|Advent 2, Year A – the Rev. Deacon Carey Connors||December 8, 2019||Advent 2, Year A||Matthew 3:1-12|
|Advent 1, Year A||December 1, 2019||First Sunday of Advent, Year A||Isaiah 2:1-5, Psalm 122, Romans 13:11-14, Matthew 24:36-44|
|Last Pentecost, Year C||November 24, 2019||Last Pentecost, Christ the King||Luke 23:33-43|
|Pentecost 23, Year C||November 17, 2019||Pentecost 23, Year C, Proper 28||Luke 21:5-19|
|Pentecost 22, Year C||November 10, 2019||Pentecost 22, Proper 27, Year C||Job 19:23-27a, Luke 20:38|
|All Saints, Year C||November 3, 2019||All Saints’ Sunday, Year C 2019||Luke 6:20-31|
|Pentecost 20, Year C||October 27, 2019||Pentecost 2, Proper 25, Year C||2 Timothy 4:6-8|
|Pentecost 19, Year C||October 20, 2019||Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 24||Luke 18:1-8|
|Pentecost 18, Year C||October 13, 2019||Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||Psalm 111, Luke 17:11-19|
|Pentecost 17, Year C – Rev. Deacon Carey Connors||October 6, 2019||Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||2 Timothy 1:1-14,Luke 17:5-10|
|Season of Creation 5, Year C||September 29, 2019||Season of Creation 5, Year B||Proverbs 8:22-31, Ephesians 1:3-10, Luke 24:13-35|
|Season of Creation 4, Year C||September 22, 2019||Season of Creation, Year C, Week 4||Luke 16:19-31, Amos 8:4-8|
|Season of Creation 3, Year C||September 15, 2019||Season of Creation, Week 3, Year C||Deuteronomy 11:10-17, Luke 15:1-10|
|Season of Creation 2, Year C||September 8, 2019||Season of Creation, Week 2, Year C||Genesis 1:26-2:3, I Timothy 6:6-19, Luke 12:22-31|
|Season of Creation 1, Year C||September 1, 2019||Season of Creation 1, Year C||Genesis 1:1-25, Revelation 22:1-5, John 1:1-5, 14|
Easter 4, Year C
Sermon Date:May 12, 2019
Scripture: Psalm 23; John 10:22-30
Liturgy Calendar: Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year C
“Return to the fold” – Charles Sprague Pearce 1851 – 1914
Today’s sermon begins with a true/false test about sheep.
George Washington said that “if freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led like sheep to the slaughter.” (T)
Sheep are dumb animals without a grain of sense. (F)
Sheep can see behind themselves without turning their heads. (T, they have horizontal, slit shaped pupils)
Sheep can navigate complex mazes. (T)
Rams attack one another and try to kill off the competition (F, Actually, rams form long term relationships with other rams, intervene for the weaker rams, and support each other in fights.)
The instinct of sheep to flock together is an indication of their lack of intelligence (F, actually, they flock together as a survival mechanism. They know about safety in numbers).
Sheep can experience a whole range of emotions, including boredom, despair, anger and happiness. (T)
Sheep recognize the voice of their shepherd. (T)
Sheep are so smart that they don’t need a shepherd (F)
Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.” (T)
And the last question.
“You do not belong to my sheep.” (T or F)
We are Christians, identified as the sheep in the flock of Jesus, so this statement is false.
But the thing that proves that Jesus is our shepherd is whether or not we are listening to the voice of Jesus instead of the fifty bazillion other voices constantly clamoring for our attention.
“My sheep hear my voice,” Jesus says. “I know them, and they follow me.”
Many things in this world keep us from hearing and following Jesus.
Many of us are in want, and by want, I mean wanting something in this world so badly that all we hear in our minds and hearts is that thing we want calling to us—money and possession call us so loudly that we are in a place of want, even when we have more than enough.
That’s why Jesus talked about our relationships with money and possessions more than any other thing during his ministry—sixteen of his thirty-nine parables deal with this topic. Jesus knew that what we have and what we want can quickly become the focus of our lives to the exclusion of everything else. Remember the rich young ruler, who went away in grief because he couldn’t do the one thing that Jesus said would be necessary to have treasure in the the kingdom of God—“go and sell all you have and give it all to the poor and come, follow me.” And
But as the Psalmist reminds us, if all we want is God, then we will never ever be in want for anything else.
Many of us live in a state of exhaustion—physical exhaustion, mental exhaustion, spiritual exhaustion—because this world is a hungry world, and there’s always more to do than we can possibly do. For instance, in Japan, overwork is such a big problem that karoshi, death from overwork, has become an internationally recognized word. https://asia.nikkei.com/Opinion/Employers-must-help-cut-Japan-s-suicide-rate
And yet, God, God, rested after creating the heavens and the earth. Rest is necessary if we are to live our lives fully.
Many of us choose the way we should go through life in a sort of willy-nilly way. Listening for the shepherd’s voice is essential in choosing the right pathways through our lives. I know that the little catch phrase, “What would Jesus do?” has been trivialized through overuse, but this question should be at the root of any question of discernment in which we are trying to determine a right course of action or a right direction to go in our lives. What WOULD Jesus do? Frequently, this is not an easy question to answer, but prayerful consideration over any decision, asking for God’s input, is essential for us if Jesus is our shepherd.
Many of us live in a state of fear—fear over what it is we could lose, rather than thanksgiving for what we have; fear of other people, fear of failure, you name it—but fear can be a voice that is so strong that it completely takes over and fear becomes the only voice to which we are listening. And our fears, both founded and unfounded, then overrule or drown out the voice of the shepherd and we can’t hear Jesus leading us through the valleys in which fear is waiting to kill us deader than dead.
Many of us forget to be thankful. Entitlement, the belief that we earned what we have, that we worked hard for God’s grace and we deserve it, drowns out the voice of God offering us undeserved grace. We get a place at the table, or, as sheep, at the manger, with all of the other people, even our enemies, who don’t deserve God’s grace either—but if we listen to God’s voice, we will hear the invitation to sit down at the table, and we will feel God anointing us! And we will drink from cups overflowing with love! But we have to be able to hear the invitation to come sit at that table, and not be worried about who else God is including in this invitation, even those we might perceive to be our enemies, or even with people with whom we disagree. The good shepherd decides who sits at the table—it’s his guest list, not ours.
If we are listening to the voice of the Good Shepherd, and we are in his flock, then what we find following us is goodness and mercy instead of want, exhaustion, meaninglessness, and fear.
And we find that we are at home in God, no matter where life takes us. We are at home in God in this life and in the life to come.
Now at the end of this sermon, I have just a few more true/false questions for you. Only you will know the answer to these questions so answer them silently.
True or false? The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not be in want.
True or false? The Lord is my shepherd. He revives my soul.
True or false? The Lord is my shepherd and guides me along right pathways for his Name’s sake.
True or false? The Lord is my shepherd. I shall fear no evil for you are with me, guiding me.
True or false? The Lord is my shepherd and I have a place at the table along with those who trouble me.
True or false? The Lord is my shepherd and I am chosen, anointed and filled to overflowing with God’s love.
True or false? The Lord is my shepherd. God’s goodness and mercy surround me, and I am always at home in God.
Only you know which of these are true for you, and which are false.
God is true to us, God’s beloved children.
God is always calling us to come home.
So listen for the Shepherd. Listen.
When we hear his voice and listen, all the false answers will become true because the Lord is truly our shepherd, and we will follow him.