Acts 2: 42-47
1 Peter 2: 19-25
John 10: 1-10
Doggone, it! I always love to spend Good Shepherd Sunday morning with you-all in church. Good Shepherd Sunday rolls around each year on the fourth Sunday of Easter. Each year, the gospel lesson for this Sunday is a different “sheep and shepherd” message of Jesus from John. This year: John 10:1-10.
Like many of you, I’m impatient, fenced in like a sheep in a sheep-fold because of the virus threat. I want the sheepdog, er, virologists with God’s help, to defeat the vile germ and leave us safe and free. And I don’t want the sheepdog to punch the clock with the wolf at the end of the workday and go home, to come back another day to do it all over again. I WANT THAT VARMINT, er, virus, EXTERMINATED WITH EXTREME PREJUDICE, ONCE AND FOR ALL.
created by Chuck Jones for Warner Bros., 1953
1 Peter 2:25 : You were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.
It seems that we live in a universe where there is a Shepherd and Guardian: however, in this universe, it is up to us “sheep” to keep choosing to follow and stay with our Shepherd and Guardian through a long series of threats and challenges.
And if our stories are like those of our elders, one of the challenges we will go through is death… but not the cartoon variety death, where the wolf falls for a mile, goes SPLAT!!, and shows up again in the next scene. No. The kind of death that the world believes is final.
Like some of our elders, we know The LORD is my Shepherd, and He is with me through the valley of the shadow of death. For good reasons, Psalm 23 is probably the most popular psalm. We all live in or near the valley of the shadow of death, whether that’s our own death or someone we love. We know Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me. God uses His “rod” to hit anything that would try to steal us out of His flock. God could also use His “staff” for hitting enemies, but it has that crook at one end so God can pull us back when we’re getting dragged away from His flock. Comforting.
Keep in mind, we and God are not attacking or resisting material, physical people or things: Our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12) That is, our real enemies are spiritual forces which are trying to attack us spiritually, trying to drive us or drag us out of God’s flock.
Please take some time to list whatever influences (think: influenza, an unseen force) may be working to separate you from God now. What about temptations of our bodies? For one list of these, check out Galatians 5:17-21, “the works of the flesh.” Other spiritual forces against us include pride and aimlessness. They can take you away! When you discover any of these enemies messing with you, run to the Good Shepherd. On your way to Him, you can also call your pastor (a junior shepherd who works for the Good Shepherd) and your trusted, godly friends. We are part of God’s flock, too, and we really don’t want to lose you.
And pray to stay close to our Good Shepherd. To some degree, that is up to each of us. I hope it helps you to be part of the church, where we strive to be that spiritual flock, like the early church described in Acts 2:46-47, having glad and generous [or “simple”] hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people.