Saturday, March 26, 2011

I am the good shepherd

JESUS SAID “I am the good shepherd”
RUMC 3-27-2011

Which animal are we most like? There are several different opinions these days.
·        (slide)Charles Darwin of course claimed that the MONKEY is our closest relative.(click)
·        (slide)Now other scientists-mainly biologists-tend to think that man is most like a mouse or a rat. They base their testing of drugs for potential human use on these rodents(click) ...saying that their bodily functions are very similar to our own
·        (slide)Some scientists say that we are a lot like ants or bees because like humans they are social creatures (click)
·        (slide)Others have recently compared people to dolphins because of the similar ratio of brain mass to body size. (click)
·        (slide)In the Bible we are MOST often compared to another animal-SHEEP(click)
·        (slide)Actually as a pastor, I have often said that I feel more like a . . .   who put that one in there???  Go on… (Slide)  like a sheep dog.  (click)Anyway…
(slide) I have heard and even preached sermons on how we are like sheep ... you know we have gone astray and all that.  You have probably heard those sermons before.
As I read this passage this week, however, the thing that stuck out for me was not that Jesus is comparing us to sheep, but that Jesus saying that he is like the shepherd.  The good shepherd to be specific.
To say that the shepherd is good,  Jesus used the Greek work (kalos) which means beautiful, noble, honorable, worthy of praise.  I like worthy.  Jesus is the worthy shepherd.  To worship is technically to declare the “worth” of something or someone.  I like the idea that Jesus is the worthy shepherd, the one worth praising and worshiping.  

In the Old Testament, the leaders of the people are called shepherds, especially Moses (Ps 77:20) and David (Ps 78:70-72; Ezek 34:23). But God is the shepherd par excellence
Only God is the good shepherd.  Only God’s son Jesus Christ is the worthy shepherd.  And that goodness, that worthiness is based on one thing.    11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  The good shepherd would die for the sheep to protect them. .  He would lay down his life to save the sheep.  In other words, the good shepherd is the sacrificial savior shepherd.
Jesus says that he is himself the good shepherd.  He is not an employee of the shepherd.  He is not a hired hand.   He is not what the KJV calls a hireling shepherd.
The hired hand might be perfectly competent. He may know where to find the best grass. He may know the flock and care for the flock.  He may know how to defend the flock against danger, but when it comes right down to it…  He might not.  The hireling, after all,  is not the shepherd.  He is not the owner.  He stands to lose little if a sheep is injured or destroyed, or stolen.  As long as he brings most of the flock back, most days he will work another day.
Jesus is not a hireling shepherd.  Jesus is not just another priest or prophet in a long line of priests and prophets.  Jesus’ claim here is a claim to divinity.   This is a claim be God.  He is not the hired hand, the day laborer, the employee of the shepherd, the employee of the owner.  Jesus is the owner!  Jesus is God himself.
Jesus is the good shepherd, the worthy shepherd, the shepherd worthy of praise and worship.

The second thing I see here is that we need a shepherd because there ARE dangers from which the shepherd protects us.  The first danger is wolves. We don’t see many canine type wolves today.  We do, however, see all kinds of temptations lurking in the night.  These temptations hunt us down in the privateness of our hearts.   And without the saving work of the shepherd they consume us like ravenous wolves.
·        Greed is a wolf.  There is nothing particularly wrong with owning the newest and the best of everything.  It seems pretty innocent, unless the voice to which we answer is rampant consumerism.  There is nothing wrong with stuff unless we are seeking meaning, or happiness, or self worth by collecting it.  Rampant consumerism, or greed, will eat us up like a wolf if we let it.
·        The internet is another temptation to some.  Whether it is easy, cheap internet porn; or facebooking an old flame behind your spouse’s back; spending way too much time gaming;  or way too much money on on-line gambling or ebay.  The internet can be a great tool, or it can be the world wide wolf eating away at our soul and degrading our relationships.
·        Another wolf might be easy pop theology.  Last week Robyn did a wonderful job explaining that Jesus is THE WAY in spite of all the tolerance and diversity talk that surrounds us. A couple of weeks ago I talked about lazy theology that confuses us about the nature and identity of Jesus.  When our own simplistic thinking gets louder than the voice of the shepherd it becomes a wolf gnawing at our faith.
The wolves that reside in the darkness of our hearts might include, all kinds of  temptations including   pride, self deception,  deceitfulness, envy,  hate,  or rebellion.   Yet we need not fear the wolves of our hearts and heads because his rod and his staff protect us.  The good shepherd watches over us and keeps us safe.

