Psalm 23, John 10: 1-10
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long.
In the name of God: Glorious Creator, Good Shepherd, and Sacred Spirit. Amen.
The Good Shepherd… the familiar story of Jesus going after the lost sheep. A story that is filled with tender love, care, concern, compassion, grace, hope and mercy. A story that has become more and more important to me as I have gone through my journey in life and in ministry. The promise of this story provides tremendous consolation in times of strife, why it is so often used at funerals. It serves as a reminder that no matter how lost we may seem to be, we are never so lost that we cannot be found by the Divine Lover of our souls.
Recently, in adult forum, we have been discussing the book Creed, What Christians Believe and Why, by Adam Hamilton. One of the most glorious parts of ministry for me are baptisms. With every baptism, we all have the opportunity to renew our own baptismal vows and promises. It is not simply the rote recitation of words. It holds serious implications that we promise to do what we say we believe, WITH GOD’s HELP. And I would also add, with the help and aid from each other. We are not solitary individuals.
Today we discussed “the forgiveness of sins”…. Part of this Creed we profess every week. Also a part of the promise of the Good Shepherd and empty tomb. It is a tough piece for some…forgiving. Of course, we want OUR sins forgiven. But what if those who we have issues of forgiveness with, what if THEIR sins are forgiven as well? What does that do for ya? I recently had a man share with me that it truly rankles him to think that people who have harmed him could be forgiven. In the case of this individual, I could understand his feelings. He has been gravely wounded by some others that none of us would take kindly to.
For me, this is the game changer….when it comes to lost sheep, we are not told that the sheep searched for, AND FOUND, have qualifiers attached or branded on them. We are not told what color of wool they have… (There is a really neat picture of Jesus tenderly holding a black sheep, but I chose the pretty pastels today for our special little lady…) We are not told their gender, their breed, their intelligence, their ability to hop over fences, or their “countability” for insomniacs. All we are told is that one sheep has strayed and is worthy to be found…. Period!
There are a lot of folks today that are in various stages lost-ness. Since the Good Shepherd has ascended, who would be charged in being shepherds for the lost today? Yep… that would be those of us who have been shepherded. Jesus led by example. He set the example. What qualifiers are placed upon those who shepherd?
I love what Jean Vanier has to say about being a shepherd…
To become a good shepherd is to come out of the shell of selfishness in order to be attentive to those for whom we are responsible so as to reveal to them their fundamental beauty and value and help them to grow and become fully alive.
Drawn into the Mystery of Jesus through the Gospel of John
That’s it! To be UNSELFISH… ATTENTIVE… Showing others their beauty, their value and HELPING them to grow and be FULLY ALIVE! (OR… Nurturing others to become what God fully intended them to be!)
Today, we have a wonderful opportunity to witness and support Sarah in her baptism. We willingly do so… because of a lot of reasons, but one because we love and care for her family so much. It is a joy to embark upon this journey with them. Sarah is tremendously fortunate to have parents, grandparents, and godparents who will live by example what it means to be good shepherds. She will come to know a God of grace, mercy, tender love, care and compassion.
Yet, she is one of 99…. There are ones out there that we cannot forget about. There are ones out there that we must willingly and intentionally be in relationship with who have had no true good shepherds attending to them, encouraging them, telling them they are worthy to be journeyed with, helping them find their way to fullness of life. Actually, to walk with them is part of our baptismal vows …. “To seek and serve Christ in all persons…”
Let us pray…
Lord of the 23rd Psalm
I have known death, and you have refreshed my soul.
I have known fear, and you have comforted me.
I have known hunger, and you have set a feast before me.
In the darkest valley no calamity of humankind or nature has separated us.
Teach me to walk as you walk beside those in mourning so that they will know joy,
beside those in fear that they will know comfort,
beside those in hunger that they will feast until their cup overflows.
As your goodness and love follow me, may mine follow my neighbor,
that the threat of the worst terrors may turn to the knowledge of the comforts of the house of the Lord,
where you have invited us to dwell forever.
So let me strive to help build on earth would you have promised us in heaven.
In the face of all calamity, present and yet to come, let me lead my neighbor beside quiet waters,
the quiet waters of the Good Shepherd.
Hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people. Amen…
Now… Let us be about Sarah’s journey…