Sermon podcast: Easter 416 Apr 2018 By Sermon Podcasts
Paul Lawlor, Vicar in the Holy Trinity, Redditch Team and Faith at Work in Worcestershire Chaplain, 22 April 2018.
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Jesus “I am the Good Shepherd” – it is easy for us to take phrases such as this which the Bible gives us, these images of who Jesus is – for granted. They can become self-referring...we don’t think what the phrases mean or they become synonymous (the same as) saying, “Jesus”.So, when Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd,” what do we think?
Jesus the Good Shepherd – the Shepherd who is good! Ummm…
Let’s think about Shepherds first:
What are shepherds like today? Now, I confess I am from Smethwick, so what do I know. But, extensive research reveals:One, they don’t stay with the sheep – they ensure they are safe then go home. They leave our modern docile domesticated sheep in our safe predator free countryside. Two, when you see a shepherd he’s either on One-Man-And–His-Dog or an All TerrainCycle or in a Land Rover clogging up a country lane with the sheep in front of him. He, his vehicle and his dog driving the sheep along.
But when Jesus spoke of a Shepherd the mental picture he, and his listeners, had was very different.
Back at this point in time a shepherd would stay out on the hillside with the sheep. The sheep were not safely contained in fenced off fields and there were wild animals; wolves and possibly even mountain lions still who could attack and carry off a sheep or a lamb.
The other difference was in how the shepherd would move his sheep from place to place. Unlike our modern shepherd driving the sheep from the back, Jesus’ model shepherd would walk in front of the sheep and the sheep would follow him.
The sheep would follow because, “I know my sheep and my sheep know me”. They know the voice of the shepherd calling them on. They know the shepherd because they have spent time together.
Some years ago I was speaking on this passage at a family service with our Boys’ Brigade families there. I asked some of younger BB folk (that I did not know that well) to come and help me (in an unspecified task).They didn’t want to…no volunteers were forthcoming. As I walked back to the front I asked if Kieran and Laura (two children I did know well) to come and help. Kieran was at the front before I was! There was trust.
Building a trusting relationship takes time and is a two-way process. This was the model of Shepherding that Jesus has in mind rather than a controlling methodology.
So, with the older model of a Shepherd in mind, what is it to be a Good shepherd? Jesus compares the hired hand with the Good Shepherd. The hired hand cares more for his own safety than for that of the sheep. If danger comes – he’s off – the sheep can fend for themselves…
But Jesus – the Good Shepherd was willing to lay down his life for the sheep. The Good shepherd does this willingly – of his own free will – for the good of the sheep.
This brings us to Luke’s words in Acts 4, “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 cornerstone or Capstone the firm foundation, the one we can trust completely and utterly is Jesus.
Do we have that trust in use today? Are we building our lives on the Cornerstone of Jesus? Is, “the stone which was rejected,” become for us the literally, “head of the corner”. A cornerstone is the first stone laid and the one that sets out the foundation of all that is to come.The headstone, the one the holds ervything together as a key.
What is the foundation of our lives and what is it that ties our lives and our communities together. To live out our lives fully engaged with God’s call is a huge challenge – but by seeking to deepen our relationship further, by spending time resting with Him we will be better equipped to follow the Good Shepherd. We, and our churches will live lives which point to Him, to Jesus – the Christ.
By living our lives in this way our discipleship, our following of Jesus becomes our main occupation. Or, we might say, “vocation.”A definition of vocation being, “
a person's employment or main occupation, especially regarded as worthy and requiring dedication.
Today – is Vocation Sunday when there is “an opportunity for churches to encourage everyone to reflect, discover and recognise God's call to them.”These calls can work themselves out in many ways.
We differ from sheep in several important respects.Sheep are fairly passive, aren’t they? We have the ability to think and to ask questions and, through Jesus, to be part of what God is doing to transform the world, to be Kingdom People.
So, what is your Vocation, what is your calling.
The Good Shepherd deserves a good flock. To be a good flock, to be good sheep, we need to know the shepherd and willing follow. He was willing to give His life for us…what, out of His perfect knowledge of who we are, as individuals and as churches is He calling us to?
Wait on Him, listen for His voice, seeking to follow Him more closely.
- Do you personally have a sense of Vocation?This could be within the church or, just as importantly in the wider world.
- Do you have a sense of the specific Vocation of the church you are member of?
- How can you deepen your relationship with the Good Shepherd this coming week?