Sermon: Sunday May 11
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.