Life Isn’t Fair

        The Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to John.

Jesus prayed for his disciples, and then he said. “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

“Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”  (John 17:20-26)

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How would you feel if God spoke to you and told you that you were going to do great things in Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, or maybe somewhere else in the world?

I guess you would panic a bit, wouldn’t you?  I mean, what about your job, and who’s going to look after the kids, and what about your bridge group next Wednesday?

It would be a bit scary.

I had a similar experience, you might say. Kind of.

I was in my final year in seminary, and I was staying on campus during the summer. There was a man, another Yorkshireman, originally from Doncaster, fifteen miles from my home town, and he was visiting from the Arctic. He  was a priest, recruited in Britain by the Bishop of the Arctic, and he had ministered in the far North for, I think, seven years.

He was asked to speak at one of our morning prayer services. Which he did.

He spoke eloquently about serving the church in the North. He told about the great challenges, and the way they were being met. He talked about the great joy and satisfaction he got out of his ministry. He talked about the gratitude shown by the native population for the mission work that he did.  And he talked about the great need for priests to work in the North.

I felt he was talking directly to me.

In fact I was sure he was talking directly to me.

And I began to panic.

Is this God’s way of calling me for service in the North, I wondered?  I hope not. I can hardly stand the winters here in Southern Ontario.

Well, as it happens, I found myself in the wilds of Grimsby, so you know I didn’t go.  North.

When I thought about it, I decided that maybe God wasn’t calling me to go North, after all. 

But I still wonder, sometimes.

Did I go against what God had planned for me?

Jesus, just before his Ascension into Heaven, told his disciples, “ The Holy Spirit will come upon you with power, then you will tell everyone about me in Jerusalem, in all Judea, in Samaria, and everywhere in the world.”

Everywhere in the world?  The whole world?  Wait a minute!!

“ I can’t go out into the world. I am not prepared. I have never traveled more than a day’s journey from my home before. How can I go into the whole world?” One of them might have asked.

“I just told you that the Holy Spirit will come upon you with power. That is how you will go, and how you will glorify me.” Jesus assured them.

If God is helping you, then surely everything is possible.

We read in the Acts of the Apostles, that  Paul and Silas, are doing what Jesus has commanded, and as a result, find themselves in prison, but they are miraculously released. (Acts 16:16-34)

And they are able to continue to go on their way spreading the gospel, and convincing people about the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus, and how he died that we may be free of our sin.

Paul and Silas, are fulfilling what Jesus asked for his disciples as he prayed in that upper room.

And as we heard, in our Gospel reading, Jesus in that prayer for his  disciples,  prays,  ” I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word.” In other words, the blessing, and the challenge  he asks for his friends, will be passed on to those who come to believe after listening to them.

Like us?

He has earlier prayed “Father, the time has come for you to bring glory to your Son, in order that he may bring glory to you.”

The glory that Jesus is talking about is the glory of the cross.  Jesus glorified his father by obeying him in all things.  Even to dying on the cross. 

As it says, “In all things he did his Father’s will.”

That’s another way of  saying that this man Jesus, lived for the Father. And he had such faith in the Father, and was so empowered by the Holy Spirit, that everything that he did, especially his death, did in fact, glorify God.

You know, we do a lot of self -glorifying, don’t we?

You may not think you do, but it’s a common human trait.

We seem to need to build ourselves up.  The way we dress. The way we talk, carry ourselves, the people we mix with, the car we drive, the house in which we live, the schools we went to, the level of education we reached, all helping to elevate us in the eyes of other people – we hope.

It’s worse in America.  It is never too long into a conversation, down there, before someone asks you what job you do. And if it isn’t something impressive, then you are going to be talking to yourself pretty soon.  

I remember as a teenager, I had a particular friend who used to tell girls that he was a nuclear physicist.

So when we spied him spinning this yarn to a girl he was dancing with, if we could get close enough we would say something like, ‘ Hey Dave.  How’s the job on the bins?” or, “How are the wife and kids?”

( Of course those were the days when you could hear yourself speak on the dance floor. And you danced close to your partner. )

What a relief it would be to be free of that eh?  Not to care. Just to live as someone who is so at ease with oneself that we don’t care what the world thinks.

