SER # 19Wa
FIRST UMC – NEBRASKA CITY
SUNDAY MAY 3RD 2020
TEXTS: JOHN 10: 1 – 10
THEME: JESUS THE GOOD SHEPHERD.
God is Good! All the time! And all the time! God is good!
Our Scripture today is John 10: 1 – 10 “very truly I tell you Pharisees anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger, in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice. Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them. Therefore, Jesus said again, very truly I tell you; I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate, whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
Word of God written for the people of God – Thanks be to God.
Prayer of consecration of Communion:
The Lord’s Prayer:
Jesus was addressing a group of Pharisees as he told the story of a good shepherd. Jesus knew too well that his audience understood what a shepherd does. When you reach this chapter, you will discover many more attributes of a shepherd. Being a shepherd was not an easy task because the were no fenced pens that would keep the animals in one place. There were danger predators everywhere too. No flock ever grazed without a shepherd and the shepherd was never off duty. A shepherd was vigilance, fearless, courageous, patient and had love for his flock. He was willing to sacrifice even his own life to save them. First, the sheep in Palestine then were kept for wool not meat. That means a sheep would stay with a shepherd for a long time. Second, the sheep had names. Names like white legged, whitey, shortee, or sporty. I would compare naming of sheep in Palestine the way we name our horses here in America. Anybody who has ever owned a horse knows that they had to have names for them and they respond to the name. this in itself tells you that there is a relationship between a horse and the owner. Third, the shepherd had a special language that the sheep understood. The language may not make sense to one who is not a shepherd and even then, each shepherd had a unique language for the flock. An outsider may not fully understand this language.
This reminds me that each one of us here communicate to their God in a unique way. My question to you and to me today is, “Do we (I) understand the language that our (my) God speak to us (me)?” When the Lord whispers to you would you know that it was him?
Forth, in Palestine the shepherd went ahead to make sure that everything was safe for their flock. When the sheep were brought home there was a communal encloser where the sheep would be locked in for the night. Here then was a gatekeeper. But when the sheep were up in the wilderness there would be type of encloser but with go gate. The shepherd had to sleep across the entrance and they became the gate. Any sheep wishing to go out had to jump over the shepherd body. In this case the shepherd becomes the gate. But our focus today is to look at this shepherd Jesus and understand how it helps us develop our faith. Jesus used many examples to explain his ministry or to bring a point across. He would use farming examples, business, family, professionals and many more. In this particular story we read today he uses an example of a person taking care of the sheep who is known as a shepherd.
Jesus was aware of the words of David in Psalm 23 where David talk of the LORD being his Shepherd. It must have been something that David could fully understand for he grew up being a shepherd for his father’s flock. Being the youngest in the family this was his assigned duty since the older brothers had other things to attend to. Jesus uses different analogies in the bible either to talk about himself or the kingdom of God.
Jesus refers to himself as a shepherd and not an ordinary shepherd but a Good Shepherd. For example, when you talk of a good doctor we are not talking only of his/her efficiency and skill but also his/her sympathy, kindness, and graciousness. That is how Jesus is to us.
I have always wondered what would happen if each of us would like to give his or her God a practical name. How do you see your God in relation to what you do or your everyday life?
Let us get back to Jesus as a good shepherd and what it means to us.
What lesson can we take home of Jesus being a good shepherd?
- Jesus is the Gate/ Gatekeeper: when we are gathered together Jesus is our gate. Jesus makes sure that we are all in and protected. When we are scattered, he is the gatekeeper. We get attacks from outside and from inside. Like robbers and thieves that steal, the world tends to rob our faith by offering some attractions that go against God teaching. People are attracted to life styles that are not acceptable. People can even be carried away by wrong ideologies that make them fail to be their brother’s and sister’s keeper. Jesus as protector takes even the level of laying his life for us like he did on the cross. Out there in the wilderness the shepherd would sleep across the entrance so that any sheep going out will have to jump over him.
- The sheep (us) listen to him: Since we are the sheep the challenge for us is to listen to the voice of the shepherd (Jesus) every step of the way. We have to be willing to create a relationship that allows us to be familiar with his voice. As you might know if you disconnect with someone for some years it might be hard for you to recognize their voice. It is important that we know the voice of our masters for there will be all kids of voices that will come calling us. Listening is a challenge even within our small family circles. It is not unusual for spouses not to hear each other even when they are being spoken loud enough and with the language that they can understand if the choose to. It is not unusual for couples to apply what is known as selective hearing. I wonder if we do the same to our God especially when we are directed to the direction we don’t like. Do we just ignore? One of the keys to the sheep survival in Palestine was for them to listen to the voice of their shepherd otherwise they would find themselves in all kind of danger. How well are you listening to your Jesus these days? Has the Covid -19 taken you out of the range of hearing your shepherd (Jesus) calling you with words of love, comfort? Listening and hearing means we have to allow ourselves to take keen moments and separate ourselves from the noisy world around us. May be the social distancing has given us some moment to listen to God now that we are not running in different directions at the same time. The sheep of the same flock can help each other to follow the shepherd direction. That why you are your brother’s and sister’s keeper. Some time we have to trust those around us to be with us and be our support as we follow our shepherd Jesus Christ.
- Jesus calls us by name: It is amazing that every mother for example regardless of how many children they have would know them by name even the twins. Sorry I can’t say of the same for all Dads. A mother will know their child cry even when they are the mull with all the noises around. The good Shepherd will hear your call of need at all time. Do you know how powerful it is for someone to knows you by name? Wait until this one person call you by your name and you haven’t met them for years. You would be amazed especially if you don’t remember their name. By Jesus our shepherd telling us he knows us by our name he is reminding us the word of God found in the book of Isaiah. “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget I will not forget you. See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me” (Isaiah 49: 15 -16). It is true that Jesus knows us by our name. This means there is a relationship that has developed. Our journey is to keep ourselves present in his sight so that we can hear him and that he might guide us through this journey of life. By Jesus knowing your name he will address you directly and call you back when you stray from the path. Jesus will never forget you but you might forget him.
- Jesus leads us: The Psalmist reminds who Jesus the good shepherd is in our everyday life. Jesus the good shepherd, leads us to green pastures. Always leading to safety. Jesus the good shepherd, guides us in the paths of righteousness. Jesus the good shepherd, protects us even when walk through the shadow of death, we will not fear. Jesus the good shepherd provides for us by preparing a table for us and his cup to us overflows. Jesus the good shepherd, continue to bless us by anointing our head with oil. Jesus the good shepherd, guide us in our path of life if we are willing to follow him. We need to remember that it took 40 years for the Israelites to get to the Promised Land but surely God kept his promise. Jesus has never been known to lead his people astray. It might seem to take so long but we will eventually get there. There are so many decisions we make today without seeking the will of God. I remember as a young believer being reminded for example to pray to God when time comes for me to look for a girl to marry so that he can guide me to the right one ( I did that and has been over 30 years since I found this beautiful girl by the name Lydia). I know today there are people who are happily married who met through the dating website. The point here is not the method used but rather seeking God that God might he guide or direct you to the right one. Not many that seek God’s guidance when they are making life decision these days and yet we blame God for all that goes wrong. How many people take serious time to pray for God guidance before they buy a car or any other major purchase for example? Jesus is willing to guide us if we are ready to follow and to listen to his voice.