The Good Shepherd

Preacher: 
Rev. Katherine G. Dougherty
Sermon Text: 

4th Sunday of Easter

Acts 4:5 - 12, 1 John 3:16 -24, John 10:11-12, Psalm 23

April 22, 2018, (Yr B)

Open our ears, O Lord, to hear your word and know your voice. Speak to our hearts and strengthen our wills that we may serve you today, now and always

         Yesterday was our Annual Yard Sale.  It was a fun morning hanging out with one another and visiting each other’s tables.  Some of us left with fewer things than when we arrived, and some of us gained a variety of treasurers to add to our list of belongings.  I believe fun was had by all, because laughter and time spent together seemed like a nice way to enjoy a Saturday morning. 

         As I walked around, I reminisced with folks about items on their tables.  Stories were told about the toys and games from our childhoods or from our children’s early days.  We chuckled over CDs with music from the 70s, 80s, 90s, and I loved hearing how this trinket or that pair of crutches came with a story or two. 

         At one point Neal plugged in one of the TVs that had a VHS player…remember those…and can you believe it – someone was selling VHS tapes, so the next thing I know, we were laughing as we watched a movie in the middle of the Yard Sale as we tested out Rebecca’s “new chairs”.  How fun was that!

         I must admit, I too walked away with a few things.  One of my favorites was a children’s storybook called, 10 Fat Turkeys!  I kept reading the story over and over again, because it had the BEST line ever…. “Gobble, gobble, wiggle, waggle.”  Each time you turned the page, there it was…  “Gobble, gobble, wiggle, waggle.”  After awhile, a whole group of adults were saying it – how silly of us and how great a time we had! 

         It reminded me of another children’s book I love.  Have you ever heard of the book, The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown?  Brown is better known for writing, Goodnight Moon but Runaway Bunny is another classic of hers.  

         The Runaway Bunny is a lovely story that is actually deeply theological in nature. The naughty little bunny wants to run away and tests his mother’s love.  “If you run away,” says his mother, “I will run after you.  For you are my little bunny.”  
         “If you run after me, I will become a fish in a trout stream, and I will swim away from you,” replies the little bunny.
         “If you become a fish in a trout stream, I will become a fisherman and I will fish for you,” says his mother.
         The conversation goes on and on, with the little bunny threatening to become a mountain, a crocus, a bird, and even a sailboat.  But all his ideas are met with the gentle, loving response of how his mother would find him and love him regardless.  In the end the runaway bunny says,  “Well shucks, I might just as well stay where I am and be your little bunny.”   

         Throughout the Bible, we hear about all types of shepherds.  Jesus often used images in his parables and teachings from everyday life.  It made his stories and lessons more relatable to the people he addressed.  Jesus, as the Good Shepherd, is a common theme, but what I find interesting is, in Jesus’ day being a shepherd wasn’t a respected profession.

         As we can imagine, a shepherd’s job was not an easy one.  It required constant vigilance.  Whether it was protecting the flock from predators or robbers, or finding open land on which to feed one’s herd, or rescuing sheep, who wandered away or were injured, the work of a shepherd was never done. 

         To compound the issue, often shepherds were young boys or old men and were not trusted by a society that valued family and community, because their work demanded solitude. So, for Jesus to choose a shepherd as his metaphor is interesting and has many layers.

         Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me.”  This second half of Jesus’ Good Shepherd narrative is remarkably tender, vulnerable, and human.[1]  People hearing this would have understood the commitment he was offering us all.  Shepherds were dirty, hungry, and scrappy, but they did everything they could to care for their flock and to ensure their safety.

         Jesus is telling his disciples then and us now that this is how he cares for us. He’s not a leader, who is around just long enough to get paid.  He’s not there to just do the easy work.  Jesus, the Good Shepherd, has come to offer us all salvation: salvation through love…through self-giving…through tenderness…and through vulnerability.[2] ---

         Today we proclaim … that the work of the Good Shepherd… goes on.   Jesus’ ministry did not end when he died … but it was re-established through his Resurrection.

         In powerful words that we dare not gloss over, we hear Jesus say,  “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.” [John 10: 16] 

         The work of the Good Shepherd is not finished and indeed, it is expanding and spreading.  Our news media and events in our country and the world may discourage us, but it is true…the work of the Good Shepherd is continuing.  It is communities, like All Souls, who are welcoming and loving…who mean what they say…and who show their love through action…by reaching out and caring for the world around us.  

         We must also take care of one another. We must continue to strengthen our friendships with one another too.  Caring for this flock of people is essential to our health and our community. 

         Look around you…has anyone been missing lately?  Have you wondered how someone is doing?  Or have you

thought, “I’d like to get to know that person better.”  Don’t wait another week…take the time - reach out to them – call them…go by and see them…or make it a point to get to know them. That is how communities stay healthy and strong.  

         There are great, good people here – and we must help each other and get to know each other.  Life is busy – we all know that – the demands upon us can be hefty at times.  Growing friendships and looking out for one another…does take time and attention. 

But it’s time well spent and in doing so…we get fed too.  We must love one another and care for one another… just as the Good Shepherd cares for and loves us. 

         Jesus offers us a life of abundance.  An abundant life is not measured in how many trinkets we have, even if those trinkets are wonderful.  An abundant life is a life no longer dominated by fear or weighted down by expectations, but rather a life lived trusting in the guidance of the Good Shepherd, connecting with one another, and sharing in God’s love.

[1] David Lose, http://www.davidlose.net/2018/04/easter-4-b-resurrection-abundance/

[2] The Rev. Joseph Peters-Mathews, St. Joseph – St. John Episcopal Church in Lakewood, Wash, http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/stw/2018/03/26/the-good-shepherd-east...

 

 

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