Worship February 21, 2021
I welcome you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
The gentle shepherd beckons!
But we cast our eyes down focused on obtaining material abundance.
The compassionate shepherd calls!
But we listen to the noise of the world focused on labels and boundaries.
The loving shephe
rd opens the gate!
Help us to see, hear, and feel the abundant love and grace of the Good Shepherd.
Holy one, we gather together to hear the voice of the Great Shepherd. Help us drown out that which seeks to destroy or kill us and focus instead on the life-giving voice and words of Jesus. Through the strength of your Spirit, be present to us as our compassionate guide and lead us into the gate of life. Amen.
Hymn TFWS # 2164 Sanctuary
Scripture John 10:7-11 NRSV
7 So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
Called to Abundant Life
Friends we are called to an abundant life. Now, I will tell you I have not always felt like I had an abundant life. I didn’t feel like I had an abundant life when both kids were in braces at the same time or when we couldn’t figure out how to pay for a new fridge when ours died. Or…I could make my list longer, but you aren’t here to listen to my tales of woe.
And then I remind myself that I am only thinking in terms of finances and an abundant life is so much bigger than our first world money challenges.
No one is perfect. Weren’t we all told that as children? Even those that may have been the apple of someone’s eye eventually learned that they were not perfect.
We are not perfect because that perfection was removed from humankind in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve did what God had told them not to do. We call it the Original sin and all people are born with it.
The origin of the original sin came when Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit. They ate from the tree of knowledge and evil. The only tree they had been told by God not to eat from.
Eating from the Tree of Knowledge is the beginning of sin. By eating the fruit of this tree, Adam and Eve tried to become like God and humankind has faced sin ever sense then.
No one is perfect. We all live in a broken world and, like sheep, we have gone astray. Thankfully, the story doesn’t end there. We were made for something better – the abundant life made possible in Jesus. Jesus, the good shepherd who shows us the path to the abundant life we are called to live.
I am so glad that I have Jesus to show me the way to an abundant life because on my own I wonder and stray.
Sin, both individual and as a collective group, robs us (as a thief would) of the image of God, His abundance for humanity and life itself? So often in our lives, sin and temptation creep up on us just like a snake in a garden and distract us from the abundance in life that Christ has called us to and gifted us with.
I don’t think I have ever watched an entire Indian Jones movie, but I recently read about the Last Crusade. For some this might be one of your favorite movies. I understand that some think it is great entertainment. I might have to watch it because I read that it packs a powerful punch of a message about finding happiness and joy.
I would show a clip of the movie, but I do not have the licensing to do so. But it is when Elsa has fallen to her death grasping for the grail and then Indiana nearly dies as he reaches for the Holy Grail.
Indiana Jones is grasping for the Holy Grail even as he is about to plunge to his death. His father implores him, “Indiana, let it go.” All too often it is not what we lack that inhibits us from experiencing abundant life: what keeps us from experiencing life abundant is the stuff of earth that we do not want to let go of or to lose.
Jesus said that he came to give life and give it abundantly. If that is the case, then we have to seriously talk about what keeps us from experiencing the life abundant that Jesus came to give us. Here’s a clue: The things that inhibit us from experiencing life abundant on earth today and in heaven to come are the things we refuse to let go of.
When have you gotten caught up in seeking something maybe a pipe dream of some sort, or a car, or technology, or memorabilia, or place to travel to or whatever is your Holy Grail only to realize that this seeking, this desire, this longing only took your eyes off the good things you already had, or the good that was already coming?
We have all experienced these kinds of distractions or temptations in our lives. Throughout our faith journey, they will certainly come. Frankly, we will have moments when we give in to temptation. We let things take our focus off Christ. We allow things to cause our faith to waiver or weaken because we put them first.
It is good for us to reflect on these things that take our focus away from Christ. By looking at where something has become more important than Christ we can repent and hopefully not go there again.
I remember a boyfriend I had long-long time ago just out of high school. I was so focused on him that nothing else mattered to me. I stopped making time for my family, I stopped caring about my future other than that boyfriend, I basically made him the Holy Grail. Well his name is not Rod and since I married Rod a few years later I somehow came to my senses.
The shepherd metaphor points to God’s compassionate, loving relationship with God’s flock. Verse 11 says “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
The shepherd takes responsibility for each sheep, as find in the books of Luke 15:3-7/Matthew 18:12-14, where the Good Shepherd seeks after just one sheep, one lost sheep while leaving the other 99 to do so.
The shepherd metaphor highlights the danger of living apart from the grace of God, as well as the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide our actions toward abundant life.
Now I am not saying we are a flock of sheep. And after this last political season perhaps I shouldn’t use sheep as an example at all. For reference I am talking about four legged furry mammals that graze in a pasture and are often used for milk and meat. I am pointing out the abundant life that is available to us as God’s beloved creatures.