Jesus was so at ease with who he was, wasn’t he?  He spoke in the synagogue before  learned people; he gathered a group of followers around him and taught them as a rabbi would,  this son of a carpenter.

He stood up to those in authority, he reached out to those who were scorned by society.

And finally, he went to his death on the cross, in supreme obedience to His Father’s will.

He needn’t have, you know.  He could have said, “No.”   He could have stayed away from Jerusalem. Avoided it.

As I avoided the Arctic?

But if he had done so, then God’s plan would have been thwarted.

His death would show us  the length to which God would go, in His great love for us, and in His wish to save us.

And now we see Jesus  sending his disciples out into the world – the whole world – to face dangers  similar to the dangers he himself had faced. They would be hated.   They would challenge the evil powers of this world, and put their lives at risk.

And how are these men, who haven’t shown signs of great bravery yet,  going to do this?

How are they to handle all the stuff that’s going to come their way?

Because make no mistake about it, they will face danger. Their lives will be forfeit, some of them.  Some  will be thrown into prison, as we have heard today,  others brought before tribunals, some flogged, thrown out of town.

Some would be killed.

How will they handle this?

Shouldn’t God protect them?  Keep all harm away from them? 

Note that when  Jesus prayed for his disciples, and this is important, he prayed, not that they should be  taken out of this world, not that they may find escape, he prayed that they may find victory.

Christianity was never meant to have us withdraw from life,  but to equip us better for it;  never meant to release us from problems, but a way to solve them;  never meant to offer us an easy peace, but to be triumphant in warfare against evil;  never meant to offer us a life in which we escape our troubles,  but a life in which troubles are faced and conquered.

Linus and Charlie Brown were walking along one day, and chatting with each other. Linus said, “ I don’t like to face problems head on. I think the best way to solve problems is to avoid them. In fact, this is a distinct philosophy of mine. No problem is so big or so complicated that it can’t be run away from.”

If you had run away from every problem that came along  in your life, where would you be today?  Back in the womb!  

See how your mother would like that. 

God doesn’t promise no problems.  He promises us the courage to face them, and the ability to overcome them.

As Christians we are not supposed to be of this world, but we do have to live in it – and the world is where we meet those problems, it’s where Christianity must be lived out.

God has chosen us and dedicated us in his service. He doesn’t expect us to  carry out that great task out of our own strength, however. In fact, He graciously fits us for whatever task faces us, if we can just place our life in His hands.

I was speaking to a young mother once. I remember her saying then, that having two young children to look after was very hard. And she looked tired.

She said she didn’t have any family nearby who would take the children off her hands for just a little while.

Then some time later, I saw her again, and we chatted for a few minutes.   She told me again how busy she was. She worked week-ends, and had a part-time job she did from home, and then of course she had the two babies  to care for. And she did housework, and meals, and so on.  And she couldn’t talk for long, as she had the laundry in.

I bet that if you had told that young woman  how much she would accomplish, once she became a wife and mother, she would have laughed in your face.

Don’t tell me that God doesn’t equip people when he gives them big jobs. And one of the biggest job is that of mother, isn’t it? That’s why today we remember to give thanks for them on Mothers’ Day. And why we do love them.

And we do. And I do – give thanks for mothers. 

Mothers who put the welfare of their kids ahead of their own needs.

God equips us to handle sorrow, and suffering, and all sorts of hardship. I can tell you from my own observations that I have seen people face great challenges, such that  I thought they would never be able to handle,  and yet, by the grace of God, they did.    

He is there in our life struggles.  He is  right there in the dirt with us,  guiding us, helping us to make it through life.

We have just got to let Him in. 

Life isn’t fair, you know. 

Ask those forced to leave The Ukraine. And those who are still there, fighting against evil.

Ask those victimized in other areas of conflict, such as Syria, and Afghanistan.

Whether we are engaged in some grand design, telling the world about our Saviour, and his love or whether we are just trying to make it through life’s  trouble and turmoil, we can reach out to him.

That’s why God had Jesus Christ choose us to share in his eternal glory. Chose us – you and me. We didn’t choose him. He chose us.

We will suffer for a while, but God will make us complete,  steady, strong, and firm.’

