong enough to take anything on; we should be able to breathe deeply.

But suddenly the scene of the Psalm changes. There is no obvious destination or safe sheep pen, and now we have the strange scene of someone who is laying down a table to eat in front of a bunch of people wanting to kill him. For a long time I held this image of a man unafraid of anything because of God’s protection but this week I discovered that this table setting with enemies could be what’s known as a ‘shulcan’ which is an old middle eastern custom of a reconciliation meal.  Clearly the Psalmist had picked up some enemies along the way, and a way of dealing with that was to have a meal laid on the ground and discuss the offence. If the hurt party accepted the apology then they would eat or drink the offered food showing that there was forgiveness and literally the issue was so forgotten they could pretend it never happened. This is maybe why his cup overflows with joy, and why the Psalmist feels that love and compassion will chase after him all the days of his life, reaching a final destination of being in God’s presence forevermore.

If only life could be like this. Could any of us really invite our worst enemies over for dinner? And if they ate our food would it really mean that everything was going to go well from now on? But note who actually lays the table. It’s God. That means it’s his timing, and his initiative and not ours. Relationship ruptures and especially breakdowns such as divorce are like the darkest valleys one can ever know. It can leave you breathless. Seeing a person at the shops that has an issue with you, can suddenly send your heart racing. No one ever wants to go through the valley, but God is there protecting us from things we may not even know about. When we have to go through them God takes us on safe paths others have trodden, and he also provides help from others along the way. Many times God can provide a table to reconcile but as the saying goes: ‘You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink’.

We may not be able to control all the outcomes of broken relationships but the good news is that we have the ultimate reconciliation meal: Holy Communion. When we eat and drink Christ’s body and blood at his table all our sin, garbage and mess is gone, as if it didn’t happen. We can’t control or force others to want to fix things in all our relationships but we can go to Jesus to be fixed with him. His mercy and love that we receive enables us to breathe easier when we see someone who is angry with us or bears a deep grudge. We are freed by the Gospel of grace and forgiveness for others because we have received it ourselves. Jesus our strong shepherd, also known as the beautiful shepherd in John’s Gospel is the one who takes care of us in all our pastures and dark valleys. He is the one who helps us breathe deeply, and one day he will receive our last breath in the final valley that takes us to a heavenly pasture that will utterly defy our imagination. We welcome little Adeline to that journey too as she has been washed in Baptism and adopted. The Lord will never leave Adeline, and will always protect her, and he will never leave all of us either. We all want that security, so let us go with Jesus and let his rod and staff comfort us as we sigh a deep breath of relief and intimate trust in him.

Amen.

 

CONVERSATION STARTERS

Psalm 23

1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,

he leads me beside quiet waters,

3 he refreshes my soul.

He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.

4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley of death

I will fear no evil, for you are with me;

your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,

and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

 

Discussion questions:

  • Sometimes God calls us to go on a path we would rather turn away from and yet he promises his protection and help. What dark valleys has God led you through and how have you experienced those times?

 

  • It’s very hard to have a relationship breakdown and a sense of hopelessness about the outcome easily sets in. They can feel like dark valleys with no hope of exit. Have you had moments of God’s peace along that journey? How has God helped you cope and strengthened you?

 

  • It would be wonderful if we could all reconcile so easily over a meal. Sometimes it can work others times relationships are too complex. Reflect on the Lord’s timing of moments of healing and reconciliation if any. Have you had experiences of God keeping you safe and secure whilst He works on the other hurt party or individual?

Stay or Stray?

Sermon: Sunday May 11Good Shepherd
Good Shepherd Sunday, Mothers Day
Keeping the Flock Together
1 Peter 2:19-25 and Acts 2:42
19 For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
22 “He committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his mouth.”[a]
23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25 For “you were like sheep going astray,”[b] but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

KEEPING THE FLOCK TOGETHER
Keeping the flock together: That is what Mum’s do, don’t they? That is how Mums (and Dad’s) be like the Good Shepherd. Parents are called to tend their children. It is so very hard when mums and dads don’t do this and so, give up their Good Shepherd calling, But it is so very good when they live in the shadow of the Good Shepherd as they shepherd and tend their kids for the long haul.

