Fourth Sunday of Easter
Good Shepherd Sunday
29 April A.D. 2012

 

First Lesson:  Acts 4:5-12  Bearing Witness!

Psalm:  23  We follow our Good Shepherd who has walked through the Valley before us!

Second Lesson:  1 John 3:16-24  A Call to action through Witness and Service!

Gospel:  John 10:11-18  Lay down your life for the sheep!

 

Grace to you and Peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus the Risen Christ, Amen!

Good Shepherd Sunday!  The lessons in the Revised Common Lectionary for the Fourth Sunday of Easter provides us a powerful image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd…the one who lays down his life for his sheep.

If you follow the Agnus Day lectionary-based comic strip, you know the two sheep, Rick and Ted, who have great theological discussions over a cup of coffee.  This week Ted asks Rick “You know the best part about having a Good Shepherd?   Rick, the theologian rolls his eyes and answers “I can’t imagine!”  Ted replies:  “Being a sheep!”

Does everybody remember Vacation Bible School?  “I just want to be a sheep!  Ba, ba, ba, baa!   Praise the Lord my soul to keep, I just want to be a sheep!”  And for anyone who has raised young children in the last quarter century you probably remember some words from Sandra Boynton’s classic Moo, Baa, La, La, La… “A cow says moo, a sheep says baa, three singing pigs say la, la, la!”

All that is great fun, and it is so very comforting to know that we are sheep cared for by the Good Shepherd.  Nothing in heaven or on earth can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus! 

The one reading missing from today’s lectionary is the 23rd Psalm. 

Do you remember the 23rd Psalm?  Has it been written on your heart?  We’ve all learned it in different translations, but we all know it don’t we?  Let’s give it a try, either silently or aloud in whatever version you learned it…  The Lord is my Shepherd…Goodness and Mercy!

That is such good news and the shepherd image is so comforting that sometimes we overlook the extraordinary sacrifice that the shepherd makes for us sheep.  The shepherd lays down his life for the sheep!  Our Good Shepherd has walked before us through the Valley.  That’s what good shepherds do; they make great personal sacrifices for the good of the sheep.  From our Gospel today according to Saint John, Jesus says:

Ø  I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Ø  I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me -- just as the Father knows me and I know the Father -- and I lay down my life for the sheep.

Ø  I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. 

Ø  I have other sheep that are not of this sheep fold. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.

Now the call of God on our lives is to be more than sheep…being a Christian means being a “Little Christ” – a “little anointed one” a “little savior”.  The call of God is for us to be shepherds! 

Go to the end of John’s Gospel and you find this great discourse between Jesus and Simon Peter:

Jesus to Peter:  “Do you love me?  Feed my lambs!  Tend my sheep!  Feed my sheep!”  And the word in Greek is probaton which is an inclusive term for both sheep and goats!

We are all called by God to be shepherds!  To care for one another in the name of the one who is the Good Shepherd … the one who lay down his life for us. 

Take a look at our May Newsletter, and you’ll find that we are growing so much again that we’re ready to organize ourselves into twelve “flocks” each with an assigned shepherd.  So we have flocks of shepherds each tended by a shepherd.  And each one of us shepherds out here is to go out and look for lambs and sheep and goats to bring into the fold.

We know how Jesus chose to lay down his life for us … but how do we as the shepherds of His flock choose to lay down our lives for each other?

If you`re going to be a shepherd, our readings today give us some good example.

In Acts…Peter Says...

·         It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.

·         Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.

The emphasis of Peter is on bearing witness.  Acts of piety; acts of goodness.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King Jr., all the many martyrs throughout the ages are represented by Peter.  For us, just faithfully showing up for church is an act of piety.  Attentive listening to the Word proclaimed, and humbly receiving the holy sacraments as nourishment for life…these are all acts of piety.  Acts of piety lead encourage us to bear witness in the community; to go out at proclaim the Gospel message you have received!

In 1st John… John  writes a call to action through both witness and service…

·         Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.

·         Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

·         And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.

 

The emphasis of John is on serving others by reflecting the love of Christ.  While martyrs are represented by Peter, those who live full lives of witness and service are represented by John.  Peter Pace…”you don’t get to die”.  Rev. Dr. Michael Cooper-White – El Salvador – Death Squads and Life Squads.   

This image then of the Good Shepherd is really about life and death.  If we live, we are called to live in Christ.  If we die, we die in Christ.  Whether we live or die, we belong to the flock of the Good Shepherd who calls us to live the way of life!  The life of witness and service in His name.

So how do you choose to lay down your lives for the sheep?  One way we lay down our lives is through our giving.  Tithes and offerings.  In your bulletins… Witness and Service Forms.  Don’t fill them out now.  Take them with you.  Discern your calling to bear witness and serve in the name of the one who lay down his life for you…and took it up again!

Hear the words spoken by Jesus to Saint Paul on the road to Damascus… Shepherd to sheep, I think it applies to us as well as we discern our calling to witness and service:

Ø  “Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you.” (Acts 26:16)

 

“Quack says the duck, the horse says neigh…it’s quiet now, on May 20th, what will you say?”

 

May the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and our minds always in the Risen Christ Jesus!  Amen.