Easter 4 – Good Shepherd Sunday

Several years ago a mother came up to me and said I might offer a little explanation to the kids about Good Shepherd Sunday because the only shepherd they’d ever heard about was a dog.

I wonder if the metaphor is lost on all of us
and even though we know
that a shepherd is someone who tends sheep,
we might not truly get it at the level
that Jesus was going for because
we’re usually not around sheep much in our world.

Maybe Good Shepherds are a little like angels
in the sense that we often experience them
without knowing who they are until after the fact.

This morning on Bainbridge Island,
Bill Harper is somehow presiding
at his last worship services at Grace Church.
Bill is the son of Carol & Roland Harper
who were here for many years
and his sister Sue who is still a member.
He’s been there for 20 years & today he retires.
Bill is a Good Shepherd.
He has shared his life with so many people
and cared for them in such a way
that people, especially young people
literally flocked to Grace over the years.

Grace has a youth group of over 50 kids
that meets once a week – and have for several years.
I’d guess that would add up
to several hundred kids and their parents
whose lives & hearts have been brought closer to Jesus.
It’s an amazing legacy and I’m sure Jesus is saying,
“well done, good and faithful Shepherd.”

We are not all Bill Harpers, we’re not supposed to be.
But we are still called by God to be Good Shepherds.

Anytime you sacrifice yourself for another person,
you are being a Good Shepherd.
We do it as parents all the time.
We do it with our friends;
we do it in our jobs and any time we volunteer.

In a simplistic way, it means we take time out from whatever we might want to do, to do something for someone else. I have no doubt that everyone in the room does this – and on a fairly consistent basis.

Sacrifice is a holy thing,
not because you’re willing to be crucified,
(that’s already been done)
but because you are giving some part of yourself away.
It is holy because it is self-less.

But there is a rub in Jesus’ words and I think it is this…

He says,
“I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”

This verse often gets manipulated
so that it means all those heathens out there
who don’t know Jesus
or people of other religions who aren’t saved
because they’ve been chasing after false gods & evil spirits.

I don’t think we need to be so grandiose.

God is in our midst and working through us
to invite others to a rich and abundant life.
We probably know that in our heads,
but can we imagine that God is working in us
to invite others to faith?
Can we imagine that simply by praying for someone
or inviting someone to church
we might be the vessel by which God continues
to reach out and embrace the whole world?

The bottom line is God needs us.
Who in your life needs prayer?
Stop for 20 and pray!

Who in your life needs to know the Good News?
Maybe it’s the person next to you. Sacrifice yourself to find out

Who in the world?

Go around the room, but that’s been done, so hook it back to the gospel.
1 John 3:16-24
We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us-and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.
A Prayer for First Responders
Blessed are you, Lord, God of mercy, who through your Son gave us a marvelous example of charity and the great commandment of love for one another. Send down your blessings on these your servants, who so generously devote themselves to helping others. Grant them courage when they are afraid, wisdom when they must make quick decisions, strength when they are weary, and compassion in all their work. When the alarm sounds and they are called to aid both friend and stranger, let them faithfully serve you in their neighbor. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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