I am not sure anyone carries in their heart more of the relationships, the conversations, the worries, the plans, the needs of a family more than a Mum? Sometimes Mum is not around. Sometimes it is someone else doing all of this. Sometimes it is dad, sometimes grandma, sometimes a carer. Sometimes there is no one doing any of this for some families and that makes things so very lonely and often damaging.

But keeping the family together is a goal and a commitment that Mums often have and they act on this a million ways over a very long time – a life-time.

Mum’s are like shepherds in this way. This is what shepherds do. This is their aim. Today we give thanks for our Mums specifically. We give thanks for them to our Divine Parent, God the Father, and for the giving of Jesus, the Good Shepherd who tends us and cares for us over the longest time.

This is what the Good Shepherd is committed to doing – so much so that he will go into dangerous territory to find the lost sheep and bring that sheep back into fold.

So highly does the Good Shepherd value us being together in one flock that he has endured all the evil, the alienation of being a lost and forsaken sheep so that we do not have to be this way anymore.

1Peter 2:19-25
OUR GOOD SHEPHERD
Our Good Shepherd did what a lot of women do. He bore the pain of his own people. He suffered and stayed the course like a woman who has tended to the needs of others for years through thick and thin. Our Good Shepherd bore up under the pain of unjust suffering out of obedience to his Father’s will and was credited as highly exalted as a result.

Innocent, and with a generous heart, Jesus, the Good Shepherd laid down his life for the flock of those he would establish after the tomb was smashed wide open.

ALL ARE LOST SHEEP
And all of this for all of us – sheep that naturally go astray without any care of the Good Shepherd. We are like those sheep grazing around in the paddock. Without the fence the land owner puts up we might just graze away on the good grass we have until unaware we find ourselves alone, isolated and in the dark near a big ravine. And like sheep, we would not be able to find our way back by ourselves.

Even worse: without the tending of the Shepherd we are inches from certain death – As we graze away from day to day we might not realise that without that fence put up by the Shepherd we might find ourselves on the edge of the highway and suffering a sudden death by the wheels of a road train whizzing by.
Friend’s without Jesus’ word tending us we would graze our way to our death. That is what lay within us sheep of God. We all go astray. We always tend to do that. It is our disease – going astray, pulling away from the accountability and responsibility that comes with being in the flock of God.

PULLING AWAY
We seem naturally to spend quite a bit of our energy pulling away from commitment and love for other sheep. We are prone to delude ourselves that we live this life on individual terms when the truth is that we can only truly live with the commitment, support, encouragement and warmth of the flock around us under than tending and direction and forgiveness of the Good Shepherd.

Just like a son or daughter of a mum, it is right and good for us to acknowledge her care and her tending so we remain a family that is together in love.- even if there have been mistakes, because one way in which a woman cannot be like the Good Shepherd is in perfection!.

STRENGTH IN NUMBERS
There is encouragement and warmth and strength in numbers. Sheep in the Shepherd’s care must need to highly value being together. It is how we have always existed with Jesus, the Good Shepherd – in a flock. Not along out in individual land. That is dangerous ground. So dangerous that the Shepherd commits himself to keeping us in the flock – even putting his own life at risk to ensure that we stay connected.

Like a mum who quietly works away for decades at keeping her family together, tending the kids as best she can, sharing the pain of the kids and the partner (if she has one), working at binding up the broken hearted in the family and worrying when people disconnect and go astray from the family… so Jesus the Good Shepherd works away for a life-time on keeping us connected and protected from ourselves our inner disease of self-orientation.

Acts 2:42-47
STAYING CONNECTED
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

So, person of God, sheep in the fold of the Good Shepherd, do you want to remain in him and he in you? Do you want to survive the night alone, the pull toward seeing everything in individual terms, the inclination of your heart to replace the Good Shepherd with a thousand other shepherds – that really are all you and about you, because after all, you are the one doing the following and making the choices to disconnect from Him and follow them and your self… We all are.