Abundance isn’t pockets full of money, a garage full of cars, cabinets full of food and a clean bill of health with a life expectancy of 150 years. David Guzik says, “Abundant life isn’t an especially long life. It isn’t an easy or comfortable life. It is a life of satisfaction and contentment in Jesus.”
Abundant life is a reaffirmation that no matter what happens – no matter what happens-, Jesus will be with us, see us through, provide for our needs and give us strength for the journey. It is a promise of Christ’s prophesied birth, when the prophet Isaiah calls him Emmanuel, meaning “God with us.” And it is a promise that Christ reaffirms when he says in the book of Matthew, “And lo, I will be with you always, even until the end of the earth.”
Even though life has tests and trials, Christ is with us. Even though we will make mistakes, fall short, give into temptation, sin, and get distracted, Christ promises to never leave us. Grace abounds and is always greater and stronger than our sin. God calls us to live in that assurance, to walk in that abundance, knowing we are never alone, to find strength and joy in knowing that the Lord will fight our battles. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
If I were to tell you that Next week I plan to preach about the sin of lying and I say, “To help you understand my sermon, I want you all to read Mark 17.” It sounds feasible doesn’t it since we are looking at wrestling with sin during this Lenten season.
And then next Sunday, I ask you who had read Mark 17, would every hand go up indicating you had read it? Maybe!
We as the story goes A preacher once told his congregation, “Next week I plan to preach about the sin of lying. ”
“To help you understand my sermon, I want you all to read Mark 17.”
The following Sunday, the preacher asks who read it, with every hand going up.
The preacher smiles and says, “Mark has only sixteen chapters. I will now proceed with my sermon on the sin of lying.”
Oops! We do wrestle daily with sin in our lives.
How will you receive the gift of God’s abundant grace and love today? How might you live into more of the reality of what Christ offers us?
We all live with sin. We all sin and fall short. We all need to be called back into the fold. What a blessing to know that even though we might stray, Christ, the Good Shepherd, finds us and calls us to come home.
God created us to have an unquenchable thirst as we live in this world. When sin entered the world, so did discontentment with life. God desires for us to seek more out of life. The problem is we displace our desire for more because of our discontentment.
The purpose of the tension we feel with what we want and what we have is to point us to God and to eternity. We are meant to desire more of God.
“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1).
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6).
God wants us to have a life of abundance. But in God’s economy, it never has to do with acquiring worldly possessions that will one day vanish. Instead, it’s all about what’s eternal.
Instead of desiring more of God, we seek to fill our need for more with what the world can give – material possessions, fame, achievement, recognition, popularity, and accomplishments. Then we read John 10:10, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly,” and we misuse it to read that God will give us an abundance of those worldly things we crave.
Nonetheless, Jesus not only gives us the promise of eternal life in heaven, He also gives us an abundant life here on earth. But His abundance has nothing to do with worldly pursuits and everything to do with those qualities that make us more like Him and that we can carry with us into heaven.
An abundant life comes from following God’s ways, pursuing holiness, and seeking to be more like Him. “This God—his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him” (Psalm 18:30). As a result, others see the abundant life in you and are led to Jesus through your example: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
God created us to want more. But which kind of “more” will we seek? Abundance in worldly pursuits or an abundant life? The more we desire God, the more abundant our life will be. Amen
Holy God, You know us better than we know ourselves.
As a shepherd watches over their sheep, you watch over us in love, desiring peace and protection for us.
But too often, we ignore your voice calling to us, and we opt for another path besides the one you lay out for us.
Forgive us, Lord.
Help us to hear you, to see you, to love you, and to follow you, for it is in your Way that we find abundant life.
Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me.”
Our Savior knows us and loves us completely, without condition, and with limitless grace.
In the name of Jesus Christ, praise God, we are forgiven!
And we pray in the name of the One that taught us saying
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen
Hymn #381 Savior, Like A Shepherd Lead Us (verse1)
In a world that calls us to seek for ‘me’, we struggle to understand and see the abundance among ‘us’. As we prepare to give our gifts this day, we reflect on the places of abundance in our community and pledge to continue creating these places. Prick our hearts for the places of lack and need in our community and in our world, that we might be your hands and feet to them.
Prayer of Dedication
Gracious God, we are grateful for knowing that every good and perfect gift comes from you. Not just material things, but joy, strength, peace of mind and our eternal hope. We are reminded though the laborers are few, the harvest is plenty. So, as we return these gifts in offering to you, may we be ever mindful of the need to offer gifts of service, of love, benevolence, and compassion, both now and always. In Christ, Amen.
Hymn UMH # 128 He Leadeth Me: O Blessed Thought (Verse 1)
Go now with your trust in the good shepherd,
and let us love, not just in words,
but in truth and action.
Believe in the name of Jesus Christ,
and love one another, just as he has commanded us.
And may God be at your side, even in valleys of death.
May Christ Jesus be the cornerstone of your life.
And may the Holy Spirit abide in you
….and tend you with love and mercy all the days of your life.
We go in peace to love and serve the Lord,
…In the name of Christ. Amen.