Sermon for Ladock Evensong 22nd July 2018

SERMON for LADOCK EVENSONG  22.7.18

 

Jer. 23: 1 -  6           

Ps 23

Eph 2:11 – 22

Mark 6: 30 -34,53 – 56

 

There is perhaps a more obvious connection with today’s readings than sometimes!

They each say something about sheep and shepherds.

And there’s a message if we try to put sheep into separate pens.

 

We usually like the image of being a sheep with the Lord Jesus being our Good Shepherd, caring for us and keeping us safe.

But sheep can also be rather silly and smelly and are prone to wander and get lost!

And this is what the people who came flocking to Jesus by the lakeside were like.  Wonderfully, even though He must have been shattered with the busyness of going about his Father God’s business, Jesus felt deep compassion for them, and he made time and found energy to care for them.

And the thing that Jesus saw they needed most was teaching.  We’re not told in v. 34 the details:  it just says, ‘he began teaching them many things’.  You have to wonder what!

 

I think it’s safe to assume that Jesus wanted to teach them about being found by the Good Shepherd, learning to follow him, belonging to his flock, letting him lead:  discipleship.

 

He might have even said that there had been some bad shepherds in the past who were responsible for their ancestors being taken into exile in Babylon.  Left to their own devices that could well have been the end of the story – after all how could they worship God in a strange land?  They had no temple or local synagogue, no king, and their land had been overrun:  enough to scatter any flock. 

 

But God had other ideas: though they walked through the valley of the shadow of death, God was with them, and he was preparing a feast to celebrate every single sheep brought home by the Good Shepherd, the one who would lay down his life for the sheep; the one who would be the gateway into the safety of his fold.

 

We don’t know how many people took up Jesus’s invitation that day to ‘come, follow me’, but we do know that it would prove to be a challenge:  this Shepherd has other sheep that need to be brought in and join the flock. That’s a challenge for every follower of Jesus – we all know lost sheep, and it was a particular challenge for the ‘Jewish sheep’.  Jesus is letting them know that Gentiles will be invited too.

 

 

We hear more about this from the Reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.  He says Jesus’ death was for all people.  We hear again Paul’s famous phrase, ‘in Christ’ – Jews and Gentiles are inextricably caught up with what happens to Jesus, and so inevitably, they are inextricably caught up with each other:  equal standing before God, shoulder to shoulder with each other, and into the same fold.

 

On the cross Jesus pulled/drew all people from near and far, to God, so there was no wall of distinction between them; all hatred, jealousy and pride was crucified on Jesus’ shoulders, and he rose with life and love for all triumphing over all.

Exciting as this might sound, it would go against so much that characterised Judaism: they had forgotten their raison d’etre to be a light to the Gentiles; instead their laws forbade mixing with non-Jews, and there was even a separation wall in the Temple courtyard beyond which Gentiles could not go; a notice reminded them that trespasses would be executed!

 

Paul doesn’t actually use the sheep fold language.  But he says now Jews and Gentiles will be built together into a holy temple where the Holy Spirit can live and work. 

What a challenge for both parties! 

No wonder Paul had to write, ‘You have been saved by God’s grace, not by your own doing, so no-one – neither party - can boast.’

 

We have many early Christians – Jews and Gentiles - to thank for living as a ‘new humanity’ – a new race of people who belong to the Kingdom of God: kingdom people. 

Kingdom people have shown that it is possible and wonderful to belong together.

And it is actually an expression and reflection of God’s very own compassion and care to every unique and diverse person, to bring them into relationship with himself and with each other.

 

 

We are facing challenges ourselves about difference and diversity:  there are always people we don’t get on so well with; and there are particular challenges about human sexuality, racism, class, churchmanship and ways to worship. 

Jesus took all the negative actions and feelings about these things into his own body to transform them, so that we might become one Body united together.

 

Can we think of one person we would love to see in the sheep fold or one person belonging to the flock that we struggle with, and think of one step we might take to draw us closer together?

 

Let’s pray about that now.


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