If we pull away from the flock and the Shepherd, how will we last the distance, stay close to Jesus and live one heck of a life that is full of support, encouragement, learning, serving, being a person who brings His peace, his guidance his rule, his love to a very disconnect world?

How do we keep together? One way and three ways.

ONE THING:
FELLOWSHIP: The one way is the general direction here in Luke’s account of the first church and all throughout the New testament communities. The one big direction for all of God’s people is to do all you can to stay connected to the local flock. Share the fellowship of the flock of God a disjointed and alienating world.

It is God’s flock no matter the skill of the under-shepherd, the choice of how they sing the song of belonging to him, where the pen is situated and how many fit into that particular pen. No, this local flock is a sign – a sign of a global, cosmic community of the Good Shepherd in your place.

So, the one thing for a sheep like you and me? Stay connected. Respond to his leading to be in the local flock of his people.

THREE THINGS
And then the three things…?

Luke gives them to us: Word, Meal, Prayer

WORD: Devote your heart to hearing the word of the Shepherd, sharing the encouragement and strength that comes from a common creed, a common meal, a common serving, a common welcome and hospitality.

MEAL: Get to the food – the bread of life, the Good Shepherd in person, with all the other sheep, and graze on the good things he offers at the table all the time – forgiveness and new life over and over again….

PRAYER: Speak with him together with all the others. Ask for things. Express yourself to him with others. Listen to his response with others. Wait on him with others. Seek him in the silence and the song and the conversation of the flock.

WE WILL BE LIKE HIM
Friends, as we commit to staying connected by hearing his Word, sharing him in his meal and speaking to him with each other, we will be allowing ourselves to live under the leading of the Good Shepherd who loves this community enough to create a flock of faithful people within it. And as this happens we will grow in our awareness of and calling in his way – you will naturally participate in the ongoing task of the Good Shepherd: to leave the 99 sheep to get the one – often.

Under the teaching and the gracious presence of the Good Shepherd you will be like that woman who is just immovable when it comes to caring for another in need. You will be like that mum who puts in hours and hours of caring work for her family with no questions asked.

You will be shaped in the community of grace by the grace of the Shepherd of grace, and you will be more and more like that Shepherd as you go out often, leaving the comfort of the strength in numbers – not to do our own thing but to the Shepherd thing – seeking the lost one sheep and bring him or her home to be with the flock.

A SHEPHERDING COMMUNITY
Oh for a community of God’s people who know how to shepherd as he shepherds – Oh to become more and more people who like the Good Shepherd – inviting, gently leading, sometime challenging others – bit only out of love, and always for the goal of bringing them home to the flock.

What else would you want to be?
Where else would you rather be than in the local flock of the Good Shepherd who is still seeking the strays and creating and re-creating his one flock?

What are the alternatives?
• Would we all really rather be alone?
• Follow our stray heart?
• Reject the community that God has provided and sustains for us all?

No, do the one and the four. It is the Shepherds will for all of us.

STAY CONNECTED
Stay Connected with all your might
As you hear his word with others
Break the holy bread of Life with others
Speak to him with others.

This is how the Good Shepherd keeps the family together.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

Share 2 good things your Mum gave you and a thing she made you do that you did not like or understand at the time but now understand and appreciate.

Read both the text from 1 Peter and then the text from Acts carefully, identifying the questions they raise in your minds and the imagination that they fire in you ans share these with others.

How are Mum and Dad’s) like Jesus, the Good Shepherd?

How is Jesus more than what our parents can be for us?

How has staying connected to God’s people helped you over the years and how do you think St Petri is doing as a community at the one thing and the three things? Share your thoughts…

St Peter goes into how Jesus was like a innocent lamb to the slaughter and in being this took all of the judgement of God against human sin on himself voluntarily and then speaks that beautiful word about us being healed by Jesus’ wounds. “by his wounds we are healed”, says peter. Share you experience of this text. When has it meant the most for you? Tell your stories….

