Monday, April 18

Sermon Fourth Sunday in Easter

Acts 2:42-47
Psalm 23
1 Peter 2:19-25
John 10:1-10

I wish to suggest that all or our texts direct us towards relationship as the basis of faith and church. The picture of this is a shepherd and flock. The working out of this reality of faith and church as relationship is found in the Acts account of the first church in Jerusalem, the newborn church, the Body of Christ. I wish to lead us to see the words about Jesus as shepherd as not only addressed to us as individual believers but as this particular local church, Church of Jesus Christ, Reconciler. Our gathering here is about relationship with Christ, with each other and of this church with the world. I hope that tonight we can begin to see ourselves as the flock of Christ,following his voice leading us forward together with each other, knowing we are each cared for free us as to care for each other.this sermon is as much for the pastoral team and me, as we struggle to work with you in this church.

The point of Jesus' parable of sheep and shepherd might be difficult for us to see given that if you are like me we havent been around sheep or shepherds much. ( but then our text says that Jesus audience didnt get at first either) Our images of flocks and sheep and shepherd are born out of idyllic pictures, or hearsay.

Shepherd and sheep dog in Ireland.
On vacation with some friends in the British Isles, we were in about our second week of traveling and had made our way to the west coast of Ireland. My friends and I had just left the B&B we had stayed the night before full of a good breakfast of eggs, blood sausage, tomatoes and toast. As we rounded a curve in the road we saw a shepherd leading his flock with a little sheep dog following behind to catch any stragglers. Except for the few stragglers that seemed to want to go off and eat the bit of clover in the opposite direction the shepherd was taking them, the sheep formed a tight group around the shepherd. The flock almost moved as a single organism with the shepherd at its head. It was an amazing and beautiful sight The flock and sheep dog moved with the shepherd, and the sheep dog kept the independent minded sheep from straying too far.

The tight formation and the ease of movement exemplify to me trust, relationship, care perhaps even love. The shepherd leads and the sheep (for the most part) follow, bunched together, there is relationship between the sheep. There is the relationship between the sheep dog and shepherd, a mutual trust a deep connection the dog simply follows the lead of the shepherd, and the sheep dog with the sheep. It would not work if the sheep did not trust the sheep dog. Part of what was so beautiful of seeing the shepherd his flock and the sheep dog was the level of trust and care exemplified in the movements.

In Jesus parrable the shepherd cares for the sheep and two the sheep know the shepherd. Its an image of relationship of trustand care, of safety and threat. Sheep know the difference between the one who cares for them and the one who intends them harm.
Christ is shepherd of our souls is our provision and our protection. Knowingthis protection our texts today speak of following our shepherd, yes through the valley of the shadow of death, through even persecution. We are to exhibit the trust of the sheep for the shepherd and follow, together
This is the image of the church, the flock of Christ, universal and local. It is a picture of who we are as a gathered community.

Acts community as sheep and shepherd.
What makes this possible is the trust imaged in Jesus parable. The care exemplified here is the first church embodying Christ, following the shepherd and being provision for the flock. I wish to be careful here for I dont want to lift up the Acts community in Jerusalem as perfect, nor simply abstract their actions and assume what is written should not be lived out. Two things I wish to draw out, first: the actions described can only be explained if there already existed an environment of trust and love. I doubt very seriously that people will voluntarily give up their possessions and give to a group to distribute as necessary it there is not only an environment of trust but of love of the other.

What I am seeing this evening is that it is the relationship that Christ has with the church of care and provision as shepherd of the flock, the church, that is the basis for what we find described in these early chapters of Acts.

The basis of the life of the church is the reality of the image of shepherd and flockl. It means that the church incarnates the provision of Christ the shepherd. In trusting in Christ: if we truly trust and love Jesus Christ as our shepherd as the one who cares loves protects and is our provision, then something of the attitudes that made possible the church in Jerusalem is available to us.

The point is this Christ is our shepherd, he cares and provides for the flock the Church. Second sheep follow in the way of the shepherd. They trust the shepherd. The community of the church is created by this common trust in Jesus Christ, The Son, who is raised from the dead.
Our existence as a community of faith is here in our trust in Christ, in our following in the way of Christ. And any community that bears the name of Christ and follows in his way will manifest Gods caring for us. Providing what any had need. We are to follow in the way of Christ to care for one another as Christ cares for us.

Do you know, do I know, do we know, what it is to have this relationship with Jesus Christ, with God, pictured in John 10? Do we trust in God as the psalmist does. Do we as individuals, do we as this local church, church of Jesus Christ Reconciler.

What we offer as an ecumenical church is grounded in the reality of this parable. We come together believing there is one shepherd and one flock. And so Our ecumenical effort has to be about relationship about living into the reality of faith and church exemplified in these texts. Faith and church are about relationship, first our relationship to Christ and because of that relationship to each other. From their we can be Christ to each other the church as the flock of Christ becomes that nexus of relationship love care and trust, that leaves people in awe, and allows people to hear the voice of Christ as the shepherd of theirs souls, and end their lost wandering.

We are here to be in relationship with God, with one anther and with the world, that all may be drawn to Christ and find that they and we no longer need to trust in our own efforts our own resources, but all comes from God, and in trust andlove we can find the generous abundant life, found only in Christ, which should also mean with the flock that follows the shepherd, the church.