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Archive for May, 2009

Pentecost

Acts 2:1-21

  

1.  Way In

Christians celebrate Pentecost as …

the day of the coming of the Holy Spirit among the followers of Jesus

and the birthday of the church

not the building, but the people

“Here is the door, here is the steeple …”

Remember, the church, is “the people”

we gather today and remember that…

God sent the Spirit among the people,

formed a community gathered under the Holy Spirit

and, hearing the word of God proclaimed by the preacher, Peter

they came forward by the thousands (about 3,000 v.41) …

all were baptized

and they devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and the prayers

This is the story of the birthday of the church

So why are we here?

Pentecost isn’t one of the big days that draws in our “CE” friends

You know, the Christmas and Easter Christians, CE

that’s a reason to be here

Summer is here!

school is out

Memorial Day weekend was last week

pools are open, or nearly open

So it’s good to be in church

By the way, I don’t know if you have heard

we’re not taking the summer off at church

I know, the choir is not singing

Rejoice Ringers aren’t ringing

moving worship back an hour for the summer

next Sunday!  Communion Sunday

but we’re not taking the summer off

still having Children’s Church

we need teachers, see Dawn or me

(give details about this; 1x, commitment, gives other teachers a break, etc.)

still doing Bible Study weekly

still hanging with the youth (tell me what’s up since school’s out – when/where do you want to hang?)

we’re having an Art Fair – with flair!  ask Sarah, 8/29

Sarah – Program Coord. and me decided that this year, we’re just not going to take the summer off from church

ease up a little, maybe

take it a little easier

but we’re going to go ahead and do church all summer, too

carry on with this a bit …

 

we’re gonna go ahead and lift up Jesus, even in the summer

we believe God wants us to be church year-round

But going back to the question, Why are we here?

Well, it’s Sunday …

And this is what we do.  We come to church on Sunday.

that’s a reason to be here

But really.  Why are we here?

keep thinking about that while we look at today’s text …

2.  Tell the Story

(Context)

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place

Jews gather at this time of year for the festival of שבועות, Shavuot

“7 sabbaths” after Passover = after 49 days it begins

then, on the day after the Sabbath, which is the 50th day

an offering is made to the Lord marking the end of the harvest

the Greek name for this day is πεντηκοστή ἡμέρα, “50th Day”

so, the Greek scriptures and the subsequent English translations call this day Pentecost

This is why there were people from all over the known world there

they were there from (name some of the places)

(The text)

people from all over the known world were gathered in Jerusalem

suddenly from heaven there came a violent wind

wind filled the house they were in

tongues of fire rested on them

fire, but it rested on them

remember Moses and the burning bush

that was “burning but not consumed”

that same type of fire

burned

marking something holy

but not burning it up

burned but not consumed …

a resting fire

fire of power and light

burning, but not consuming

generating light, but not heat

fired up but not burned up

they were filled with Holy Spirit

they were speaking in other languages

the crowd was bewildered, confused because of the sound

the sound “like the rush of a mighty wind”

the crowd was amazed and astonished because …

they heard the Galileans speaking, but each one heard it in their native language

the Galileans were probably speaking in common colloquial languages like Greek or Aramaic

but the residents of all these other places (go back to list of nations)

heard the words the Galileans were saying in their own native tongues

and because they heard it in their own languages

they knew that the Galileans were speaking about God’s deeds and power

“What does this mean,” they asked?

some said, “Don’t worry about those guys from Galilee, they’re just a bunch of country guys who came to the big city and got drunk”

others said, “no, they are filled with new wine.”

not drunk

but filled with the Spirit, and guided by the Spirit

and because everybody could hear the Galileans speaking in their own languages …

they could all hear Peter’s sermon about the promise God revealed to the prophet Joel in the scriptures

about the out-pouring of God’s Spirit

sons and daughters will prophesy

young ones will see visions

old ones will dream dreams

everyone, men and women, will prophesy

God’s power will be revealed

and “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved”

3.  So What?

God’s people were filled on this day of Pentecost some 2,000 years ago

they were filled with the Holy Spirit

people thought they were drunk

but they were not drunk…

they were filled with new wine

exuberantly open to new possibilities

guided by the Sprits’ revelation of visions and dreams

so much so, that others, who could not understand the holy possibilities

of imagination inspired by God

that they could only be drunk according to the ones who were without that imagination

God was opening their minds to visions and dreams

new imaginations of God’s endless possibilities …

for renewal of our minds by God’s spirit

imaginations of possibilities for:

fellowship

spiritual growth

worship

ministries of mercy and compassion

This is the Spirit that guides God’s ministry, which is known to us in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ

certainly enough to gather us here today in God’s name

but really…

why are we here?

why am I here?