Luke in writing the account of how the Holy Spirit grew God’s gospel community throughout the known world and thereby fulfilled the promises of God given by Jesus as he ascended on high (see Luke 24:36ff) tells us how the community gathered – around those three things for the purpose of the one thing in the Holy Spirit’s fellowship. How do you see these things present in our worship at St Petri? How have you stayed connected to God’s community and the gospel is proclaims over the years and how you can help others re-connect or stay connected. Share your experiences.

 

Good Shepherd love

Lay Sermon, Easter 4B

Sunday April 29, 2012

Combined Service, St Petri

 John 10:11-18

Good Shepherd love

   11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

Prayer:           Lord, may the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, our Rock and Good Shepherd. Amen

Friends, if there is one beautiful image that Jesus paints of himself, it is this one of him being a good shepherd we can trust. He says he is the leader and guide for life that tends us carefully and wisely through times of drought and times of abundance. It is a wonderful picture that Jesus, our Good Shepherd paints of himself and his deep concern for us.

It’s interesting that many biblical scholars have pointed to the tell-tale concerns that the Apostle John seems to have had when writing his gospel. As John, bears witness in words he speaks about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, there seems to have been a major concern for John regarding the community in which he ministered as God’s shepherd, or ‘pastor’, in the Latin language. The problem was something to do with love – or a decided lack of love as far as John was concerned.

Self-preservation, Self-improvement.

The opposite of self-giving, servant kind of love of which John so often speaks in his letters – the kind of love he knew in Jesus of Nazareth the Messiah, seems to be running short through John’s community. As John sees it, the community was not the community of love it was called to be (15:1-17). People were not dedicated to one another with heart and soul, mind and strength. Instead, they were dedicated to self-preservation through self-improvement. They seemed to be thinking that this was the way God’s flock.

When the going got tough they deserted one another like the “hired hand” Jesus speaks of in our text (10:12). What resulted was the demise of community: a people more interested in making comparisons than giving acceptance, a people more dedicated to competition and self-preservation through self-improvement than to mutual care (13:12-17).

Tuned in to the wrong “voice.”

According to John, this approach to living is a reflection of the “voice” the people are listening to. As we know, there are many voices clamoring for our attention on a daily basis, and like us, John’s people seem to have succumbed to tuning out the voice of the Good Shepherd and tuning in the voice of another, the voice of expectations, keeping the right standards, being the right kind of people.

When John talks about listening to a voice he means being captivated by the voice, taking it to heart and believing in it firmly. This begs the questions: What do we listen to? What are we captivated by and what or whose word do we really believe in when we hear it?

John knows for sure that not all voices are the same and that many are down right destructive of faith and love. There are voices that are only like hired hands who have no real care for each person – but only want what they can get out of it, and only use you to meet their own self-driven ends.

“Scattered” — Destruction of the Flock

And here is the trouble with which we are confronted today. The end result of going the self-preservation way where we truly believe that the best of life is to be found in improving our selves and our property is that we become deaf to the only voice that really gives life and creates love – true self-giving, mutual respect and service kind of love, which binds us together in love.

The end result of tuning into the old voices of self-improvement and looking after number one actually scatters the flock. That is John’s experience. Is it ours too? As a community of faith in Jesus the Good Shepherds are we more into self-preservation like hired hands who are not really committed to serving each other? This is the challenge from the Good Shepherd today.

Where there is no voice of the Good Shepherd there is no gathering of the flock, no community, and only an aimless wandering and a façade at surface level.

Jesus himself says that where there is no flock gathered, no voice heard, there is no feeding, no protection, no “abundant life,” no salvation (10:9-10, 26). The old motto “there is no salvation outside the Church” is what Jesus seems to be driving at, if by “Church” we do not mean a mere institution, but the “flock of God,” wherever and whenever we gather.

Good Shepherding.

Praise the Good Shepherd that there is a different way – a way back to love and true community of loving relationships. The Good Shepherd came among his scattered sheep, once and for all, to gather them.

