Easter 4 – Good Shepherd Sunday – Who are our guides ?

Title:Easter 4 – Good Shepherd Sunday – Who are our guides ?

 Easter 4 – Good Shepherd Sunday (full size gallery)

Easter 4 is Good Shepherd Sunday. Shepherds are leaders. They have to be to manage their flock of sheep. We had various examples of leadership during the service.

The sermon cited a book entitled Moral Leadership for a Divided Age, David Gushee and Colin Holtz to explain Peter as shepherd. “So Peter set aside his fishing career, but he used the skills he had developed as a fisherman in his new calling as a disciple. What he had learned from one calling helped him in his new calling.

But even more importantly, Peter was open to a higher calling, one in which he would be subject to the teaching and direction of another person, Jesus, who would lead him beyond his current occupation as a fisherman.” As we know Peter failed multiple times, the most famous on denying Christ 3 times. But he arose to greatness addressing the crowd on Pentecost and he was the rock in which the church was to be built. He was also a missionary. As one example Peter takes a missionary journey to Lydda, Joppa and Caesarea (Acts 9:32–Acts 10:2), becoming instrumental in the decision to evangelize the Gentile

The key to Peter’s success was his ability to accept his mistakes and learn rom them.

The key question from the sermon. “How might God be calling each one of us now into lives of deeper commitment to God and to one another through the power of the Holy Spirit? What might God be calling us to do that is beyond our wildest imaginations?

We also wished Tucker well, leaving this week for 6 months to travel around the world. He is a youth leader who is also finishing up his eagle scout. He takes advantage of scout work to extend the experience – going the next step.

Church was again inside after a week on the river. We had 19 inside the church an 9 online through Zoom.

The readings this week spotlight care of those who support us. In his sermon in Acts, Peter preaches that salvation is to be found in Jesus Christ of Nazareth, crucified, but raised from death by God. The author of 1 John tells us that, because of God’s love shown in Jesus, we are now God’s children. In the gospel, Jesus explains how he, as our Good Shepherd, lays down his life because he cares for his sheep.

The first readings in Eastertide are from Acts. According to Luke, the arrest of Peter and John is instigated by the Sadducees. The Sadducees held only to the written law, rejected the oral tradition followed by the Pharisees and did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. The Pharisees taught a future general resurrection, but Peter and John proclaim resurrection as a present and life-giving reality in Jesus.

This Psalm, Psalm 23, is probably the most familiar and popular psalm of all. It celebrates God’s loving care for us under the guise of a good shepherd who provides food, security and protection from all dangers. God guides us on our journey through life so that we might “dwell in the house of the Lord.”

Sandy Simpson has culled the Bible to seek the responsibilities of the Good Shepherd. "We need to be feeding the lambs and the sheep, bringing them to good pasture lands and water, grooming and clipping them, delivering new lambs, leading them and teaching them to stay together, going off after the wandering lost ones, and protecting the sheep in the field and in the fold."

The reading from 1 John discusses the mark of a Christian’s life—love. This love is the proof that Christians have passed from death to life. Refusal to love one another is tantamount to murder. True love for one another is manifested in action, modeled upon the experience of Jesus’ love for us. It is shown as self-sacrifice at the heroic level and in the daily exercise of generosity. Deeds, not devout protestations or guilty feelings, will reveal our true standing before God, who knows us better than we know ourselves.

The Gospel is the Good Shepherd. In the Old Testament, God is called the Shepherd of Israel, as is David or the Davidic Messiah. Today’s reading develops the figure of the shepherd of the sheep. Jesus is “the good shepherd” (v. 11). The word good more literally means “beautiful,” as in an ideal of perfection. Here it might be rendered as model. Jesus is the model shepherd, both because of his willingness to lay down his life and because of his intimate knowledge of his flock.

The intimacy between the shepherd and his flock parallels that between the Father and the Son. The purpose of this mutual knowledge is to bring Jesus’ followers, both the flock of Israel and the Gentile flocks, into union with him and with one another.

One of its most heartening aspects is the utter commitment of the Shepherd. Who are our Shepherds in our lives ? Who guides us along ? All of us can respond with gratitude to a committed friend. The special people in our lives who know when we need a joke or a nudge, a compliment or a challenge; those who can both laugh and cry with us; those who give us perspective when we’ve lost ours: they are gift. To have guide, one who is the source and inspiration of all those gifts is blessing indeed.

Jesus has given even those of us who have made a mess of things, those of us who’ve made big mistakes, have nagging regrets, a new start and resurrection life, here and now through his sacrificial love on the cross on our behalf.

We have been fortunate in our own day to see models lay down their lives for others. Martyrs in Central America and Africa are dramatic examples. Yet in unspectacular ways, ordinary people sacrifice daily for their children, their coworkers, their friends and relatives.

Laying down’s one life does not mean just to be a  martyr. Laying down one’s own life may be as simple as pausing to hear the leisurely unfolding of another person’s story when time pressures mount. Taking time! Or it may be as complex as financing another’s education. But the surrenders we can observe so often around us prove that giving one’s life is both possible and practical.

A second noteworthy element is the lack of coercion exerted by the Shepherd. His voice is all, and it is enough. We often meet with resistance when we try to persuade another. We also witness the remarkable change that inner motivation can produce. Jesus knows well the drawing power of love and the strength of people driven by love.