Finally Jesus describes another danger.  First there was the danger of the hireling- then the danger of the wolves.  Finally Jesus - the good shepherd addresses the danger  of strangers and thieves. 
Though the Bible teaches hospitality to strangers, this stranger is not one that comes with good intentions. This stranger is one that comes intending to steal and destroy.
Jesus says, 1 “Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.
AGAIN   5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”  
Each  shepherd had a particular call for his sheep.  Sometimes vocal, sometimes with a small flute. This was very effective.  When more than one flock came to the water at the same time, or in the morning when flocks had been penned together with other flocks for the night, the shepherd simply made that sound and started walking,  and the sheep came.  The sheep could tell by the sound of his voice, his posture his motion that it was their shepherd.
Unlike the wolf, that originates inside our hearts, the thief or robber comes from outside. 
·        There are pastor’s called “sheep stealers” who talk down a  church or pastor with the intention of taking people from that church into their own. I don’t worry too much about them because I think you see through them pretty easily.
·        There are some who vocally and overtly oppose the Christian faith in general.  They say the  church is a waste of time and our Jesus merely a myth.  I don’t worry too much about them because I think you are stronger than that.
·        The Thief I worry about is the insidious messages that we hear every day.  Those sneaky little questions that draw us away from our faith and church.
·        The thief robs us of the joy of the faith by saying things like you deserve to have fun.  Just this one time wouldn’t it be more fun to … ?
·        The thief robs us of the commitment to worship by saying things like “You have a commitment to your kids too- shouldn’t  you live up to that commitment?
·        The thief robs us of the pleasure of generous stewardship by saying things like “you don’t really know where that money goes. If you put it in your IRA at least you know where it is. “
·        The thief robs us of the hope of eternal life by telling us that what we see is all there is.
·        The thief robs us of the peace that passes all understanding by asking “But what if this happens, or what if that happens?  Shouldn’t you worry about. . . ?”
Do you see what I mean?  These thieves are little voices that we hear around us, maybe from our kids, or parents, a trusted advisor, a close friend, a neighbor, or from the media.  At first they might sound innocent enough,  but this is not the voice of the good shepherd.  It is the voice of the thief  trying to convince us that our faith, our church and the savior shepherd we follow are not all that important.
·        In this post Christian age these messages are all around us! 
·        In our society which is increasingly hostile to the church the voices are all around us.
·        In our culture that is increasingly and noticeably hostile to Christians and the Christian faith - the voices ring loud and clear. 
But it is not the voice of the savior shepherd. And we therefore must resist giving in to the thief and trust the shepherd to protect us and give us strength.

Jesus says I am the good shepherd.  He is our protector and provider.  He is the one and only voice we should follow. He is the only one who will lay down his life for us. The voice of the savior shepherd says I laid down my life for you.   The voice of the savior shepherd says I was raised for you.  The voice of the savior shepherd rings loudand clear- “follow me.”  Follow me

Finally Jesus ends by providing the great promise of the shepherd. 27My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish.  Not even one. Not even one out of a hundred.  As Jesus points out in Matthew  18:12  Jesus is the good shepherd the worthy shepherd that would not leave even one out of a hundred to perish.   Not even one.
        Are you feeling like the one today?
        Are you feeling lost, not sure of your future, not sure where you stand?  GO  TO THE GOOD SHEPHERD.  LET THE SHEPHERD PROTECT YOU.
        Are you feeling disconnected? GO  TO THE GOOD SHEPHERD.  LET THE SHEPHERD PROTECT YOU.
        Are you feeling afraid? GO  TO THE GOOD SHEPHERD.  LET THE SHEPHERD PROTECT YOU.
        Are  you feeling  uncertain? GO  TO THE GOOD SHEPHERD.  LET THE SHEPHERD PROTECT YOU.
        Are you feeling forgotten? GO  TO THE GOOD SHEPHERD.  LET THE SHEPHERD PROTECT YOU.
        Are you feeling vulnerable? GO  TO THE GOOD SHEPHERD.  LET THE SHEPHERD PROTECT YOU.

        The Lord is your Shepherd.    GO  TO THE GOOD SHEPHERD.  LET THE SHEPHERD PROTECT YOU.

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