Jesus Loves Shepherds

This sermon was presented at Resurrection by Pastor Jim Kniseley on June 3, 2012, the Second Sunday after Pentecost.  The Congregation Shepherds were installed at the worship services and Pastor Jim chose John 10:14 as the sermon theme, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.”

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

 

Later in this worship service we will be blessing our Congregation Shepherd Ministry and installing our new Congregation Shepherds.  Do you know the significance of what we are doing today?  It signifies healing for this congregation.  It signifies renewed health.  It signifies a determination to be the church that Jesus called us to be.

 

The number 12 is one of those holy numbers that we find in the Bible: the twelve tribes of Israel and the 12 disciples of Jesus.  Resurrection now has a holy number of shepherd groups.  We have 12 flocks and every member of this congregation has been placed in one of these flocks.  The shepherds are now selected and last evening we had the first gathering of shepherds at our home for a meal together.  Today they are ready  to become official and start serving you as your shepherds.

 

Why should we have shepherds at Resurrection?  Are they really needed?  What is their purpose, you may ask.  Pastor Carol and I have asked the shepherds to serve in Christ-like fashion as extensions of the pastors.  It is our hope and prayer that bonds of love and care will be forged by these shepherds and you, the people they want to serve. 

 

Are we doing this to create less work for the pastors?  If the shepherds do their work in the right way, it should create more need for pastoral ministry.  For the communication of needs and concerns that we can address should certainly increase.

 

Here is what we are asking of our shepherds:

1.      Love your sheep; build a personal relationship with the folks who have been entrusted to you.  Jesus said it best in John 10:14, “I know my sheep and my sheep know me.”

2.      Serve your sheep; be in this ministry for what you can provide for your people.  The author of I Peter puts in this way, “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers, not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be.” (5:2)

3.      Be an example to your sheep; lead the folks by example, not by force.  I Peter says, “Do not lord it over those entrusted to you, but be examples to the flock.” (5:3)

4.      Lead your sheep gently; have a healthy balance between caring and leading.  Here’s the picture of a shepherd given in Isaiah 40:11, “He tends his flock like a shepherd: he gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”

 

Pastor Carol and I hope and pray that this congregation will become even more loving and caring than it is now.  We’re known for our friendliness on Sunday mornings, both to members and guests alike.  That is commendable.   A concern that we are trying to address is folks who fall through the cracks.  The evidence of someone who is hurting is often absence from worship.  That happens now and can certainly happen more in the future as we grow.  To have a purposeful and organized way to reach out and love and care for our members who are hurting and not participating is a vital need that we are trying to address.

 

People of Resurrection, this shepherding ministry will only work as you let it work.  When your shepherd calls, please pick up the phone.  Treat them as a beloved member of your family.  Please say yes to their invitations to participate in occasional social gatherings of your flock or help for a needy member of your flock. 

 

Pastor Carol has a wonderful heart for the ministry of shepherds.  She has taken the lead in reestablishing this ministry and she has agreed to take on the role of shepherd to the shepherds.  This means that her special flock becomes the shepherds, and she will be checking in with them.  We’ll have them to our home from time to time and we hope that the bond of trust will be forged where we can share joys and sorrows back and forth.

 

Let me conclude with a wonderful story about the old-time actor Charles Laughton.  He may have played the Hunchback of Notre Dame but he was a trained Shakespearean actor and was often called upon to recite scripture in public.  He was at a dinner party and the host called upon him to recite the 23rd Psalm.  He said he would.  He recited the Psalm perfectly from memory.  Then they went around the room and others were invited to offer something.  There was an old woman sitting in the corner.  She happened to be the aunt of the host and was staying with him.  She was asked if she would recite something.  She was nearly deaf so she hadn’t heard that had gone before.  She stood up and started to recite the 23rd Psalm.  People at first were embarrassed.  It was an awkward situation to have her recite the same psalm as the great actor Charles Laughton.  Before she finished, people were caught up in her recitation. 

Some began to weep.  It was magical.

 

Later somebody asked Mr. Laughton why her reading was so moving when she didn’t have any of the skills that he had as an actor.  He said, “I know the psalm.  She knows the shepherd.”

 

Here’s a truth for the shepherds to be installed today: Anyone doing shepherding ministry is ultimately responsible to the chief shepherd, that is to Jesus. Our shepherds need to know and love Jesus.  Here is what Jesus said to Peter so long ago:  “Simon, son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”  “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”  Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”  Again Jesus said, “Simon, son of John, do you truly love me?”  He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”  Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”  The third time he said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”  Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?”  He said, “Lord, you know all things: you know that I love you.”  Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”

 

This day may the words of Jesus pierce our hearts too.  May it be said accurately of Resurrection:  we  show our love for Jesus by feeding his sheep, whether we are official shepherds or not. 

 

Amen!