If we hang in with Him.

And hanging in with Him we will bear witness to His everlasting love and care, evidenced in the life and death and resurrection of His Son Jesus.

Witnessing to Christ – serving him in some specific endeavor – or just making it through a difficult time, day by day.

But always with His help.

I don’t know about you but I couldn’t make it without.

Amen.

A New Life

        The Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to John

After Jesus healed the son of the official in Capernaum, there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids– blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. Now that day was a Sabbath. (John 5:1-9)

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My brother in law, Tony,  was a joker, although sometimes you couldn’t follow what he was saying as he tended to mumble. But he could tell a good story.

His mother had bad arthritis in her knees. She had had some drastic surgery to help ease the pain which involved stiffening one leg, which kind of stuck out from the old wheelchair, they had gotten for her, so  basically she was immobilized.

He was very good with her, actually taking her on holiday with them, and he even brought her to Canada for a holiday here, which she seemed to enjoy.

Tony and his family, being Irish were good Catholics and so when they took his mother to France for a holiday, he made sure they went to Lourdes.

They wanted to try and have her healed in that holy water, in that holy place.

He told me that they managed to get his mother, still in her old wheelchair, into the water, and sure enough something happened.

The water surged and bubbled around his mum in her chair, and she made noises of surprise, ” Whoo, whoo, whoo, ” she went.

Then they brought her out of the water.

I had been listening to Tony tell this story with great expectation.

“Was she healed?” I asked.

“No,” Tony said, ” But that wheelchair had on it a brand new pair of tires. “

In a portico, with five porches,  a place called Bethzatha, there was a pool of water, located above  an underground stream that occasionally caused the surface of the pool to be disturbed.

When that happened, people thought that disturbance was caused by angel, and that if a sick person were able to get into the water at such a time they would be healed.

Maybe at some time in the past someone had managed to get  into the water and afterward reported being healed and the story got around and people who were desperate for healing  wanted to be  taken there.

But basically it was mere superstition.

Jesus saw this man who had lain there, obviously for a long time, unable to walk, and consequently unable to get into the water at the magical time.

Seeing him, Jesus’ heart was moved.

Ignoring the superstitious beliefs around the water, he asked him, ” Do you want to be made well?”

That isn’t as daft a question as it may seem.

For some people, being an invalid can be not too bad a life.

You get looked after by well-meaning people, fed, perhaps offered clothing, and you don’t have to do anything. No stress. No worries. When you got used  to it, it might not be too bad a life.

When I did my turn in the Emergency Department at Hamilton General Hospital, I spoke to a lady who had been brought in for some reason. I don’t remember what, but lying in her bed, she looked very thin, emaciated, even.

She told me that she had been told she would be going home the next day but she whispered to me that she wanted to stay a bit longer as she was enjoying getting regular meals.

My heart went out to her.

She wasn’t a malingerer, just a lonely lady trying to get by on a small pittance weekly, and needed some loving care.  And a square meal or two.

She didn’t want to be fit to leave the hospital just yet.

So when Jesus asked this man, ” Do you want to be made well? He wanted to know, did the man really want to be made well.

And he did. And he was.

“Get up. Lift up your bed. “

He had to do something. He had to try. He had to take Jesus at his word, and as he struggled to his feet, he was healed.

It seems to me that Jesus answers our entreaties, but that we have to be an active partner.

We can’t lay back and expect a miracle unless we are ready to our part too.

I have heard so many stories of people with serious illness, such that you might think they would never work again, but somehow, with good medical care, a positive attitude and the power of prayer you see them getting around, even going back to work, and living a full life.

Helping themselves, with the help of Jesus.

Jesus worked with that man to get him on his feet again,

Later on you will read that this man was seen walking in the city carrying his pallet, and accosted by the religious leaders who asked him why he was working on the  Sabbath.

The original intent of the law against working on the Sabbath referred to actual work.

A tailor carrying a bolt of cloth, a carpenter carrying a piece of wood, would be in contravention of the law, as obviously they were intending to work at their trade.

But the interpretation of the law had become so narrow that some rabbis held that if a man had a needle in his cloak he could be considered to be working and have to face a penalty.

