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Tag Archives: John 10:11-18

There Are Other Sheep To Be Loved (April 22, 2018)

John  10:11-18

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 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. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”

Want to hear something ironic? What people really need in our culture is to be to be in aSee the source image community where they are loved and valued for who they really are. And yet, often out of fear of rejection we have a hard time letting people know who we really are. So we tend to fake it, fearing to reveal any aspect of ourselves that is vulnerable or broken. Because if people really knew what we were like—how unworthy or incompetent we feel —there’s a lot higher chance they wouldn’t want much to do with us.

Sometimes we even fool ourselves into thinking we’re someone we’re really not. Our façade, our pretense is so good and we’ve been putting that out front for so long that we begin to believe it ourselves. Sometimes we feel like the only way we can like ourselves is if we pretend to be the person we show everyone else.

Think how wonderful it would be if everyone had a community of people that surrounded them and held them in love. No matter what. Knowing their deepest secrets and worst faults, a community of people that recognizes they are wonderful nonetheless.

If you’re one of those people who can be authentically who you are and still trust that you are valued, you are fortunate indeed. If you are part of a community that would go to bat for you, stand up with you, defend you, back you up—not because you’re perfect, but for no other reason that you are you, cling to it with everything you’ve got. Communities like that are, unfortunately, really rare.

Even though that’s the image scripture uses to describe the church. As the body of Christ, that’s who we are and what we’re supposed to reveal to the world—this is what an unconditionally loving community looks like. For whatever reason, we have a hard time claiming our identity.

When Jesus refers to himself as the good shepherd, he’s describing himself, of course. And yet he’s also describing what those who follow him are like after he’s no longer physically present as an individual person. We are the body of Christ, we lay down our lives for the sheep. That’s why Jesus sent his Spirit to his followers after his resurrection. Not so we can behave like the hired hand who runs away when things are tough, but so that we can reveal who Jesus, the good shepherd, is. Filled with his Spirit, that’s who we are.

Jesus says the good shepherd cares so much that he’s willing to lay down his life for the sheep. He’s describing the community he’s setting up as well. This is the attitude of those who follow him. Willing to set aside our own discomforts, our own agendas, our own priorities, in order to show another how valuable, how loved they are.

Jesus takes this to a global scale when he talks about other sheep, not of this fold. The good shepherd cares just as much for them and brings them. The goal is one flock, with all the sheep knowing that no matter what, there are others who know them, love them, value them.

People of God, he’s talking about us. We’re the ones that get to know them, then love them and value them no matter what. That’s who the good shepherd is. That’s who we are as the church, the body of Christ, too.

All of which means something today on Earth Day. We are called to care for and to love those most vulnerable, those whose frailties and weaknesses are known to us.

Earth Day makes it clear who those are. When we care for the earth we are actually caring for those most vulnerable to climate change. For us here with every advantage, we have the luxury of continuing on with our lives, almost unchanged, even though the world is fundamentally changing around us. But there are other sheep who don’t have the resources we have, who are extremely vulnerable to the danger of climate change. There are those, largely living in poverty, who simple aren’t equipped to deal with the flooding that’s happening—which brings disease and unsanitary conditions. They are at risk from the drought—which brings hunger and an inability to make a living which continues the cycle of poverty.

What these people living in danger need is a community of people that will surround them and hold them in love. No matter what. Knowing their situation, a community of people who considers them worthwhile and valuable nonetheless.

They need to see what the good shepherd looks like. People who, because we follow Christ, are willing to put aside our own prejudices and even our lifestyles for their sake. People who, unlike the hired hand, won’t run away from them or ignore them or pretend their plight isn’t real. People who recognize the value of these other sheep, and take seriously the work needed to restore Creation in a way that helps people living in poverty.

The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. Some of us experience a good shepherd kind of community, one that knows us and loves us will stand with us. But there are other sheep on this Earth Day who are suffering alone and vulnerable. It’s necessary to help these impoverished now, but it’s also necessary to eliminate a serious cause of their poverty.