Why are you here?  (The rest delivered from the floor)  Let me tell you a parable I heard at the Wee Kirk Conference last spring in Mass.[i]

Abbott & new monk

A: Why are you here?

M: Answering a call to devotion and prayer…

A: Very nice, now go to your room and think about this for 30 days

M.comes back

A: Why are you here?

M: talked about vocation, spiritual gifts, a life of prayer and work – ora et labora

A: Very nice, now go to your room and think about this for 30 days

M. comes back

A: Why are you here?

M: theological answer

M: Listen to the scriptures

Lazarus’ death

Jesus, “Lazarus, come out”

unbind, etc.

A: Now, why are you here?

M: theology. answer about being bound, etc

A: Very nice, now go to your room and think about this for 30 days

M. comes back

A: Why are you here?

M. more theol. answer

A: very nice, Listen to the scriptures

Mary Magd. going to the tomb where Jesus was buried

encountered, Jesus but did not recognize

Jesus said, “Mary”

then she recognized him

Jesus “why are you weeping, my child”

A: Now, why are you here?

M: theol. answer about recognizing Jesus, new life, etc.

A: Very nice, now go to your room and think about this for 30 days

M.comes back

A: Why are you here?

M: with tears of joy and fulfillment in his eyes

I am here because Jesus has called me by name

like Lazarus and Mary

my Lord and savior knows me and calls my name

that’s why I’m here

A.  Very Good.  Now let us go and be about our Lord’s work

Friends, Beloved, this is why we are here

Jesus, our Lord has called us each by name

to this place

to be filled with new visions and dreams

new possibilities by the power of God’s sprit

Called by name

for imaginative discipleship

so may it be.  Amen


[i] speaker, Rev. Tom Letts

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Ascension Sunday

Acts 1:1-11, Luke 24:44-53

Witnesses

1.  Way In

The folks on the DPNC (Search Com. for newcomers) will have to check me out on this

I don’t think I told y’all about one of my jobs – a summer job – college years

worked for a radio station

several jobs

receptionist

traffic manager

scheduled ads

had a brief on-air “gig”

daytime station

off-air at dark

signed on at sunrise

general manager encouraged me

helped me get my FCC license

taught me how to run the sound board

I don’t know what kind of following I had

probably not much

“Big 10 Country” had 10,000 watts of power

I don’t know what that means

we had a tall tower out back

I should know, one of my jobs was also cutting the grass

in the field behind the station

don’t imagine I made much of a difference

then again, it did make a difference

they gave me the sign-on slot for Sunday morning

which made a difference to the other staff

somebody got their Saturday night back

there was somebody else to come in early on Sunday morning

somebody else to run things at the station

while some of the others had a chance to rest or “sleep it off”

But really, I don’t think I made much of a difference besides that

but I do remember wondering …

after I got my license

after I completed my training in what they called “engineering”

… when I went in on Sunday morning, and used my training to:

power up the transmitter

turn on the sound board

played the Star Spangled Banner

and read the morning news that I tore off of the telex

and the weather

and the correct time

was anybody out there?

none of my friends got up that early to listen

why would they?

they knew I was a goofball

knew how I stuttered and stammered when I got nervous

like I always was on the air

but I guess it was okay, it was a country station

just think about Mel Tillis

I’m sure my mother got up to listen …  a few times, but that was about it

it sure was strange

to go in there early Sunday

all by myself

with a little bit of training

and turn on the transmitter

when I spoke into the mic, or played some music …

the lights came on, the dials moved

but was anything going out on the air?

I didn’t know

2.  Tell the Story

Luke says the disciples were with Jesus

whom they had witnessed dying on a cross, and buried
Now Jesus had come among them

alive!

  

The disciples asked Jesus,
“Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.
 
 
 

 

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria,
and to the ends of the earth.”
 
