Fourth Sunday of Easter
Sermon begins at 14:15 in the recording
Psalm: Psalm 23
1 The Lord is my shepherd; *
I shall not be in want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures *
and leads me beside still waters.
3 He revives my soul *
and guides me along right pathways for his Name’s sake.
4 Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I shall fear no evil; *
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me; *
you have anointed my head with oil,
and my cup is running over.
6 Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, *
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
Afterthoughts: The Knowledge of Love
The Good Shepherd.
It brings a certain image to the minds of most.
It provides a certain sense of relief and hope
knowing that Jesus has our back.
This past Sunday, I shared about this image of the Good Shepherd.
A Shepherd that leads us to a place of contentment, safety and peace.
A Shepherd that knows us, intimately,
and cares for us based on this knowing.
A Shepherd that manifests the love we are called to live out.
I also shared about the things that compete to be shepherds in our lives:
· Hired Hands
The hired hands in our lives have no ownership and will be available on the journey so long as it benefits them to be there. The minute things get testy, they’re gone. They are not good “hiking buddies.” They are fair weather friends who lack the stamina for the journey of faith.
Wolves are worse. They are the thieves Jesus speaks about in John 10:10 when He says they are only there to “steal, kill and destroy.” A path of destruction is their legacy and they are bad “hiking buddies” too. When we are around people like this, we are left at a deficit after they are gone and not a place of strength.
· Bad Shepherds
Bad shepherds have mixed loyalties and lack knowledge of those they are with. They lack the empathy to listen and understand and, therefore, are unable to be helpful along the path of faith. Being in a difficult season or in need of care with them on board is not a benefit to our journey.
As I think further about the passages from Sunday,
two things stand out about our Good Shepherd:
· He knows us.
If we want a guide on the path of life, their knowledge of us is important. They need to know our sensibilities.
They need to understand our struggles.
They need to encourage us in our strengths.
This all makes available an opportunity for growth and escaping the patterns of behavior that keeps us stagnant, and allows us to, as the writer of Hebrews shares, “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.”
It may not make the path easier, but it will allow us to navigate those things which we encounter in our journey of faith. .
If you are like me, then there can be no better “hiking buddies” than those who know us and can handle that knowledge.
· He loves us.
Being known by someone is one thing.
Being loved by someone is a whole other thing.
I say this because to love someone means to love them while knowing them intimately, warts and all.
God does this.
Jesus does this.
And Paul writes about it in the letter to the Romans in chapter 5:
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
That’s real love.
We need this kind of love.
This kind of loving helps us to, in turn, love others.
And just so we are all on the same page about this kind of love and what it entails, let’s understand it together.
The word used here is agape.
This is not a love of chocolate or wine or of the outdoors.
It is not some sexual desire.
It is not comradery.
It is not transitory.
It is not self-focused.
It is intentionally giving.
It is purposefully sacrificial.
It is the Good Shepherd laying down His life for the sheep in His care for the purpose of redeeming them in the midst of their struggles.
It is a lifeline to those who are perishing in this world.
And it is an example to us, who are called by His name.
These are our marching orders,
That we would love others as HE has loved us.
You see, the Good Shepherd, ultimately, is not about God loving us
but about us loving like the Good Shepherd.
It is a call to reach out to those around us.
Because Jesus knows and loves us (as His followers)
and we know and love Him,
and we are called to manifest this in our lives.
We are to become [little] Good Shepherds.
Christ was not Jesus’ last name,
As in, “nice to meet you Mr. and Mrs. Christ.”
It means anointed one.
Jesus was anointed because He was the only Son of the Father.
We are called Christians.
“Little anointed ones.”
Powerful, isn’t it.
And VERY humbling.
We are the hands and feet of Jesus.
Heirs to the Kingdom which has no end.
And witnesses of the Truth.
And called to be shepherds.
Like our Good Shepherd.
For the sake of others.
As an example of the love of God shone towards us.
The loved ones.
The known ones.
The cared for ones.
John writes this:
Let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.”
This is our call friends.
May God give us the grace to walk in it.