Sermon – 05-03-20 – Easter IV – Good Shepherd – Cycle A
Scriptures – Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 23; 1 Peter 2:19-25; John 10:1-10
Sermon Title: “Walking in the Paths of Righteousness”
Righteousness does not equal “perfectness.” Righteousness indicates walking on the path toward Jesus instead of following worldly ideas, events, and practices. It means following the Shepherd Jesus. Following Jesus does not mean enjoying a perfect life. Wanting to do what Jesus wants us to do is the beginning of righteousness. There are rewards. There are hardships and sacrifice.
Deciding what is valuable, deciding what we really need is the tricky part of being righteous. Does God provide for us so we can be selfish with our possessions – food, time, money, medical care? Does God provide for us so we can waste our money – buying expensive meals, wanton living, borderline or outright ludicrous activities?
Well that is not us, or course. We are thrifty with our money; some of us really and some of us like to think we are. We know which words are vulgar and unnecessary and we avoid using them. We bring food for the food pantry. We are diligent in bringing offerings to worship. We like to think that we are kind to people and most of the time we are. Righteousness. Following Jesus.
If we are following Jesus do we need to remain a “following” type of person. What about leadership? Does this world need leaders or just followers?
Meet Freddy, one of the sheep in the flock that is following Jesus. As Freddy’s hooves follow each other while he nibbles grass here and there, he should be content. The sheep around him are content. They know their lives depend on being a follower. They sense that it would be foolish to pull out of line, to wander away. They are automatically being righteous – following this calm, caring leader, Jesus. These sheep around Freddy seem fine in this role. But Freddy is not fine.
His legs want to go faster than the shepherd is moving. He questions the path the shepherd is taking and the wisdom of the schedule. Freddy does understand when the shepherd needs to help certain sheep. Freddy even wants to help with the problem. He really is a kind sheep and he respects Jesus. “But, why am I not content,” he says to himself.
Jesus, being Jesus, knows Freddy. Jesus senses that Freddy is not content. Jesus calls Freddy’s name and invites Freddy to walk close to Jesus. Jesus talks to Freddy and Jesus listens to Freddy. Well, if you are a practical person, you are not buying Jesus listening to a sheep. If you are a more imaginative person you simply accept that Jesus could have a conversation with a sheep. However, here is where the bud blossoms into a flower. Think of Freddy as yourself if you are thinking how Freddy seems like yourself. Are you content to be a follower? It is fine if you are. This world needs followers if the leader is Jesus or a follower of Jesus.
But you may be a person who was created to be a leader instead of just a follower. Let’s see what happens to Freddy. There he is walking beside Jesus. He can see what is ahead and on both sides. Freddy hears the voice of Jesus explaining things to him; why Jesus takes this path instead of that path; why Jesus chooses to have the sheep drink from this stream and not that stream; why it is time to rest instead of push to the limit. Jesus asks Freddy to watch for any sheep who seem to be dragging or limping or being bullied by another sheep. Did one of the sheep follow the green grass and forget to stay with the group? Did each sheep get a good drink of the fresh water?
Freddy is learning to be a leader, not by being bossy, but by learning why choices need to be made a certain way, why a leader also needs to be a follower of someone with more wisdom, more experience, more intuition, more knowledge, more spiritual relationship.
If you are a leader type, think of yourself somewhere in the ladder of leadership. Now think of the leader on the next rung higher. You are accountable to that leader. Does this leader have the qualities I just stated? Most importantly, is the leader above you following a good leader? Is the head leader worthy of being followed? If the head leader is not Jesus, one of the three persons of God, then maybe it is time to step off the ladder before we are too high to jump safely.
Sometimes we pull out of the flock and find ourselves in trouble behind a leader who is not righteous or even trying to be righteous – doing what is right. Recently, I have heard people say, “It is the right thing to do.” Right. Righteousness. It is the kind thing to do – you know, we shall love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Good but not enough! We shall love our neighbors as ourselves or better still the goal should be to love each other as much as Jesus loves us.
Are you following a leader who is guided by what is the right thing to do? Or did you happen to hitch your star to someone who is questionable? No leader is perfect. But is your leader hitching his or her wagon to a leader who wants to do the right thing, the fair thing, the loving way? Sometimes we need to endure leaders who are not connected to a good leader themselves so that we can earn a living. We shall continue to be on the lookout for a better way to earn a living, or a better place to have recreation, or a better non-profit in which to serve where the leader has the kind heart of Jesus and cares for the volunteers in a kind shepherd-like way.
Think of the leaders in the world. Think of the leaders in your life. Which ones seem to do the best job? The ones who are arrogant or the ones who look to other people for guidance, the ones who look to God for their wisdom and strength.
With elections filling the air in competition with COVID-19, are we seeking persons to be leaders who are following Jesus’ style of thinking and being, or are we looking for the opposite? Would Jesus make a good president or a good judge or a good head of the police department or a good mayor? You think so? You think not? Hmmm . . . Maybe it is time for us to put on our righteousness binoculars and start screening candidates by righteousness. Is the person trying to do the right thing? Does the person know how to bring the best out of people? Is the person basically kind so that the people who are following that leader will feel good about themselves?
Maybe we should each take a turn walking with Freddy the sheep beside Jesus, the master leader. Amen