Sermon – 05-07-17 – Easter IV – Good Shepherd Sunday – Cycle A
Scripture: Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 23; 1 Peter 2:19-25; John 10:1-10
Sermon Title: “Like Sheep, But More”
Sheep go astray. We go astray. We bring hurt upon ourselves. But if we become Christian, everything is fine and dandy. We don’t get lost. We don’t have problems. Jesus made everything perfect for us on the cross.
“Oh my,” you are saying. “Am I not a Christian?” we say with confusion in our eyes plus disappointment and hurt and anguish.
We may search for days in the Bible looking for a promise that says life will be problem-free if we give our hearts to Jesus. We will not find it unless we write it in the margins ourselves. What experience would lead us to write such a thing? If anyone tells us that false statement it is probably because someone told that falsehood to them.
Life on earth is not trouble-free. It is heaven where we are taught to believe life will resemble a floating ride on a cloud or something similar. And how we look forward to that.
What does becoming a Christian do for us on earth? Well, if we get lost, Jesus comes looking for us. If our pantry is bare, we often find a loving person heading our way with food.. If we are behind in our rent . . .sometimes there is help, but not always. Not always! What does scripture say about that? From I Peter 2:19-25: “It is a credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly. . . . If you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps.”
So what is the benefit of being Christian? Why should we suffer and bring our families with us into the suffering for following this man on the cross? Should there be a benefit? Why don’t we just forget commitment, and blow with the world’s wind?
Why did the disciples drop everything and follow Jesus in the first place? Oh that we had lived in those three years when Jesus walked and talked, healed and forgave! There must have been some magnetism in that man’s personality. Why would crowds gather? This man was very special. There must have been charisma in the DNA. There was, of course!
Shouldn’t we try to resist charisma? Can most people with charisma be trusted? Why do we take this leap? Why do we heap possible suffering on ourselves when maybe we could resist? Because, resistance may do not good. We may be helpless against this force. Force seems to be an undesirable shade of word. Jesus as a force! If you have ever tried to resist the call of Jesus, you may be able to explain how this irresistible force feels and works.
We may want our freedom. We are loving it just liked the Prodigal Son relished his freedom. If we think of ourselves as a sheep, we are free to run in the pasture outside the fence that once held us. No rules! All the green gas we could possibly want to eat and make our bed. Uh oh, we did not do our research first. There is a big black and white moving object with big horns coming our way. We are not alone in this heaven-like place. Supposing we are less huge than a giant ram, we cower. Even a ram would not match this animal. We have eaten the grass to a level in which we cannot hide. And besides, this monster has already seen us; probably smells us. This black and white moving object starts to move faster and faster. The closer it gets, the faster it runs. Now it is snorting! Why is that big bull snorting over me? It is not like I am another bull. I am just a regular sheep.
Has this bull not been fed today or is it a game the bull needs to play to maintain his ego? I am frozen to the spot. But, out of the corner of my eye, I see a red cloth. Someone is waving a red cloth. What will that do? Oh, now I see! The bull saw the red cloth out of the corner of his eye. The red cloth has charisma for the bull. The bull cannot resist heading for the red cloth.
“Hallelujah!” I scream. I become unfrozen. My legs actually start to move. My knees bend. I am running. I don’t even realize that I am running back to the very safety from which I escaped. Amazingly, the gate is open. The head shepherd even knows my name. I know his voice! Oh my, that feels good. Safety. Protection. Safety. Protection. For me! For me!
Why become a Christian? Why profess it to the world? “Yea, even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (from Psalm 23) Even though trials and tribulations find their way to me and you, as Christians, we have this comfort, something like a turtle’s shell. It may feel like the crook in the shepherd’s staff when we have slid far down the mountainside and are clinging to a little bush for dear life. We feel the rescuing action. All is not lost. We are saved.
Think of the cross. This saving has to do with the cross; yes, that hastily constructed piece of equipment that suffocates people as they hang. Jesus did the suffering there. We suffer in our lives also. Jesus died. We die in our baptism with water in the name of Jesus. But, Jesus was resurrected. We also, therefore, are resurrected.. Our suffering as Christians enables us to be one with Jesus Christ.
In Psalm 23, the psalmist says, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil, and my cup is running over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Jesus says in John 10:1-10, “I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”