The Good Shepherd Sunday
Alleluia, Christ is Risen. The Lord is Risen Indeed, Alleluia!
I hope you have been enjoying the Spring as much as I have. The snowdrops and crocuses were followed by daffodils and tulips and I see the iris and lily-of-the-valley coming along; the forsythia was replaced by the flowering crab apple trees, the magnolias and the various fruit trees. Driving along I-94 I pass the apple orchards with row after row of apple blossoms. Stepping out the back door at the rectory I stand under the canopy of the maple tree and watch the progress of the blooming flowers, the emerging leaves and am amazed at how fast the flowers are replaced by full-size maple keys. It all happens so fast. I sure hope you are enjoying fresh parsley, sage, chives, oregano, and thyme with your meals as much as Jon and I are. I made my first batch of rhubarb and strawberry sauce this week. M-m-m, yum! It is in nature and my garden that I feel closest to God. In the beauty and mystery of nature I see the handiwork of God.
Today’s readings are familiar, but can be very difficult to accept or believe. I wonder how many people actually had all things in common and for how long. We read later in Acts 5 about Ananias and his wife Sapphira and how they lied about how much they sold a piece of property for and died for their lie to God. It wasn’t that they didn’t give it all away, but that they lied about it. Did Luke and Peter really expect the disciples and the newly baptized to share their belongings with all as they had need? God couldn’t really expect this of us today could he, I mean, we don’t even like having to have a common waste removal company let alone all things.
Psalm 23 is read frequently at funerals making it the most familiar and well known of all the psalms. Psalm 23 says that we have everything that we need, food and water in abundance, shelter, comfort in times of need and protection from our enemies, but do we believe this, can we really trust that there will be enough for our families and friends and for everyone else?
Our passage from Peter is accepting of slavery and even condones beatings and suffering even if nothing has been done wrong other than believing in Jesus Christ. Slavery is just wrong. Am I going to accept human trafficking or condone spousal abuse or employee abuse? Am I really going to tell someone to suck it up if they are beaten up? NO WAY! And what is all this talk about sheep and shepherds, what is it supposed to mean, most of us cannot relate to this metaphor at all! What is a reader or a preacher supposed to do with these passages? Am I being heretical if I say I don’t agree with these passages or that I don’t believe these passages are relevant for the 21st century? The people who put together the lectionary readings for Easter IV must have thought them relevant and useful for us to read and study so let’s look a bit deeper.
The main point of our reading from Acts is that the people came together to hear the apostles tell the story of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God and on hearing many believed, repented and were baptized. After they were baptized they continued to gather for fellowship and worship together, listening to the preaching and teaching of the apostles, praying together and sharing in the Eucharist, sharing a meal and helping each other as they were able and in so doing attracted other people to hear the Good News who in turn believed, repented, were baptized and joined them in the way of Jesus Christ. This process continues today as we gather in worship to hear and study the Word of God, praying together and sharing in the Eucharist. We gather in the Parish Hall for a cookie or two, a drink and for fellowship. We eat our meals in our homes, we say grace and pray, read scripture and devotional material, and we help others as we are able and invite them to join us. I don’t think we are expected to pool all our belongs, although some groups do for example religious orders, but I do think that we are to remember that all we have belongs to God and is given to us to wisely invest.
Slavery is no longer acceptable in our society nor is physical, mental or emotional abuse and yet we are slaves to our work, to alcohol and drugs, to fame and fortune, and to our fears and insecurities. What is it that we fear? We fear not belonging; we fear not being good enough; we fear not being accepted as we are; we fear being alone; we fear the stranger and the unknown; we fear there will not be enough for everyone; we fear getting sick and not being able to pay the bills; we fear growing old alone; we fear that we will outlive our savings; we fear death; we fear for our children’s futures; we fear so much. Is Peter suggesting that in our life there will be suffering? Some of our suffering will be the result of poor decisions made by ourselves and by others, some of our suffering will be through no fault of our own, but in embracing our faith in Jesus Christ we can find joy and peace even in our suffering.
What would need to change so that we are no longer afraid, so that our fears are turned into peace and courage? What would our world look like if we truly trust that Jesus is the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for us and that death is not the end? What would it take so that we can truly trust that there is enough, that God will and does provide for all our needs and the needs of all people, food, drink, shelter, protection, love and not just provides, but provides in abundance? Amen.
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Mother Darlene Kuhn
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