Posts Tagged ‘Good Shepherd sermon’

Even When

A Sermon on Psalm 23 and John 10:1-15

The situation in John chapter 9 makes what Jesus says in John 10 even more precious and beautiful.  In John 9, Jesus gave sight to a man who had never been able to see, and along the way, the man came to deep insight about who Jesus is and about how much God loves him.  But Jesus healed the man on the Sabbath, which was a grievous sin in the eyes of the man’s spiritual shepherds—his pastors, you might say.  Instead of celebrating the healing, they were accusing and argumentative; and by the end of chapter 9, they had condemned Jesus and kicked the man out of the congregation.  Even the man’s parents didn’t come to his defense.  They were afraid they might get kicked out, too.  

Maybe those pastors actually did the man a favor in that it got him out of a toxic situation.  Some religious people and groups are toxic.  But the man was more than okay.  He was safe with Jesus.  By the end of chapter 9, Jesus was his lord and his shepherd.  “Lord, I believe.” he said.

In chapter 10, Jesus describes what kind of shepherd he is.  He is the one who knows each sheep by name, the one whose voice they know and follow.  The one who supplies nourishing pastures and protects them.  The one who gives them life abundant.  The one who lays down his life for their sake.  He is the one who embodies Psalm 23.

Which follows the trauma and struggle of Psalm 22.  The situation in Psalm 22 makes Psalm 23 even more precious and beautiful.   Psalm 22 starts, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?  Why are you so far from helping me?  Why don’t you answer me?”  Psalm 22 is turbulent, swinging back and forth from cries like those, to expressions of hope when the hurting person remembers God’s faithfulness in the past.  Psalm 22 is what sprang to Jesus’ mind and lips when he was suffering on the cross.

But then comes quiet, peace-filled Psalm 23.  The Lord is my shepherd: the one who provides good pastures and restful waters, guidance, a safe haven, protection, when there is danger all around.  The one who sets and a full table even in the middle of the danger, and pours a cup that’s never empty.  The one who makes a home, and who is a home always.

Notice the verse that is right in the heart of the psalm, verse 4.  Suddenly it’s not talking about the Lord any more.  The psalmist is talking to the Lord directly:  Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil, for you are with me.   You, beloved, faithful, dependable shepherd, you are with me.

Even though I’m in a dark and dangerous situation, you are with me.  Fear is not going to stop me.  I will trust, because you are with me.

Jesus Christ is risen, and he is the Lord.  He is that shepherd, and he is with us even when we are in the valley of the shadow, even when we are afraid.  He is with us.  Even when we are out of step with others, and with the world around us.  Even when we have been rejected like the man in John 9 who was shunned by his parents and thrown out of his congregation.  Even when we experience deep desolation as in Psalm 22.     Even when we are on that kind of roller coaster.  Even when we can’t see or feel that the Lord is near, he is still near.  Even when we can’t hear him, he is still there, as the sun is still there even when we can’t see it.

Even when a dangerous new virus threatens us and the whole human family, even then fear will not paralyze us, for YOU, beloved, faithful, dependable shepherd are with us.  You make a shelter for us in the middle of this crisis, even then.  You set the table and pour the cup for us, even then.  Your goodness and mercy are all around us, even then.  You are our home, even then.

You are with us.  Even when…even then…even now.

Thanks be to God! 

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