Sunday Sermon 25th April
The chosen hymns for this week, Tell Out My Soul , The King of love my shepherd is and Jesus put this song into our hearts can be found below along with a transcription of the sermon for those who prefer to read.
There are so many voices competing for our attention today. Take TV for instance, 24- hour news networks, reality shows, talent shows, dance competitions, multiple shopping channels, not to mention the commercial advertising that makes all this television possible in the first place!
Then there are the politicians of all kinds: the Prime Minister and First Minister and their colleagues issuing “important announcements” and speeches almost daily, as well as those on the election circuit all demanding we listen to them, to vote for them, while their opponents are crying, “Don’t listen to him, listen to me!”
Corporate interests vie with each other for our custom- you get a better interest rate here; our clothing is up-to the minute fashionable; this phone is cutting edge – the future is here; and then there are the investments schemes, weight reductions schemes, this-can-only-be-purchased-on-TV schemes, all designed to take more money out of our already empty pockets.
There are family members unhappy with the family, neighbours unhappy with the neighbourhood, talk-show hosts who know it all, and of course every lay person, elder reader and minister, trying to convince us that they know what is best for the church!
Like those at the end of the Gospel story – the bit we don’t read today; - and those in the Acts of the Apostles, who are offended by what Jesus says and does, there are all these competing interests and voices trying to get us to turn away from Jesus and turn our lives over to them instead.
It’s enough to turn us to the 23 Psalm which we sang today and say: Lord, You have spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me!
Lord, I know you want me to listen to you!
Lord, if you are listening for just one minute, just for one second of one minute, can you please shut out all the competing voices, interests, merchants, politicians, and commentators for just a few minutes of silence?
Lord, can you please still the waters, can you please make me lie down in green pastures, can your rod and your staff please, Lord, comfort me, touch me, protect me, and heal me? Lord, please give me the time, the place, and the space to listen to you!
When we look and listen to the shrill voices that surround us on all sides every day, we begin to know the plight of the one who gave us the Twenty-Third Psalm.
And if we are paying attention at all, we will stop, and listen for the Good Shepherd. We will stop and listen for Jesus. And what we will hear if we are listening closely is just two words: “I am.”
For people of faith, for people of the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus, those are the only two words we need to hear: “I am.”
Jesus says, “I am.” The people of God have heard these words before. Standing barefoot, in front of a bush that burns and is not consumed, we hear a voice and we ask, “Who are you?” The answer comes back, “I am who I am. … I am what I will be. … Just tell them I AM sent you.”
The one who says “I am” also says, “I know my own, and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for my sheep.”
Let’s pause for just a moment and understand what is being said here. We are known. We all want nothing more than to be known. We spend a lifetime looking for relationships, reflecting on experiences, searching for someone who knows us, or even more fundamentally, to know ourselves. There is no doubt about it, the most fundamental human condition: a desire to know and to be known.
All these other voices competing for our attention do not really want to know us. They can’t possibly know us. But there is one who does. The one who says, “I am,” wants to know us. In fact, the one who says, “I am,” already knows us just as the Father knows him.
God knows us. And in that knowledge, we know God. If we really let ourselves hear what Jesus is saying, we can come to know God.
Not a lot of propositions about God,
not things about God,
but we can experience the reality that is God.
And in that reality we know God’s love and compassion for us and his desire that we too experience resurrection.
God’s compassion for us and God’s desire to restore and enliven us shine through every moment of the Easter season.
As we begin to live as resurrected people, we cannot help but connect with resurrection communities, and that in turn brings the life of resurrection to the world.
This means that, first of all, in our families and friendships, and in how we order our lives, God calls us to embody the compassion and sacrificial care of resurrection.
Any time our words and actions bring life, joy and peace to others, we share resurrection.
Then, as we connect with one another in resurrection communities, we are able to bring life to our neighbourhoods, impacting others with God’s care and grace.
This means that much of how we have arranged and lived our faith as Christ followers may need to change.
From exclusive communities, we will need to learn acceptance and welcome.
From being people of judgment and criticism, we will need to become people of love and forgiveness.
From being those who focus only on a few issues that directly affect us, we will need to contribute to causes that bring life to people we may never meet.
The life that resurrection brings cannot be contained.
It breaks out wherever it can, and those who seek to live a resurrection life can only follow where it leads. When we try to contain it or control it, we only end up falling out of step with Christ.
This means that every action, word and thought can be either the reflection of resurrection, or an obstacle to it.
The choice is ours – we can be Good Shepherds who care for and lay our lives down for those around us, or not.
In the clamour of our busy, noisy lives, when we listen for the Shepherd’s voice we too can experience rest, recuperation and resurrection and so be good shepherds to our world.