At the back today is some information and resources to help us be part of this holy work of restoring Creation. Even though we have the privilege of ignoring this crisis, we don’t. The good shepherd, out of love for us, has laid down his life for us, and invites us to follow him in showing those most vulnerable, those other sheep, how loved they are too. Happy Earth Day.

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Posted by on April 22, 2018 in Sermon

 

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One Flock, One Shepherd, One Voice (John 10:11-18)

(This sermon was preached at Faith Lutheran Church, Seward, Nebraska, on the occasion of their celebrating 50 years of ministry)

50 years? Really?  Congratulations on 50 years of revealing Jesus. 50 years of the voice of the good shepherd being proclaimed through this congregation. 50 years. No one ever said following Jesus, the good shepherd, was going to be easy. If they did, they lied. It’s not easy. Listening to the voice of Jesus and following is extremely difficult. Yet, this congregation has been serious about that for 50 years. It’s astonishing. But it’s being done. Because you are a flock that knows the shepherd.

For the first time, I noticed in this text that Jesus doesn’t say anything about individual sheep. He loves the flock, cares for the flock, lays down his life for the flock, will gather all the sheep into one flock. It’s not so much about individual sheep, but more about the flock as a whole. “Sheep” is plural throughout this chapter.

Of course Jesus loves each individual sheep, but the emphasis here is that he lays down his life for the flock. And he will bring in the other sheep too so there will be one flock, one shepherd. One flock, for whom he lays down his life.

This changes everything in this text for me. We’re not just individual sheep, each of us trying to discern the voice of the shepherd. We are first a flock for whom the Good Shepherd lays down his life. It’s not “you’re a sheep” and “I’m a sheep,” so let’s get together and create a flock. No, it’s “we are already a flock!” and we belong to the Good Shepherd. We are part of something bigger than just us. That’s who we are. Our identity comes not from being an individual sheep who chooses a shepherd’s voice, and then seeks out other individual sheep who agree on that voice, and call ourselves a flock. No, our identity comes from already being part of the flock for whom the shepherd lays down his life. We are already included. It’s already done.

Now, if that isn’t cool enough, there are implications as to what this means about our life together as a flock.

Most importantly, Jesus the Good Shepherd is enough. As a flock, the Good Shepherd is all we need. We are enough right now. Faith Lutheran Church has enough, you are enough, right now. Because, as a flock, the Good Shepherd lays down his life for you.You have been called, gathered, and cared for by the Good Shepherd who sees the wolf yet will always stay with you. The shepherd saves you. Saves us. The whole flock. He knows you and lays down his life for you—as a flock.

He says there are other sheep who do not belong to this fold but who he will bring into the flock. Sometimes we can get frantic about that, and think our primary purpose is in seeking them out, thinking that we have to get them in our doors. So we sometimes put a lot of energy into calling them.

But Jesus says they will listen to his voice, not ours. It’s his voice they will follow, not our individual baaaing and bleating. So when we speak to sheep who may be outside the fold, we do so as part of his flock, taking care to use his voice, his words, doing so in his character—that of the Good Shepherd, which has already embraced us, loved us, forgiven us.

We know the sound of his voice. His voice is always that of love, forgiveness, grace, compassion, a willingness to lay down our lives, our agendas for them. That’s the voice they hear; that’s the voice they will follow.

So as a flock belonging to the good shepherd, we love other sheep, whether we consider them inside or outside the flock–because that ultimately not our concern. It is the concern of the shepherd. So we love all sheep, without strings and without conditions. They will listen to that voice. We show them compassion and mercy—even if they haven’t deserved it. They will follow that voice. We forgive those who offend us. That’s the voice of the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the flock.

Nobody can ever say that listening to the voice of the shepherd is easy. No one can tell you that following the good shepherd is comfortable. And yet, Faith Lutheran Church has been doing exactly that for 50 years. That is impressive.

I hope you can take this opportunity, as you celebrate these 50 years of faithfulness, to begin to look to the next 50. The good shepherd knows you, and knows you are listening to his voice. Amen.

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2015 in Sermon

 

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