Sermon – 11-24-19 – Christ the King & Thanksgiving – Cycle C
Scriptures: Jeremiah 23:1-6; Psalm 46; Colossians 1:11-20; Luke 23:33-43
Sermon Title: “King as Shepherd”
Last week we investigated experiencing joy despite the doom and gloom of the end times. The expectation of Jesus coming again was worthy of rivers clapping their hands and the hills ringing with joy; trumpets blowing, harps floating melodious music, singing to the Lord with uplifted voice. Yes, a loud and happy celebration. We can picture our king coming through the clouds on a magnificent white horse. Through Malachi, we were assured that true believers, who revere God’s name, will be saved; we will gain our souls; not a hair on our heads will perish.
Will someone please tell my head that news? I don’t think it is getting that message. Or maybe I am not believing enough. Maybe I am not courageous enough to defend the name of God and the name of Jesus loudly enough and in the right places.
We do need to be careful that we do not align our physical changes and problems with sinning. That needs to be a personal conversation with God. If things are going wrong for us, no one, including ourselves, should assume our physical condition or our life situations are caused by a weak relationship with God. Maybe they are. Maybe they are not. It is recommended that we do an assessment about our relationship with God when things go wrong. Is our humility at a good level or is our pride gauge rising?
But, this is a matter between ourselves and God. We don’t know why God lets affliction happen to devout believers. This could be a separate sermon with no answers in the end. If you have gone through, or are going through, trials and tribulations and feel closer to God all the while, consider sharing your story with us. It is time we starting sharing stories with each other during the service, in small groups or with each other.
We can be a witness of God’s love and caring by sharing our stories. We can be drawn into a closer-knit body when God speaks to us through each of us. We become vulnerable as we truly listen and share. We are lifted on wings above the daily grind. We become more caring and loving.
What is happening to our picture of Lord as king with crown and robe and sceptre? This picture is dissolving. As we listen to each other’s stories, the king slowly moves from the throne and does a subtle change of clothing. The sceptre is lying on the throne in a lifeless manner. The fancy robe is lying on the floor of heaven. I guess that would be clouds.
Emerging is a lowly, soft-natured person with shepherd’s clothing and yes, there is a sheep in his arms. At first, it seems to be a lamb, but look closely. This is a sheep that has known hardship; this sheep may once have frolicked over the meadow in joy at being alive but not now. We can sense that this sheep needs to be carried; it is saying, “I can’t do this by myself. Thank you Jesus the Shepherd for holding me, for loving me, for carrying me through this hard time in my life.”
Jesus is the Savior for this sheep. He is saving this sheep.
Figuratively, I like to think that Jesus can hold as many sheep in his arms as need to be carried. Realistically in earthly terms, that is impossible. But, there is no limit to the ability of the Father and the Son to care for each of us; even the unbelievers!
For the uncountable sheep in the kingdom, we can walk on our own most of the time; we do not always need to be carried in the arms of Jesus. But we do need an overseer. We need a guide, We need a model. We need someone to warn us of approaching trouble. Now it may be said that sheep are not intelligent. They need a shepherd more than most of us do and more than other animals. Well, let’s see.
I have a feeling that even humans with umpteen degrees and high degrees need to be guided and loved as much as the humble sheep Human beings are not robots. We need to be loved, we need to be encouraged and praised. Enter Jesus the Shepherd who has shed his disguise as a king. He has shed his nature of teacher and disciplinarian. His shepherd-self is non-threatening, just loving; it is not pushing but receiving. It is going out on a limb for us, otherwise known as the cross.
The loving shepherd says, “My sheep know my voice; I know my sheep by name,” he says in John 10. The Jesus Shepherd says, “I am the gate.” “The gate to what?” we say. The gate to the everlasting, wonderful life when it is truly our turn to be received in real time and real location in the heavenly home of forever and ever. That home. The home where there will be a table spread. The home where the meadows are green and the streams are clean! The home where the rod and staff are protection and guidance, not punishment, not discipline, but safety and love.
How did Jesus learn this nature and how does Jesus maintain this nature? He says, “The Father loves me . . .” Yes, love begets love. From parents to children to their children and to their children. What if somewhere along the way a mutation takes place and love gets lost. There is chaos. Who will step in to restore the love in the chain of human nurture and behavior?
Being human, do you think more might be expected of us than of sheep? Do you think we are charged with being the restorers of love into the chain of children to children and on for decades and even centuries? Do you suppose that God is waiting for us to be little shepherds; to see the lack and lead the little ones to pure water, to green healthy grass and furthermore to the table that is ready, not only heaped with food but also heaped with love and acceptance; of nourishment of the soul and of the personality.
Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. I must gather the sheep who are still outside the fold. I must gather them in so that there will be one flock of sheep and one shepherd.”
Are we going to let Jesus do that all by himself? Amen