Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The Good Shepherd

On Sunday, the scripture we were reading from was John 10:1-16, and the sermon was focused on "The Good Shepherd". Here's a copy of the passage:
The Shepherd and His Flock
"“I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice." Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them.
Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me– just as the Father knows me and I know the Father–and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. ""

One thing I find amusing, is that sometimes I totally switch off from the sermon the preacher is giving and hear a different one instead. This is exactly what happened on Sunday, no disrespect to Rev Boddington, who is an excellent charismatic vicar! He was explaining some of the symbolism of the sheep and the shepherd in Christianity to the congregation. Mr Tangent here meanwhile was thinking about the depth of Christ's love, as the Good Shepherd. You see, you can have all the Spirit filled leaders in the world, but ultimately it's the voice of Jesus we need to listen to. Our leaders are like hired hands, yes they love us, but they cannot be there for us 24/7. In our darkest hour, it is Christ who is there for us when others do not understand and shun us. Yes he works through his servants, but they are NOT the Shepherd. They are not the author of our salvation, they are fallible, and when everything else goes pear shaped they cannot guarantee 100% attention all of the day and all of the night.
Jesus CAN!
It's really paramount to explore the depths of a relationship with God on a personal level, otherwise everything you believe is just smoke and mirrors and founded on nothing. If God is not at the centre of your faith, it will not stand when the rains come down and the floods come up!

I want everybody to be able to grasp the enormity of God's love. In fact, as Paul the apostle did nearly 2,000 of your Earth years ago, I pray it:

"For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. "
May you know the closeness of the Shepherd. May his Spirit remain within you... for that will be better for you than any praise offering, more substantial than any preacher.
Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, lean not on your own understanding.

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