“I am the good shepherd.” John 10
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not be in want.” Psalm 23
What a spectacular 100th Anniversary worship we experienced Sunday morning as more than 400 of us gathered on campus and more than 500 of us worshipped on-line. Once a year we come together like this, all in one place, to take a look at the other sheep of the flock Jesus loves. We’re also now the vibrant, thriving followers of Jesus you cannot see. Nearly 1,000 of us worshipped altogether from across the country, and a half dozen countries around the world.
Whenever we worship, we search for good news in an increasingly bad news world. We search for a Shepherd to trust. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd, the bread of life, the light of the world. I am the Vine, you are the branches, I am the way, the truth, the life, the gate.
We have may images of God, don’t we? My first memory of what God is like hung on the living room wall of my working-class grandparent’s home. Jesus gazed lovingly at the sheep, his soft face graced by light brown curls that cascaded down his back and across his shoulders. My first memory of Jesus felt like love, surrounded by people who would have laid down their life to keep me safe.
But I knew even then that this Jesus was no wuss. Is that even a word? We learned about Jesus in Sunday School, the one who said, “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Who does that? Wouldn’t you just leave the sheep when the wolf comes stalking around, they’re just sheep. First clue that Jesus was different than other people.
Then Jesus tells this story. “The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep.”
We don’t have to scroll through many channels on television to see what a hired hand looks like. The hired hand will abandon you in a snap when it’s expedient to do so. Make no mistake. Jesus isn’t a wimp. He’s issuing a stern warning to resist following any hired hand that does not love you. He warns usthat when the going gets tough, the one we thought we could trust to keep us safe, sheltered and fed, may ditch us when weneed it the most.
Then Jesus tells us again: “I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own, and my own know me, just as the Father knows me, and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.”
Give me this Jesus. In this upside-down world we’re looking for something better for both now and eternity that gives us hope. Give me Jesus.
In a junk food world, give me Jesus, the bread of life, the light of the world. In a political circus with too few ringmasters and too many clowns, give me Jesus.
Our joy does not depend on the economy or who wins the election, or how every international conflict or domestic crisis gets resolved. When we put God first and live closely to the one who redeems us, there’s nothing we can’t do.
God’s grace, mercy and peace be with you,
Dr. Anna V. Copeland
Senior Minister, Community Church of Vero Beach