When the man who had been healed was asked why he was working – carrying a burden  – his pallet – on the Sabbath, he told them it was because he had been told to get up and carry his bed  by a man called Jesus.

This gave those in authority another reason to hate Jesus.

Here was concrete evidence that he was encouraging someone to break the law.

It was true that God rested on the seventh day – the basis of the Sabbath – as his work  of creation was done, but  He didn’t stop loving His people. Or caring for them, on that seventh day, did He? 

Similarly, Jesus wouldn’t turn his back on someone who was suffering, even if doing so was against the strict interpretation of the law. Would he?

Moving on, though, as usual, there is always another dimension, a spiritual dimension,  to the stories we read in the Gospels.

And there is more to this than a simple account of the healing of a paralyzed man.

Because these stories, these accounts are placed in the Gospels to bring out that other, spiritual dimension.

I am referring to the healing of a life, the transformation  of a life, that can take place with Jesus’ help. Many a life has been transformed – in fact millions of lives have been transformed – in response to the healing power of Jesus.

Many a life which has seemed lost, wasted , useless, has been miraculously transformed  by the power of Jesus Christ.

But once again, the recipient of such power to change really has to want to change.

It takes two.  Maybe three – one person helping another want to change, and Jesus to do the heavy lifting.

Sometimes it happens through the efforts of someone pointing the way.

Sometimes it happens despite the efforts of some who would dissuade.

In 1855 a young man, eighteen years old moved to Boston to seek his fortune. He looked for a church to join and found himself in a Bible preaching church.

He had been brought up Unitarian so knew nothing of the Gospels.

He seemed to know nothing of theology, but was eager to learn.

He didn’t  get off to a good start.  In fact, some years later his Sunday School teacher said of him, ” I can truly say that I have seen few persons whose minds were spiritually darker than his.”

He was put on probation for a year in the hope that he might learn some spiritual truths. He wasn’t seen as a good prospect. He was barely literate and had an atrocious accent.

At the end of that year there didn’t seem much in the way of improvement but reluctantly they allowed him to become a member of the church.

Over the next years there were many who looked at that young man and wondered if God could ever use a person like Dwight L. Moody.

But God didn’t wonder.

He did use Dwight.

By God’s grace and love, and through his own determination, and the help of Jesus the Christ, that new- to- the- Gospel -young man,  became one of the most effective preachers, and evangelists the church had known.

The Billy Graham of his era some might say.

He is still quoted today.

God wanted that young man’s help to change the world, and Dwight Moody needed God to transform him so he could do that.

For Jesus to work in us, we do have to want that transformation.

We may be moved by something that rings a bell in our mind, if you like, and think that knowing this Jesus guy sounds pretty good, and we want to know him.

But something happens on the way to the church as it were, something that distracts us, something that makes being a Christian seem not such a good gig.

And we back off.

It is hard being  Christian. No doubt about it.

We have to love people who seem unlovable.

We have to forgive hurts against us when we really would rather hit back.

We have to be a good witness to the community – an example of a Christian that makes others want  to be like us.

We have to hold back that hurtful response when we would really like to deliver it.

We might have to give up stuff we like doing.

We might have to leave comfort and security behind sometimes.

That man, lying there in that portico, must have become quite used to being there.

He could wake up when he wanted. He could sleep when he wanted. He didn’t have to attend temple worship. He wasn’t breaking any laws by being there.

People were sorry for him and treated him with pity.

And he couldn’t be blamed if he seemed satisfied with his life. 

He had put up with it for thirty eight years after all

But when Jesus came along, and said, “Let’s do this together,”

he struggled to his feet and walked out of that place a new man – ready to be different.

Ready to face the world.

Ready to take on whatever challenges came his way.

He was a new man.

With a new life

Healed and healthy and soon to feel fulfilled, for once, in his life.

And two thousand years later his witness to the transforming power  of Christ still inspires us.

Praise God and worship His holy Name.

Amen

Christly?

      The Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to John.

At the last supper, when Judas had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:31-35)

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“I give you a new commandment, to love one another.”

“Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples.”

The question that arises from today’s Gospel story for me, is, “ Do people really know that we are disciples by the way we love each other?”

Because they sure know when we don’t.

