Sermon and Service May 7, 2017.
Loving good shepherd, our lord Jesus Christ
Open our eyes and our ears, that where ever we go, we may hear your voice calling us my name:
Calling us to serve and to share
Calling us praise and pray
Calling us to live and love.
When we face darkness or despair, walk beside us.
When we hunger for your love and grace, fill is with your presence.
When we are fearful and brokenhearted, welcome and feed us at your table.
May we dwell in the house of goodness and mercy all the days of our lives.
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now an forever more. Amen.
Today is Good Shepherd Sunday and the old Psalm 23 is a focus and a focal point for the service, the sermon and the hymns.
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. AMEN
I am… a mother, a wife and a pastor. Happy to be all three in one. That is how I describe who I am on Facebook. This might be the shortest way to describe myself and the focus of my life and being.
That I am first and foremost a woman & a mother, in every breath I take I breathe the love for our children. In every wake hour of the day and in every nightmare or sweet dream, I worry, I love and I think of our boys.
I am a woman and a wife too. I do worry about my husband too, and I do talk, think, love, argue, sigh, because he is a vital part of my life and every breath.
I am a woman and a pastor. I do love my church and my congregation, but I also do worry, think about, talk and sigh, because being a pastor gives me so much joy and fulfillment as a woman, a mother, a wife and a Christian.
There are many ways we can describe ourselves. I could have added: daughter, sister, friend, hiker, biker, swimmer or cook. I could say: I am….. young, old, middle-aged. I am… bold, bright and bragging. I am…. Confident, confused or concerned. I am… and whatever I am is mirrored or reflected by the perceptions of others or the world. Others will rate if I am successful, or a failure.
“ I the mighty King Bluetooth ordered these stones made in memory of my father Gorm and mother Thyra, and that I won all of Demark and Norway and made the Danes Christians.” This is how the Danish Kong Harald Bluetooth described himself on the Jellingstone. Braggingly he claimed his greatness not only as a King to conquer Denmark and Norway but even more that he was able to make all the Danes Christian. A copy of this Runestone is now printed in every Danish passport, to reminds us who we are: as Danes, as a people and a country.
There are indeed many ways we can describe ourselves.
I am…. You are… he she is… we are….
I am…..the good shepherd, Jesus says today in the Gospel and the old beautiful psalm paints the image of lush gardens, green pastures, protection and safety, and a gently calling Good shepherd.
The Lord is my Shepherd – Jesus called himself the good shepherd: And then we ask: if he calls himself the good shepherd, what are we then?
Are we just a herd of bahing sheep ? Stubborn stupid sheep? Black sheep? Sinful sheep? To be a sheep is certainly not a description we like; we like to describe ourselves as free, independent, modern people.
I am…. There are seven “ I AM” statements in the Gospel according to John. Seven statements where Jesus tells us who he is, and then equally important tells us who we are…. And what we need: guidance, light, water and care.
1. I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will be thirsty. ( John 6.35)
The bread of life. The bread we break and share and eat. Jesus told us that we do not live by bread alone, but also by the words of God. The words and the promises that fills our hunger and thirst for meaning, comfort and hope. We live by and are comforted and strengthened by the living bread, the living word from Christ.
2. I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life. John 8.12
This statement reflects on the very story of beginning of creation, and even more on the beautiful beginning of the Gospel of John: “ In the beginning was light….” Light is always stronger than darkness. Just light a small single candle in a pitch-dark room, and immediately the candlelight will light up the room and push away the darkness. We need light to live and Jesus is the light that can light up our darkness and despair.
3. I am the Gate, whoever enter through me will be saved. ( John 10.9)
The gate image is from today’s Gospel. We need to be able to go through open doors and not hide behind closed doors of fear or mistrust. We need to open doors, and we need to trust the gatekeeper.
4. I am the Good Shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. John 10.11
This statement I added to the Gospel reading today. The beautiful image of the Shepherd who leads us, guides us and protects us, is one of the most beloved images of God. The old Psalm 23, the parable of the Gospel and the statements of Jesus – truly is one of the strongest images of God we have as Christians. That we do need a shepherd to lead us and guide us and protect us. That we do belong to somebody and that we are cared for.
5. I am the resurrection and the life. He who lives and believes in me will never die. John 11.25-26
This is one of the strongest faith statements of Christ. It is a statement filled with Easter Morning and Easter faith. It is the statement that gives us hope and faith even facing death.
6. I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. “ John 14.6
As humans and as Christian we are always looking for the way to go and the right path to follow. We are always looking for and asking for the truth to prevail and to be found. And we are always searching for the good life, the real life, the life that can build a bridge from this time and life to eternity and eternal life.
7. “ I am the wine; you are the branches – apart from me you are nothing. “ John 15.5
We are connected. We are depending. On the wine and on the other branches. We do not live alone, but we live and grown in community, care and commitment. We are connected. I recently read a beautiful statement that a son made when he reflected on the passing of his beloved dad. He said we are not just somebody. We belong to somebody.
I am, Jesus said. And we have been reflecting on these statements ever since. Because what he is, shows who we are and what we need to live. The image of Christ being the good Sheperd, the way, the life, the truth, and the gate is truly the Jesus we should seek to follow as Christians. The one who is the gate, the door, - the Christ of invitation. Not a grudging, exclusive, discriminating, arms crossed Christ, but a Jesus of welcome, hospitality, encounters and embrace.
As he is the good shepherd, the gate or the door, this is the kind of church we should try to be. Not a church that keeps its doors tightly shut in a “keep out of here” mentality, a narrow, sectarian, exclusive, club house like church. Let us be a church, that is not fearful of what is out there or reluctant to share what we have in here.
We should in the name of Jesus Christ, who today says he is the good shepherd and the gate, - we should be a church that shouts welcome , and always speaks positively and honestly about the difference that faith makes in our lives. A church that does not just preach forgiveness, but know how to forgive and lift burdens and restore dignity, relationships, and humanity. In short, a church whose doors are open because the door itself and the one who stands at the door is the risen Christ, the Good Shepherd, the truth, the resurrection.
So, the statements of Christ, the seven I AM, tells us who we are or who we should be.
The Lord is my shepherd and I lack nothing! Amen