 
 

 

When Jesus had said this, as they were watching,
he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.
While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven,
suddenly two men in white robes stood by them.
 
 
 

 

They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven?
This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven,
will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

 

3.  So What?

the time is beginning for the disciples

… the times Jesus was preparing them for

the three years of training

walking with Jesus

seeing him teach and heal … build a community

at this moment, seems like they still don’t get it

used to Jesus doing most of the work, most of the ‘heavy lifting’

seem to still be missing the point of it all

it never was about when Jesus would come back

it was about how they would live in the meantime

now they’re wanting to know about when…

was this when Jesus was going to re-establish Israel to its former glory?

now, would he bring in the kingdom?

because, surely if he made the kingdom…

… then Jesus would be the king

and they would surely have some pretty sweet assignments

you have to wonder if they had been paying attention

what about Jesus’ teaching ministry?  his healing ministry?

what about the way he was building a community of faith

around God’s reconciling and forgiving love?

what about the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus – that they had just witnessed?

the way it happened just as he had been saying it would

now according to Luke – in the Gospel and in Acts – Jesus is going away

one last time, he gives them his very best in teaching

gospel says that Jesus  “opened their minds to understand the scriptures”

he reminds them about his suffering, death, and resurrection

and that their proper response was to go and proclaim Jesus to the world

Jesus told the disciples,

you are my witnesses

I am sending the Spirit to be with you

as promised when he said (in John)

I will not leave you orphaned, I will not leave you alone 

soon, the world will not see me 

but you will know that I m with you, and that God is with you

and you will have me with you in spirit always

he makes quite a dramatic exit

took them out to the country, where he seemed to do some of his best work

Jesus lifted up his hands and blessed his dear ones

then he was carried up into heaven

In Acts, Luke says the disciples stood there for a while

… with blank stares, looking at the last spot where they saw Jesus

that’s when 2 angels appeared

we can parse the story together at this point – between the Gospel and Acts

“What are y’all looking at?” the 2 angels said

“Jesus will come back the same way you saw him go away”

“Now, didn’t he tell y’all what to do?”

the Gospel says they worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy

and they were in the temple constantly, blessing God

“You will be my witnesses”

the words that still ring I the disciples’ ears

…in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, to the ends of the earth

remember Philip?   and his encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch? – the ends of the earth

when Jesus goes away from them, the disciples begin to get it

today, we see them returning to Jerusalem

later in Acts, we can see them figuring it out

figuring out what it means to be his witnesses

and why he was teaching them the things he was teaching

they were filled with the Spirit and they were sent by Jesus was witnesses

they didn’t decide for themselves – they were sent

there are 3 dogs lying on the porch, one decides to get up and go in the yard

how many are left on the porch?

still 3 – “deciding to get up” is not the same as actually getting up

the disciples didn’t decide to do it

Jesus taught them, prepared them, sent them

then he left them to do it

what does that mean for the church today?  what does that mean for our church today?

what do we want to be?  who do we want to be?  how does our church matter?

our faith tells us we have decided to follow Jesus

but “deciding to” doesn’t even get us off the porch

we need to grow, it’s true – we need to pay the bills and keep the doors open

there’s no doubt about that, we meet about it, and talk about it

but how do we “be witnesses” of Jesus?

do we witness to ourselves? and to each other?

that’s important, that’s a start, we need to tell our story, and get our story straight

but is it all for us?

what difference does it make to the world when we witness to each other?

or if all we witness is each other going to church on Sunday

and turning up at events

what does it mean to be Jesus’ witnesses, from Jerusalem, and into all the world?

… from Sidney, and into all the earth?

