Sermon at First Presbyterian Church Lockhart

"Raising Sheep”
Acts 9:36-43, Psalm 23, Revelation 7:9-17, John 10:22-3
April 25, 2010

by James Greene

 

In the 4th Sunday of Easter, we see the images of The Good Shepherd and the response of the sheep to the voice of The Shepherd in our readings.  It is an image that is familiar to us and yet it is also, different for us.  Sometimes we forget that we are the sheep, and just like raising kids, there is a lot that goes into raising sheep.

 

Raising sheep is a lot like raising turtles.  They both have a tendency to wander off.  They know their names when you call them or speak to them.  They, like kids, sometimes run the other way when you go to pick them up.  Herding turtles is just as much fun, even with only three of them.  They’re messy, they have to be fed, and they need to have the water in their tank changed out regularly.  They are a lot of work to keep up with.  Sometimes, as a Child of God, we forget that we’re a lot like the sheep or the turtles.

 

It is like that, with us.  We know God’s Voice, and his Claim on us because we are, His.  Yet, sometimes we go our own way.  We think we know what is best for our lives, and the direction we should take.  And sometimes, we, like the sheep, wander off and get lost.  It is no wonder that the use of the image of God as the Shepherd, and the image of God’s people as the sheep, is found through out the Bible.  

          

I  Raising Sheep – by Peter is seen in the readings in the New Testament.  

In Acts, we see Peter raising Tabitha from the dead.  She is one of the faithful members of the congregation in Joppa.  Her identity as a follower of the Christ is seen in her actions and her works.  Her sermon was in her actions.  She did good, she helped the poor,  and she was productive in her work making clothes.  She was a good follower of the example of Christ.  Because of the power of God, with Peter, she was raised up, from the dead.  Peter, - the shepherd -, was raising sheep.   He had taught the people well.  They call upon him when they were in distress.  They stayed together, and comforting each other.  They truly cared for each other.  They had been raised well.

I’ve been told, that since the resurrection of Christ there have been over 4,000 documented cases where people have been raised from the dead in the church.

 

In Psalm 23 we see the familiar overview of our relationship to God (as His people), and His caring for us.  In our responsive reading I have tried to expand upon understanding of the details in that relationship.  Psalm 23 is several sermons by itself.  The term of shepherd is an allegory and illustration of God, and the leaders of God's people.  It demonstrates the relationship of God to His people and how God cares for and takes care of his people.

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           It illustrates Christ and our life in Christ, and as a follower of Jesus in the congregation of God’s people.  It is the illustration of the Good Shepherd and what he does for the flock.  He is proactive in his care of the flock.  "He makes", "He leads", "He restores".  He removes fear because he constantly stays with and watches the flock. "For You art with me".  It illustrates how the shepherd leads the sheep in the paths of righteousness.  It is the theme and the example of God's grace, and protection of his people, and his standard for us as a part of his flock.  He is raising sheep.  He is teaching and leading by example, that we may follow that example.

           Sheep is used to illustrate the people of God.  Why is the analogy of sheep?  Why are sheep used to describe us as Christians?  It is because the sheep obey.  They are not willful.  They trustingly follow the shepherd.  They are also kind of dumb.  They get distracted, just like us, by the turmoil of the world on our lives.  As sheep, they are easily distracted, easily lead away,    and we wander off,- from The Way - from the path that God has intended for us.  And in our wanderings we become lost, and cry out to God in our pain and sorrow, to come and find us; to come and save us in our lost state.  Christ as our Good Shepherd goes out and searches for us, in our lost state and gently brings us back to the fold, to the congregation.  Christ claims us.  We are His, and He will not let us go, even when we wander off.  It is the example we are to follow.  It is a reflection of how we are raised.  How we are educated into God’s Kingdom.  How we are raised spiritually in His purpose for us, and how we are raised in resurrection.

 

           In the middle-east you can see a good illustration of the difference between the shepherd, and the butcher.  Both of them work with the sheep, but there is a drastic difference.  The butcher drives the sheep before him, to their destruction.  The shepherd leads the sheep. You can see this in the modern day work place.  There are leaders and managers who drive the people under them, not caring for the people, but only caring about the bottom line on a ledger, or their own personal glory.  These are the hard hearted; the willful people that do not care.  Then there are the really genuine leaders, and shepherds who truly care about the people and the work.  They take care of and caring for, the people.

