Easter 4-C/May 12, 2019/Community Lutheran/Pr. Joe Vought
John 10 Psalm 23
The Gospel takes us back to the days before the crucifixion where Jesus is walking in the temple in Jerusalem. He is being interrogated by Temple priests because he healed a blind man on the sabbath. The Temple which held the ark of the covenant is where Jewish people believed God lived. Do you see the irony? Jesus is walking around the temple and he will say, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will show you another temple, not made with hands.’” Jesus’ opponents never did understand He was talking about himself- the Temple of his body raised up on Easter day, the new place of worship.
I think we are prone to this misunderstanding too. This church is beautiful but it is only a building. God does not live here. Robert Farrar Capon has said, “God’s people were a lot more nimble, had to live by faith when they were led by God and through the desert. They had a portable tent for worship and the ark of the covenant with God’s commands to remind them to love God and one another. Remember how God shepherded with manna and water from the rock. But when they got real estate on Mt. Jerusalem they could be like other nations and build a temple. Solomon got all the latest Temple Furnishings from other nations and over time it became a substitute for people loving God and one another. When people could go to the Temple and feel all religious but then walked out and neglected the poor and the needy, the prophets Amos and Micah cried out, “Do justice love kindness and walk humbly with God. I hate your religion but let justice roll down like water and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
That’s why the Church is not a building but wherever the Gospel is preached and sacraments are celebrated. If we have learned anything in this Easter season it is that our God will not be confined: The risen Christ breaks out of a tomb to meet Mary Magdalene in the Garden; He comes through locked doors to a doubting Thomas; the risen Jesus meets Peter and the disciples by a lakeshore where he feeds them and tells them to feed my lambs and shepherd others. Even before the events of Good Friday and Easter, He preached Good News and fed 5000 people on a hillside, just as he spoke and healed a blindman. So what do we do? We come here to listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd, to be fed and healed. Do you want a God who dwells only in a building or a Good Shepherd who will walk with you, find you and seek you out wherever you are? So let me ask some questions: Who were the people who shepherded you, showed you the love of Jesus? And then: How are you listening to the voice of Jesus the Shepherd in your daily life and ministry? How are you shepherding others with Jesus’ love?
I remember saying the 23rd Psalm when my dad would take me along to commune shut-ins. I look back at those times when I was confused or uncertain and someone was there. I remember the care of college chaplains when I was not sure about my life’s direction. How many times have we prayed, “The Lord is my shepherd” to celebrate the life of one we love drawn to Jesus at the time of death? Today we give thanks for those who shepherded and sacrificed for us as mothers and elders. If we are honest we admit this life is not our own but a gift given by so many others who loved us along the way. I’ve had hundreds people loving me just like Jesus. Who shepherded you? Call them and thank them if you can. How are you paying it forward?
The Shepherd’s voice has led us here by the waters of Baptism to be fed with a meal of new Life. The Good News of Easter tells us: you can’t outrun God, you can’t out-sin Jesus and you can’t keep God contained. Because we are shepherded, we shepherd one another. We shepherd those who hurt in Stephen Ministry. We take this meal to shut-ins and homebound. We bring a shepherd’s care to those who are hospitalized. We reach out to Meadowland school with love and welcome our friends from Green Meadow homes. We invite the community through our doors for great music. We serve veterans and care for and teach Pre-School children. We bless our graduates, trusting God will guide and shepherd them. The Good Shepherd’s love and care has led us to this place and time to remember whose we are and who we are to be. We are “Welcoming all and Building up” this church with our offerings of money and talent to invite people in to listen to Jesus and then send them to shepherd others.
Let me close with another quote from Robert Farrar Capon: “A lost sheep is, for all practical purposes a dead sheep. It is the admission that we are dead in our sins—that we have no power of ourselves either to save ourselves or to convince anyone else that we are worth saving. It is the recognition that our whole life is out of our hands and that if we ever live again, our life will be entirely the gift of some gracious shepherd. God finds us in the desert of death, not in the garden of self-improvement but in the power of Jesus’ resurrection. The Good Shepherd puts us on his shoulders rejoicing and brings us home.” Thanks be to God. Amen.