Were you here last night?  were you out in the backyard listening to music?

were you there when we hosted the neighborhood/the community to come out

listen to good music, eat ice cream, and fellowship[ with each other?

somebody said, “I hope y’all made enough money to cover hiring the band”

you know what?   we didn’t come close

you know what else?  it didn’t matter – we never set out to do that

it wasn’t about raising money

it was about the music

it was about the community

it was about being witnesses.  what?

what?  you mean we were witnessing last night?

nobody was handing out tracts

nobody was calling folks down front to pray

we didn’t even pass the offering plate

in SC we used KFC buckets at the revival I preached

yes, we were witnesses

we were witnesses to the church of Jesus Christ

that flings wide her doors for his sake

did we change the world?  I don’t think so, at least not yet

did we grow our membership rolls last night?  Not that I know of

did we make a difference?

yes, I think we did

in calling out to a community

where there is uncertainty, struggle and hurt

for a few hours of music, fellowship, and ice cream

in the name of Jesus, for the sake of his church

Dawn was handing out VBS information

nobody pressured anybody to come to church

but people know who we are

and we are building a reputation for a community church

— and, l I think, a welcoming church

 

here’s the way Barbara Brown Taylor[1] puts it

“Eleven  ‘abandoned’ disciples with nothing to show for all their following.
But in the days and years to come it would become very apparent what had happened to them.
With nothing but a promise and a prayer,
those 11 people consented to become the church,
and once they did that,
surprising things began to happen.

They began to say things that sounded like him,
and they began to do things they had never seen anyone but him do before.
They became brave and capable and wise.
Followers became leaders,
listeners became preachers,
converts became missionaries,
the healed became healers,
and disciples became apostles,
witnesses of the risen Lord by the power of the Holy Spirit.

That probably was not the way they would have planned it.
If they had had their way,
they would probably have tied Jesus up so that he could not have gotten away from them,
so that they would have known where to find him and rely on him forever.
Only that is not how it happened.
He went away – he was taken away –
and they stood looking up toward heaven.

Then, they stopped looking up toward heaven,
looked at each other instead,
and got on with their commission of being Christ’s witnesses,
Christ’s body on earth.
To this day, too many Christians still stand staring up in heaven,
or worse yet, sit around doing little themselves,
waiting for something to happen,
waiting for Jesus to do something about the church, the world, our own lives,
when we ought to be getting on with the commission we have clearly been given, of being Christ’s witnesses,
of being Christ’s body, his hands and his feet, on earth.
We must finish the work Jesus began. “

Friends, we have been prepared, called, and sent by Jesus

each one of us

and however you have heard it…

maybe a still, small voice like Elijah heard

maybe the blazing and booming voice of God from the heavens

maybe something you heard or felt that’s between the 2

we are his witnesses, we are his plan

and we are called to offer the very best we can in his name

that’s when we are the church

that’s when we are witnesses

that’s when we make a difference

so let it be with us.  Amen

 

 

 

[1] Christianity Today, May 18, 1998, “The Day We Were Left Behind”, Barbara Brown Taylor

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5th Sunday of Easter

Acts 8:26-40

Rejoice

 

1.  Way In

It’s a whole new world out there

I have lived in Atlanta, New York (L.I. and Upstate) and never have I seen what I encountered here, in Sidney OH – and only entered last week

that’s when I first negotiated, for myself, a drive-thru convenience store

 I have seen them, even in one other state

I have even been through one

on another occasion

but I was a passenger in the car

and the one I went to last week was really a “drive-up” not a drive-thru

nevertheless, it was a whole new world

in fact I have been to this particular store before

but I chose to use the door and go inside

the inside of the store was familiar territory

your basic convenience store

but while I was in there, people drove up to the window

and got what they needed

of course, this was after I went and moved my truck

initially, I had parked in the drive-up lane

they had to ask me to go move my truck

I observed a couple of the drive-up customers

I knew, someday, I would be a drive-up customer

but not that day

I lived in Sidney 8 months before I tried a drive-thru, or drive-in conv. store

I knew what I wanted

I knew I wouldn’t get in trouble for going about it wrong

I was curious about how to pay

do I have to have cash?

actually, I did at that one

but I am told some of them take credit, even debit cards

am I expected to tip?

everybody I asked said “no”

so I didn’t

but it seemed like the person who brought my Coke lingered

for an extra moment

should I have tipped her?

did I commit a transgression?

do any of y’all tip at a drive-thru or drive-up?

Now I’ve done it

pretty soon, it will seem totally natural

but it took me 8 months to try

isn’t that weird?

