Tony E Dillon Hansen
25 April 2021
An introduction and sermon based upon Psalm 23; John 10:1-18; 1 John 3:16-24.
There is this creek that is kitty-corner from our house. Whenever it’s about noon-time (or when work or life just feels too much) I find or possibly hinted at opportunities to take Reno for a walk along the trail (or I might ride my bike which incidentally follows good portions of creek and riverside).
So when I am walking along this trail, there is peace in watching the water flow gently over rocks and sandy riverbed. There is subtle beauty in different ways that old trees lay around and across the creek like timbers laying down for an afternoon slumber. Yes many of them were knocked over by derecho winds, but at this moment, they look like a kindergarten room of nappers.
There is quietness most times - even when you hear a distant saw or a car rolling down a driveway. Budding trees and colorful blossoms tint the blue sky with green, yellow, pink, and purples all around in springtime. Birds are building nests in trees and talking to each other as we continue. A dog barks from a neighbor’s deck to let Reno know where she is. People walk along both directions and bicycles ride by - some with catchy tunes playing putting a skip in our step.
In moments like these, the mind is clear and open. God must be here in this moment walking with me, Reno and Bret. In this moment, you can witness God working, walking along and just being with you.
There are various pieces of discarded trash and litter that people have wantonly tossed about or got blown into the riverbed from somewhere else. I often wonder if a good Earth Day project could be to get people to help clean stretches of these creek beds.
Maybe God and Reno have an understanding and work together to get me outside like this. (We know that Reno and our cat, Biffy, work together to get food left on the kitchen counter.)
We consider today this familiar Psalm proclaiming comfort in God’s protection, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” God restores me and protects me.
Jesus says “I am the good shepherd… I know my own and my own know me” where Jesus is speaking of God’s relationship with Jesus and Jesus relationship with the disciples.
Admittingly, this is very comforting, like our walk on the trail, and yet challenging because a shepherd takes care of the flock. A shepherd cares for the flock and the grounds. A shepherd directs. Maybe God is reminding us in that moment of our responsibility to pick up trash and to care for creation; we are stewards of God’s creation.
Maybe Jesus as the shepherd reminds us of his voice speaking to us, and the question is are we listening? If we consider the text little ahead in John 10, Jesus says “The gatekeeper opens the gate for them and the sheep hear his voice. The gatekeeper calls their sheep by name and they answer.” Why, because they recognize the voice; they have a “bond.”
Folks that means God knows you and I by name. What is your answer?
John 10:10 Jesus says, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Jesus gives life abundantly so that we might live - not with guarantees of wealth, power or money (tempting as that might be). We have forgiveness and grace to live as people of God. We can have these walks along the trails (or the trails of life). Know that God is speaking to you and comforting you so that you know God.
Thus, the job of shepherd, pastor or even as a congregation leading is to lead people to that life and forgiveness and away from selfishness, laziness, greed and hate. That is to say, as in Romans 8, when we confess and believe in Jesus, we can be liberated in the wholeness; Live in the hope, faith, courage, justice and forgiveness that is right there for us – you and me – no matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey.
This beckons the text from 1 John 3 that love is not just a pretty word but truth and action. “For we know this love because Jesus laid down life for us.” It is not just the word but what we are willing to do and not do. It is not just walks in the woods all the time, but this begs of us to pay attention to what we do and what we can do for God’s kingdom here on Earth.
1 John 3 says love is for all God’s children – you and me. In our world of instant and mass communication, maybe the unon-judgmental, physical question, “Have you had supper yet?” may feel antiquated, but this is so God.
It is love - not because we expect specific responses or recite token phrases - but how we live that love – for others, for friends, for spouse and for ourselves. If you don’t start with yourself and guide yourself, it is nearly impossible to share that with others.
How does Jesus guide us today in our lives? Be honest with yourself, get the log out of your own eye, and let Jesus into your heart. Jesus guides us to open hearts, to feed the homeless, to care for our Earth garden, to comfort others in their struggles, and to walk with God in our hearts. God invites you to this space and this journey; so we should invite others. God comforts you and so should we.
Who is in the flock and who should be here that is not already here? How can we invite them here and make that invitation be known? For when you do, you invite Jesus.
Let Jesus walk with you by the creek and guide you to what is needed.
Jesus says, “I am the shepherd…” because God leads us beside still waters and protects us from our own vices when we listen and hear God’s voice. Jesus is our shepherd, our refuge and our guide to all things good!
Beloved, God knows us and leads us with love because God wants us to love each other as well.
Listen now! Hear God’s voice! God protects us with love so that we protect others with ours.
Beloved, be restored, be lifted, because surely goodness and mercy will follow you!
Thanks Be to God!