 

II  This is how the Apostles claimed God’s people for the purpose of salvation.

In Revelation, we see The Kingdom of God at the end of the age.  It is the multitude of the people of God – from every nation, every tribe, every people, and every tongue.  Just as we saw in Palm Sunday, they were holding palm branches.  This is a worship service that praises The Christ as Lord of all.  It is an acknowledgement of their Salvation through The Christ, who is The Lamb, and also The Shepherd.  There is even the allusion back to Psalm 23.  Here, the people of God,  are led, by the streams of living water, by Christ, the Good Shepherd.  It shows God’s tender heart for His people.

 

 

 

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III  The Text John 10:22-30

 

           We see Christ answering the blunt question “Are you The Christ?”  He explains to them that he ‘has’ told them in the miracles done in his Father’s Name, and they “did not believe.”  He identifies himself as The Christ, as The Good Shepherd; which calls them out of their history and culture.  Yet they do not hear Him.  He has tried to raise them to a new level of understanding.  They do not see God’s intent for all people.  They have not learned.  The Disciples, and his followers have heard his voice, and seen his works, and they have believed. - God has given them to Him. - He is their Shepherd, and as their Shepherd, he goes before the sheep, and they follow him, because they know his voice.  We see how Christ calls God’s people, by name, and they recognize his voice.  He knows us intimately,- "from our rising up to our laying down".  The Jesus in being the Good Shepherd, calls his sheep. 

 

IV  So, what do we do about raising sheep?

How do we raise sheep in the light of the present day in 2010?  How can we hear and experience - Christ’s call today?

Why does the Sheppard hold on to his sheep?  It is not just because the sheep are an asset, but because he cares about the sheep.-  All of the sheep.  They are a living thing, that touches the tender heart of God.  It is his intent and will that not one should perish.  We are His and He seeks us out, in our lost state, and rescues us and brings us home to the fellowship of the flock.

As the people of God we have learned that we are to care about and love, even the lost - both physically, and spiritually.  We are called by Him.  We have heard his voice and his claim upon us. 

God, speaks.  His voice calls out to us.  He tells us that “we are his” and he has claimed us, just like his Son, that we may be redeemed, and live through him.  He sends his Holy Spirit to us that he may blesses us with His Peace, and His Promise to all his people.  This is all accomplished in His name so that (like Peter) we know that all glory and strength belong to God.   We have been raised as good sheep by the Good Shepherd, knowing, that we are to be raised again, eternally.

We have been raise sheep that we may know to whom we belong.

All in the Name of The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit.   A-Men

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Call to Worship                                                          Psalm 95 6-7

Leader:   O Come, let us worship and bow down;

All:        Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;

Leader:   For he is our God:

All:        And we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.

     Today, if  you will, hear his voice.

Leader:    Come let us worship God.

 

Prayer of Praise                                          Pastor & People

We praise and glorify you, Lord God, for Christ, our life, is risen and has conquered death.  He has broken the chains that bind us, and freed us to live in his kingdom of light.  Help us to live as children of the living God.  Help us to live in Christ's light; to be salt and light to the world that we might bring God's Kingdom to all in the present.  A-Men

 

Prayer of Confession

            O Lord, our protector and strength, guide us as the sheep of your fold.  In your goodness sustain us, that our hearts may never be hardened.  Forgive us in our doubt, wash us thoroughly from our injustices, and clean us from our sin.  For we know our weaknesses and our sin is ever before us.  Create in us a clean heart, and renew your right spirit within us.  Guide us in your righteous ways, and do not withhold us from your presence.  Help us to always follow you in your Way. 

A-Men 

 

Prayer of Illumination                                                     O Lord, we wait and watch in the stillness of our soul, help us to hear your voice in your Word.  Lord, lead us in Your Way.  Help us to live into your Will through your son Jesus,- The Christ,- our Lord and our God. A-men.