When I was a member of  St. Luke’s in Burlington, the church came to an arrangement with the city of Burlington to allow the city the use of some church land for a city parking lot, provided that St. Luke’s parishioners could park there free.

To facilitate this, the church handed out stickers for parishioners to display on their windshields, with the St. Luke’s coat of arms.

Some time later  my son Jeff came home and told us about something that happened at the Pioneer gas station where he worked after school.

He said a lady pulled in, was very curt, and very rude, and even swore at him.

Then he told me…… and you guessed it…. she had a St. Luke’s sticker on her windshield.

She may have displayed the sticker but she certainly didn’t display  the kind of love that Jesus commanded of his disciples.

Did she?  

I don’t think that she got it.

I can’t think of anyone I have known in the churches I have served, who  would behave like that.

That person was really only going through the motions – of being a Christian – attending church.  I would hate to think  she attended the church – went through “the motions” –  merely to get that sticker.

I don’t think we are here just to go through the motions.

But  I think it is easy to slip into that mode of Christianity.

It can happen without thinking about it.

So how would you know?   

Ask yourself,  “Am I living a life of faith?”

I don’t mean do you have faith in God?  I am sure you do.

But does your life exhibit the signs of your being a follower of Jesus – other than coming to church on a Sunday?

Some people think coming to church every Sunday is a big chore, but believe me, coming to church is the easiest thing we are called to do as Christians.  

Living a Godly life can be tough.

Fact is you can’t live a godly life without God.

Funnily enough a lot of Christians don’t know that.

They know God is around somewhere. He’s there somewhere. But He is not up front.  Not in your face.

You see, for you and me, acknowledging God every day in all that we do, is intrinsic to being Christian.

Because you can’t live a godly life without God.

If you can’t be bothered to get out of bed on a Sunday morning.

If you find yourself swearing more, lying more, being angry more, deceiving more, loving people less, then you should acknowledge a real need for God in your life.

If you have children and you want to help them grow up into God-fearing, well balanced, happy and fulfilled adults, then you really need to acknowledge a need for God in your life, and model it. 

Because if you don’t live your faith then you can’t expect your kids to do so.

But really, there is no compulsion to be a Christian. 

It used to be, maybe a hundred years ago,  that you couldn’t get a job unless you went to church regularly. And sometimes even that wasn’t good enough if you happened to go to a different church than the person interviewing you.

But no more.

You can be what you want to be.

You can be an atheist, a Buddhist, a Muslim, a Methodist, a Roman Catholic, a Satanist, a New Lifer, a vegan, an earth lover, a crystal gazer, or even an Anglican. 

But whatever you choose to be, you should be prepared to live it.  

As they say: You have to talk the talk, and walk the walk. 

Jesus said, I give you a new commandment.

Now the original Greek  for ‘new commandment’ is more correctly translated as “a new way”

A new way of walking, and a new way of talking.

Jesus exhibited a new way of walking and of talking.

He loved people, and especially his disciples, selflessly.

If we  act in a certain way –  a way that looks impressive,  that shows us in a good light, but which  brings us a reward of some kind, then what we did  cannot be described as selfless.

I wonder sometimes about those people who give a large sum of money to a hospital, or school, and agree to have their name is attached.

Jesus’ love was unconditional. 

Jesus’ love was also one of understanding.

Jesus knew his friends. He had lived with them for a long time. He knew their strengths and their weaknesses.

And loved them nevertheless.

But the leader of his small band of men would deny him. They would all  forsake him in his hour of need.

At the end they were cowardly.

But not only did Jesus  forgive them, he still entrusted them to take his message to the whole world.

Jesus’ love was sacrificial.

When you love sacrificially, there is nothing that you will not do for those you love. No demand is too great. No need too challenging.

Some years ago, a friend of mine brought his girl friend to the house for dinner. She was quite lovely, and I could not understand how some guy had not taken her as his wife before then.. 

I asked her, ‘ How come you have never married?”

She said, ” I have been busy during the last ten years looking after my mother who because of illness, needed me.

“I fed her, bathed her and dressed her every day, and undressed her and prepared her for bed every evening.

” I was her nurse, her friend, her every day companion.”

I said, “That’s some sacrifice. How did you manage it?”