What makes him “good” is that he is not intimidated by the other voices. He is not phased by the charge of even “blasphemy” and threats of “stoning” (10:31-33) that came his way — but is willing (10:18) to lay down his life for his sheep (10:11, 15, 17, 18).

The cross, which his opponents thought would silence his voice, was actually his PA System! We now know him unmistakably, loud and clear as our shepherd, and we know his love first-hand.

What’s more, in his resurrection we know him as the One who is “loved by the Father” (10:17) and that his act of “laying down his life for the sheep” was not merely his idea but the will of the Father. With the Father’s backing he has real authority — real power! He has the authority and the power to lay down and take up his life (10:18) and to give it in great abundance to his sheep (10:10).

Knowing and Following.

We are captivated by his voice. We follow his voice. His voice is unique and clear on the cross and his power to heal, restore, protect, lead is unquestionable in his resurrection. To know his voice is to follow his voice (10:27. We know so we follow. We are loved, so we love. We are shepherded, so we shepherd each other.

In a world in which everyone wants to be the leader or “top dog”, Christians have a different instinct ingrained in them: Jesus calls it faith. The sheep know their shepherd to be a master servant (13:12-20) and, knowing that, they value and do servant hood, as they faithfully follow Him.

Following is not an act of blind, dumb obedience. Good followers are knowledgeable. They know exactly what and who they are following. That’s what makes them so good at following. This does not mean that there are not “leaders” in the Church. There are. But such leaders are sub-shepherds, master followers, appointed by THE Shepherd to serve on his behalf– like Peter, the Rock who is charged with feeding the flock on the Word of Jesus (21:15-19).

Gathered as a Community of Care One for Another.

And here is the heart of it all for us today. This faith in the voice of the Shepherd we know,  and the values of following and servant hood that he instills naturally lead to community.

So, following Jesus is not a private affair, but an affair of the flock. Our gathering as the flock of the Shepherd is all part of the abundant life he gives. In the midst of the flock we receive his feeding, his protection, his care and his life. In the flock there is no competition, but only mutual care and “friendship” (15:13). In the flock, the command and desire of Christ (that we “love one another as he has loved us”) becomes a reality here and now.

We are community and we are church and we are here. Jesus says he has many more sheep to add to his fold and that is our mandate. We are charged with the call to be committed to and concerned for those outside the flock – with love – Jesus’ love – the love of the Shepherd.

Above all the other things we learn, may we learn to love in Jesus’ “Good Shepherd” kind of way – self-giving, caring, and strong.

John puts it well…

 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters in the flock…Dear people, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and truth. (1 John 3:16-18)

May we find way to love each other for it is by our love that those still yet to be drafted into the flock will know the love of Jesus for them.

Amen

Prayer:           And now may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Good Shepherd. Amen

 

Shepherds of the Shepherd

Excellent SA/NT Pastors Conference this weekend. Thankyou to the St Petri Ministry Team for stepping up the Call from the lord of the Church to lead our people in worship, and to the St Petri people for happily allowing their pastor to share in the fellowship of fellow under-shepherds (a band of brothers in faith- like Jake and Elwood – “The Blues Brothers” ) for the weekend!

Much good time was spent considering the gift of God called Sabbath rest. From the Old Testament through to the New and then to Luther’s small catechism, we reflected on the gift of rest in the Lord every 7th day.

All of this was encountered on the weekend of Good Shepherd Sunday. Very appropriate and very meaningful. God is our pastor. We pastors are loved and shepherded by him (as are all his people). We have the special place of shepherding and lead/loving/serving God’s loved people.

What a privilege to be in this church of ther Good Shepherd! What a challenge to enjoy in shepherding the lost, the lonely, the cynical, the pain-filled people with whom we all work, rest and play.

May we at St Petri and in all places where the Great Shepherd loves us, learn even more to love, serve and lead many to their Good Shepherd who loves them, leaves the 99 to get them, and speaks his word so that they hear his voice.

Peace

Under-Shepherd Adrian