Now isn’t it presumptuous to think I know something about the “whole new world” the disciples of Jesus experienced?

more like ridiculous to think so

on the other hand, it gives me a perspective of contrast

my timidity

and the bold evangelism of Philip we encounter in today’s reading from Acts

evangelism in a “whole new world”

2.  Tell the Story

Philip was on the road, traveling south, from Jerusalem to Gaza

a “wilderness road”

an angel of the Lord sent him

I wonder if he was expecting something

the Lord doesn’t have a history of sending people on journeys like this

especially in “wilderness” areas

… for a loaf of bread and some eggs

On that road Philip had quite an encounter

he met an Ethiopian eunuch

an official from the court of Candace, the Queen of Ethiopia

the eunuch was in charge of the entire Ethiopian treasury

the eunuch had been to Jerusalem to worship and he was going home

he was travelling in a chariot

and reading the Bible

well, he was reading from the scroll of Isaiah

The Spirit of God told Philip to go over and join the E.E.

actually the Spirit said to go join the chariot

Philip did as he was told

in fact, he ran to the chariot

Philip asks a question of the Ethiopian …

not a very cordial greeting

at least, Luke-the author, doesn’t tell us that Philip said “hello” first

when Philip heard the Ethiopian eunuch reading Isaiah

so he must have been reading aloud

Philip asked him, “Do you understand what you are reading?”

“How can I,” replied the Ethiopian from the chariot, “unless someone guides me?”

he invited Philip to come sit beside him in the chariot

he was reading Isaiah 53:7-8

“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth. 33In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.”

the Ethiopian asked Philip who the prophet was talking about, himself or someone else?

Philip answered him about this and more

he talked about Isaiah

and he proclaimed the good news about Jesus

As they were going along the road …

I don’t know whether he Ethiopian had pulled over to the side of the road when Philip first joined him

or maybe he was riding along in the chariot – reading Isaiah as he went

and that’s why Philip ran to meet him

… because he had to, to catch up with the chariot

anyway, they came to some water

‘Look there is some water,” says the Ethiopian eunuch, “what is to prevent me from being baptized?”

The Ethiopian commanded the chariot to stop

both of them got out and went down to the water

Philip baptized the Ethiopian eunuch

When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away

the eunuch didn’t see Philip anymore

he went on his way rejoicing

next thing Philip knew, he was in Azotus

where he proclaimed the good news all the way to Caesarea

3.  So What?

It’s a whole new world – and Philip is thrown right into it

even though we, liturgically, haven’t come to Jesus’ ascension and Pentecost

today’s lectionary text shows us the whole new world trhe disciples faced

after Jesus left them with a charge and a challenge

to go into the world, as witnesses to all he had done while he was with them

and spread the good news of God’s saving love in Jesus Christ

and living the kingdom of heaven here on earth for his sake

until he comes again – and come again, he will

and Jesus said, begin where you are – here in Jerusalem

So the Spirit sent Philip …

from Jerusalem

… to the south

down a wilderness road to Gaza

on this journey Philip encountered a whole new world

Philip

grew up in a small Jewish village called Bethsaida

area renowned for religious orthodoxy

part of the “Orthodox Triangle”

very serious about dietary restrictions, prayers, clean and unclean people and things

In Jesus Wants to Save Christians, Rob Bell says (p. 94 ff.)

“Philip came from a very small world of very committed Jewish worshippers of God, doing everything they could to be true to their religion.  And them Philip met Jesus, and everything changed.”

Jesus told them to be witnesses in Jerusalem,

in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth

Jerusalem, not such a big deal, that’s where they were,

Judea – a religious and pious region, familiar territory

but Samaria? – home of the hated Samaritans

but Jesus says to do both

When Philip meets the Ethiopian Eunuch – it might as well be the “ends of the earth”

small-town conservative Jew meets …

an African

a eunuch

driving a chariot

Roman soldiers drive chariots

Pharaoh’s troops drove chariots

how they chased escaping Hebrews to the Red Sea

this chariot, and it’s driver might as well have been travelling along the road to the ends of the earth