She just said,” She was my mother!”

She was my mother.

There is that sort of sacrifice, one that comes from familial love, where  someone sacrifices their own life, their own time, their own well-being for another.

Then there is the sort of sacrifice that comes instantly. It comes automatically. It is there when called for instantaneously. 

Sadly there have been a number of shootings in schools in America. One such happened a few years ago, at a Stem School in Highland Ranch Colorado.

A young man went into a classroom with a gun and began shooting.

A student by the name of Kendrick Castillo tackled him, and was shot and killed in doing so, but what he did  gave the other students the opportunity to escape.

Kendrick was the second student  in one week, who lay down his life in an heroic act of bravery in order to stop further bloodshed.

Earlier, at UNC Charlotte, senior Ryan Howell “took the assailant off his feet,” as Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerry Putney revealed in a press conference.  He  saved his friends, but died doing it.

These two young men, without even thinking,  lay down their lives for their friends.

It shows clearly the values they held.

Thankfully, living sacrificially doesn’t always have to be that deadly..

According to popular culture, we often think that love brings happiness, but as we have seen, it sometimes brings a cross. 

The young woman I mentioned earlier, saw the cross her mother had to carry, and without question, leaned in and helped her carry it.

When you think about it, rules of religion, rituals, traditional beliefs, the seasonal worship we follow, are all fine, never mind the name of your religion, but nothing matters more then living, how you say, “Christly.”

Jesus has shown us how to do that.

Amen.

Separated From God.

       The Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to John

                                  ———————————

At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”
Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.” (John 10:22-30)

If you have children, or grandchildren staying with you will know what they want most – It is to stay up real late. They never want to go to bed.

But I remember as a child myself being sent to bed in the summer when it was still light outside and I could hear other kids still playing, and thinking how terrible my parents were. Now I just can’t wait to get into bed.

But if you do have children or grandchildren  stay over, you will know that they also like to get up early. At six-thirty,  you hear, ‘Grandma, Poppa, is it time to get up?’ 

And Grandma and Poppa want to lie in until at least eight.

As a child, all your problems can be taken care of by your parents. Should you fall and scrape your knees, then mom or dad will pick you up,  take you home, bathe your wounds and bandage them, and cuddle you until you feel better.

It’s so good to have a big person in your life, isn’t it?

Mostly we adults can take care of things like bills, getting groceries, deciding whether to pay money off the mortgage, or into your RRSP’s, and so on. But sometimes, bad things happen and we are hurt, or feel lost or alone, and why isn’t there a big person there to take care of us?  Like the way a shepherd takes care of his sheep. 

A shepherd watches over his sheep. He sees when they are going astray, and he calls them back. And they know his voice.  Believe it!.  The sheep know their shepherd’s voice.

A Dr. Marion Henderson writes that in Southern Palestine, there are many caves, and several flocks of sheep might be herded into one of them to escape a storm, or to weather overnight.  Even though several flocks might be mixed together, in the morning, the shepherd doesn’t have to look for brands or markings, to identify his  animals, he just steps away from the cave, moves away from the other shepherds, and calls to his flock. And they come right to him. Because they know his voice.

I think we know God’s voice, calling us, don’t we? It’s just that we don’t want to hear it sometimes.

Our grandchildren are getting better now, but I remember the time when they would be running over the lawn toward the road, and I would call them back, and they wouldn’t hear my voice – even though I shouted, and was only about ten feet from them.  They knew my voice but they didn’t want to hear.

As adults we are like that, aren’t we? We find ourselves tempted to  do something we shouldn’t do, and a voice inside warns us not to, and yet we ignore it. To our cost.

A lot of parents these days are giving their children cell phones, in case they get lost, or wander off. The phone will help parents to find them.

Provided  they make the call.

There is a song I remember, that was recorded by  Manhattan Transfer. I am not going to try and sing it, you will be glad to know, and I can’t remember all the words, but the singer says that when she was a little girl and things went wrong in their home, her mother  would pick up the phone, and say, “Operator. Operator. Get me long distance?”“

Then, “Long distance? Get me Jesus on the phone.”

And he was always there. And her mother would pour out her heart on that phone to Jesus, and he would always give her the correct answer.

