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Our most recent family pic with only Andrew missing

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Easter 4: Life in the Flock of the Good Shepherd

The fourth Sunday of Easter this year is Mother’s Day and also Good Shepherd Sunday.  The Psalm for this Sunday is Psalm 23 and the Gospel reading is John 10 where Jesus tells us He is the Good Shepherd.

All of us have a mother (there is no other way to be born into this world) and all of us have a Good Shepherd (there is no other way to be born again, into the new world that God is creating right now).  I was blessed to have a Mom who was also a good shepherd......but I know that many don’t have “good shepherd” Moms.  I would hope that all Moms (Dads, it’s our turn next month)……in fact that all parents long to be “good shepherd” parents.  But it’s Mom’s Day, so I'm focusing on Moms, and I am going to read Psalm 23 but I’ll substitute “My Mom” (and invite you to substitute your Mom) for “the Lord” and with some poetic license encourage us to let this be our Prayer of Thanksgiving today for our Moms, our Prayer of Intercession for ourselves as parents, perhaps even let it lead us to confession if convicted by the Spirit that we haven’t been the Moms (parents) we should be:

My Mom is (perhaps was, or tried to be) my Shepherd, she tries her best to provide for me so that I have everything I need.
She makes me lie down and tucks me in, in green pastures.
She leads me beside quiet waters.
She refreshes my soul.
She guides me along the right paths, for His name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I need not be afraid,
Because she is (somehow always) with me;
Her presence……comforts me.
She prepares a feast for me, especially when I've had a hard time from my enemies;
She anoints my head with the oil of her love.
Her goodness and love follow me (in the form of her hopes and prayers for me) all the days of my life
And I will dwell in her heart forever.

I hope that none of you have found this blasphemous or disrespectful to the Word of God and if I have offended you by my adaptation of the Word……please forgive me.

Some Moms (parents) are good shepherds of the flocks entrusted to them, some aren't. Thank God if yours was or is...forgive if yours wasn't or isn't.

It was like this in Israel with the shepherds – the prophets, priests and kings – that God called to care for His flock – some were good, some were bad.  It was like this at the time of Jesus; the shepherds – the Temple priests, the scribes, the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law – that God called to care for His flock – some were good, some were bad.  It has been like this through the history of the Church up to the present day; the shepherds – popes, priests, bishops, ministers, preachers – some are good, some are bad.

And throughout the Scriptures, but especially Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, Hosea; the promise of a Good Shepherd is held before the people, and judgement on bad shepherds is threatened and promised.

Jeremiah 23 gives a good description of bad shepherds – under them the sheep are scattered.
               “Woe to you shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture.”
and
          “Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away……I will
              bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done.”

And later in Ezekiel 34, the promise:
   “I will place over them one shepherd” 
and then …… Jesus speaks (and we don’t have time, but chapter 9 of John tells us why Jesus chose this moment) and says:

“I am the Good Shepherd……and I am also the gate to the sheep pen.  “Whoever enters by me will be saved; they will come in and go out.”

Coming in and going out was a Jewish idiom: to be able to come and go out was the Jewish way of describing a life that is absolutely secure and safe.  When a person can go in and out without fear, it means that the kingdom is at peace; there is safety and security, abundance and blessing.  Now, much as our Moms (and Dads) wish this for us, and try and provide this for us – they can’t, can they?

But hear this: 
Jesus can and does……here and now!

Whoever enters by me will be saved; they will come in and go out.”

            “I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full.”

Some translations say abundant life.  The original word is περισσός “perissos” which means “exceedingly superior.”  
Cup runneth over life is God’s Promise to you when the Lord is your Shepherd.

That’s God’s promise here and now not sometime in the future ......this is Life in the Flock of the Good Shepherd now……not when you’re a better person……not when you die…….but here and now:....Abundant life to the full.

How’s your life?

I've got four glasses here.  One is empty, one is half (you can decide if it’s half full or half empty), one is full to the brim, and there’s this one which I’m pouring into and it’s overflowing.

Which one describes your life today?

“The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy.”
“I have come that you may have life, life in abundance.”

Sometimes our lives are not abundant/overflowing because we give too much freedom to the thief and we let him kill, steal and destroy.  

Sometimes we kill, steal and destroy ourselves without the help of the thief.  You all know people who..........perhaps stay in destructive relationships, destructive work situations, and rob themselves of the abundance God is pouring onto them, we sometimes stay in places that God has made it clear are killing us, which God wants the to leave – perhaps you’re in such a place – but we stay because we’re afraid of leaving, or, perhaps we feel better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know …… but one thing you do know if you're in such a place is that you’re drained……the situation is sucking you dry, no matter how much God pours.

Sometimes feel undeserving, unworthy and we hear the thief saying, “clean your act up first.”  Friends, this is our God (I will now pour water wastefully into a small glass).  Don't listen to the thief.
Our God lets His rain fall on good and bad alike.  Our God scatters seed NOT just on good soil, cleaned up soil…….NO!  He scatters seed, pours His grace on good and bad, on clean and dirty, on hard soil, on rocks, on shallow soil and on weedy soil.

He pours His grace on your and my hardness of heart, onto the shallowness of our belief, and into the very weediness of our sin.  That is the Gospel and the Gospel promise is, come to me and I will give you life……life in all its fullness.

Now this will mean a 100 different things for a 100 different people – as a symbol that we have or want to have this cup-overflowing life……I am going to stand here and pour, and I invite any who want to, to come forward, take a communion glass, let it overflow as I fill it, let God’s Grace wash over you as you drink it, and hear this, grasp this, believe this:


            “I have come that you may have life in all its fullness……now.”

How's your life?

Draw near in faith and may the cup which is your life overflow.

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