Philip, and the disciples, were thrown into a whole new world

and here on the wilderness road … we hear Philip’s story

the ends of the earth

almost everything he ever learned about what his religion did not permit was here on this wilderness road

chariot – probably the least he had to worry about

but this was a symbol of Roman oppression

and a reminder of Pharaoh’s oppression of the Hebrew people

symbol of the military power of the occupying regime – Rome

compared to the foot-travel he was used to

maybe riding a donkey – like Jesus

the ones with political and military power rode in chariots

everybody else, walked, or rode a donkey, maybe a camel

but draft animals were more often saved for field work

an African

stranger with even darker skin that Philip was used to

sure must have looked like a Gentile

an eunuch

mutilated

ritually unclean to a Jew

not to be associated with, let alone touched

Ethiopian Eunuch

after he and Philip finished their Bible study, they came upon some water

“What is there to prevent me from being baptized?” asked the Eunuch

well, let’s see

Gentile – questionable

African – definitely questionable

eunuch – out of the question

Philip faced with a huge question:

What do you do when your religion isn’t big enough for God? (Bell, p.101)

But this was a whole new world

things were changing

Jesus turned the disciples world upside down –rocked their world

no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, Greek or Jew

coming to learn about how to live the kingdom of heaven on earth

what about our world?

how is it changing?

with whom are we connecting in new ways?

I met a few people who say we (SFPC) are known as sort of a “high church”

influential, successful

not a problem, but how does that impact how we reach the community?

how does our story, our upbringing impact how we reach the neighborhood?

how is that working for us now?

where is that calling us in the future?

I don’t have the answers, do you?

but here’s a start

Jesus says to GO

start where you are and GO

and don’t worry

everything is different now

what we were or what we did in the past doesn’t matter

it’s a fresh start

we’re in a while new world

church doesn’t happen like it used to

the community doesn’t happen like it used to

there may be some of the old ways that we miss

that’s not surprising

so let it be, don’t let go of the memories

study them, [preserve them, celebrate them

but let us be open to the new ways of living we are learning in Jesus Christ

new ways, we are experiencing

hospitality

inviting

welcoming

sharing our life and our story

Let us never tire, or hold back, from the new life Jesus is calling us to

it’s a whole new world

as we welcome it with hospitality for the sake of Jesus Christ

we will all find that we, too

will go into it – the world – beginning from where we are

on our way, rejoicing

so let it be with us.  Amen

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4th Sunday of Easter

John 10:11-18

The Good Shepherd

 

1.  Way In

There’s a difference in working a job and having a commitment

local example in “fast food” restaurants

used to the familiar ones – when my family moved to Sidney we were used to

the Golden Arches and the place where a King can “have it your way”

we knew what to expect and what to order

food tasted about like I expected

service is what I expected

better some days than others

sometimes pleasant, sometimes surly, usually indifferent

certainly clean, meets health department standards

I’m sure….at least, I hope so, I presume so

but in Sidney, there’s a place I wasn’t familiar with

never heard of this new place with the blue oval sign

never heard of a “butter burger”

thought it was the ice cream place they have in NY

but that’s Carvel

I’m talking about Culver’s

it’s fast food, it’s priced like the other places, but there’s a difference

there are more choices

and the ones that aren’t burgers don’t seem like afterthoughts

other sandwiches, salads, soups, and dinners

ice cream, smoothies, etc.

not only is it always clean

it doesn’t smell like a fry basket

you can sit in comfy chairs by the fireplace

or a booth, table

there’s free Wi-Fi, electric outlets (if you know the right booth)

the real difference is the service

someone often meets you at the door

and they always greet you when you walk in

Doug and Rita were there recently and the greeting they received prompted them to fill out a comment card

I’ve done the same

how often does fast food make you feel like filling out a good comment card?

I meet our youth there on Thursday after school

a few times I have gone when they haven’t showed up

so I sit and drink coffee

read or work on my laptop

free Wi-Fi, remember?

someone always comes around to see if I need anything

offer to refill my coffee

someday, something may not be to my liking there

and I am sure, when that happens, somebody will make it right

because that’s what I have come to expect

there’s a difference in these employees

these places all hire people from the same pool of prospects

I don’t know how their wages compare

but I bet the ones who work at Culver’s make about the same as the ones who work at the other places

maybe a little more

maybe more benefits

but the pay wouldn’t make all the difference

I bet there’s something different about the way people are treated

I know if I felt proud to work somewhere and confident that I was able to offer a better product and better service

then I would be proud to welcome my customers

and eager to offer them my best

there’s a difference

these restaurants don’t know that I am using them for a comparison

and I’m no restaurant critic

but when I was thinking of an illustration of the difference in working a job and having a commitment, I thought of something I know about

food

a dear friend once told me that she heard of a minister being called a “man of the cloth”

but Joe, “you are a man of the table cloth.”