The little girl knew that her mother didn’t really have Jesus on the other end of the phone, but it worked anyway. It was her mother’s way of praying, but also of showing her kids where they should turn when in trouble.

Good idea, eh?

But you’ve got to make the call!.

Don’t blame God for not being  there for you if you don’t make the call. Or maintain the connection: Like in prayer. Like in looking in your Bible. Like in studying your bible with friends. Like in reaching out for your shepherd, and coming back to him.

How many of us think of Jesus as our shepherd I wonder?

We know him as the Son of God. It says so in the Creed. We know him as the Saviour, the one who died for us on the cross.  But even that great and terrible sacrifice gets fuzzy in your mind after hearing about it every week for ever and ever.

Watching the Passion of Christ renews for me the horror that Jesus went through for me.  I need to know that afresh. 

The Jews at the time saw God as some distant being who could only reached by sacrifice, offered through a priest in God’s Holy Temple.

Jesus showed us that God is closer than we think. He asked the Father to let his disciples be one with God as he himself had been one with God. His whole ministry and his death are the path to that oneness with God that Jesus wanted for us.

The problem is, it’s limiting, isn’t it? 

Being one with God I mean.

There are things we want to do, things we want to say, ways we want to act that we can’t if we are one with God.  Like young people slipping away from their parents, so that they can  get up to some mischief, we tend to slip away from God. 

Living with God, like living with your parents is limiting, isn’t it?  Yes, it is limiting, but I would rather live within his love, and resist what the world calls me to do, than separate myself from Him.

And have you ever noticed that if you are open to doing wrong, there is always someone there to help you?

Do wrong, that is.

A woman and a man were involved in a car accident.  It was bad one.  Both of their cars were demolished but amazingly neither of them was hurt.

After they crawled out of their cars, the woman said, “So, you’re a man… that’s interesting….. I’m a woman.   And  just look at our cars! There’s nothing left, but fortunately we are unhurt.  This must be a sign from God that we should meet and be friends and celebrate our friendship.” 

The man said, “It certainly looks like that, doesn’t it?” 

The woman then said,  “And look at this, here’s another miracle…  My car is completely demolished, but this bottle of wine didn’t break. Surely we are meant to drink this wine and celebrate our good fortune.”

Then she handed the bottle to the man. He took it, opened it, drank  half the bottle and then handed it back to the woman. The woman took the bottle, put the cap back on, and gave it back to him.  He said, “Aren’t you having any?” She said, “Nah. I think I’ll just wait for the police…”… 

As I said,  there will always be someone handy to help separate you  from God.

But we shouldn’t want to be.

Separated from God.

David was a man chosen by God for greatness. He had been given everything – palaces, victory in war, servants,  wives, concubines.  And yet he coveted another man’s wife.  He found it limiting to be with his shepherd. And he went out on his own.

But without his shepherd, he was lost. He knew this, of course, and the words of today’s psalm, reflect it.

When he accepted the shepherding of his Lord, he was led to green pastures. He found himself besides still waters. He found rest, when he remained with his shepherd. 

 He had nothing to fear. His shepherd protected him with rod and staff.

 But he had dark valleys to walk through.

He had dark times to live through, he had a dark side to cope with. 

We all do. Don’t we? And when we fall, we want a big person to pick us up and bathe our wounds, and drive away our fear. And He is that big person.  

If we turn to Him.

A while ago I visited someone who had been in that dark valley, and needed a shepherd.  I was told that despite their difficulties, they had been overwhelmed by the goodness and kindness of people. They couldn’t believe there was so much goodness in the world.

Even people in worse circumstances than theirs had been there to help them and lift them up.

They didn’t use these words specifically, but their cup obviously overflowed. They were people who had always relied on their own resources. And had done well, until they found themselves in that dark valley.

But dark valley or no, who would want to try to find their way through the traps and snares and temptations, and pitfalls that this world offers when there is another, better way?

“My sheep know my voice, and I know them. They follow me, and I give them eternal life so that they will never be lost.  My Father gave them to me and he is greater than all others. No-one can snatch them out of his hands, and I am one with the Father.:”

So let us work to be one with Christ, and with each other, serving him and each other in joy and in wonder.

Amen.

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