Jesus teaches his disciples and others who would follow him using examples they knew about

fast food restaurants wouldn’t mean anything to them

but they knew about keeping livestock

and they would understand his comparison of

a hired hand and a good shepherd

2.  Tell the Story

Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd,” the one who lays down his life for the sheep

not like the hired hand who sees the wolf coming and runs away to save himself

while the wolf has an all-you-can-eat sheep buffet

the Good Shepherd knows his sheep, and they know him

Jesus says, “it’s just like God the Father knows me”

Jesus knows the love of God

and knows the sacrificial depth of that love

even at a great cost

that of his own life

this is the level of Jesus’ commitment to the sheep of his flock

which are the disciples he is speaking to

and those who are coming to know him

and those who would ever come to know him

that’s you – and that’s me

“There are other sheep”, he says, “that don’t belong to this fold.”

I must bring them also

other sheep we will read about – strangers

like the Ethiopian eunuch we read of in Acts

like the tax collectors and prostitutes

Samaritans and Pharisees

outlaws and liars

foreigners you will encounter in your travels

the ones who speak other languages

these will know my voice, too

and, as we know, they will be preached to by Jesus’ followers long after he has ascended

and there will be one flock, with one shepherd

God the Father loves the Son because of this commitment

Because of the Son’s obedient, even unto death

Because Jesus will offer his life to take it up again

and offers that new life for others

3.  So What

Sheep have needs – I understand they’re not the smartest

they will starve while standing by a bucket of feed if their “lead sheep” doesn’t eat from it first

they don’t know to move along after a pasture is totally grazed

eat one field away to nothing

while there are verdant and full pastures just around the bend

they will die of thirst standing next to water if it’s a moving stream

they will only drink from still waters

that’s what it means in the pastoral Psalm #23 “lead me beside still waters”

they totally move with the herd and seem unable to make many individual decisions

for these reasons, and more, they are vulnerable to many things

especially predators

The Good shepherd understands these needs and knows how to care for his flock

how to lead them to water

where to find food

how to guide them with the rod and protect them with the staff

anoint them with oil when they’re injured

put himself between the flock and the wolf

Jesus gives this as compared to the hired hand

who will “do the job,” but not knock himself out

keep them near food and water

but probably the most convenient field and stream for him to get to

keep up with the flock, and try to hold down on strays

but if the wolf shows up –

forget about it, you’re on your own

There’s a difference

a good shepherd comes from the same field of prospects as the hired hand

but there’s a different level of commitment

probably no shepherds made a lot of money

definitely not the fast track to fame and fortune

nobody selling books and tapes on how to make millions in the shepherding field

but if you have the job to do

you can choose to commit yourself to it, or just “work the job”

they pay may be the same

but it seems like if you’re going to do it, you might as well do a job you can be proud of

Jesus is not asking us to lay down our lives for him or anybody else

he has already done that for us

we are all sheep if his flock

as your pastor, I have specific responsibilities

for pastoral care, preaching, teaching, administration

but I’m a sheep of the flock, too

remember the bell my friend Julia gave us at my installation?

supposed to remind us of a sheep bell

but somebody said it seems more like a cow bell

no matter

we know what it means

the bell belongs to all of us

we are all members of the same flock

ultimately under the loving care of the Good Shepherd

And there’s something about being under that care that makes us different

how does it feel to be loved so much?

how does it feel to be loved so much that Jesus was willing to lay down his life for you – somebody he never met –

and only ask in exchange for your love right back?

how can we help but want to express the love of Jesus in everything we do?

Jesus doesn’t ask us to die for him

Jesus asks us to live for him

From the Sunday of Pentecost – May 31

We will be reading about the birth and early years of the church

Bible Study on Acts begins Tuesday, May 26 at 2pm

Acts and the Epistles will be the Sermon text on Sundays through the summer

as we read and study about the birth of the church

and the response of the 1st generation of Christians

I will challenge us to discern what Jesus is teaching us

   about this generation of the church

 

With everything Jesus has done for us, what is our grateful response in our ministry and life together?

 

How has Jesus made a difference for us, and what kind of difference can we make for him?

 

So let it be with us.  Amen.

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