Acts 4:1-12 (http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=391064001)
John 10:11-18 (http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=391064062)
Sunday, April 22, 2018 – The Fourth Sunday of Easter
The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor
West Walworth: Zion & East Rochester United Methodist Churches
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 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. 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. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”
Many of you might remember the journalist from 60 Minutes
Who, for decades, had reserved the final 5 minutes of the show
For his curmudgeoned, cantankerous opinions on
Anything that caught his attention.
Andy Rooney didn’t suffer fools.
He was easily annoyed by
Inefficiencies, ineffectiveness, and illogical
People, processes, and institutions -
Nothing, and no one, was off limits to his skewing sarcasm.
It was as if Andy Rooney longed to return to an America
Where everyone was white and middle class,
Drove a Ford, Chrysler, or Chevy,
Everyone attended church on Sundays,
Girls skipped rope and took Home Economics,
Boys played Little League and took Wood and Metal Shop,
And children had free run of the neighborhood.
Personal confession time:
The older I get, the more like Andy Rooney
I fear I’m becoming.
Ironically, I’m annoyed that I get annoyed
Seemingly more and more frequently,
Often times but the smallest irritant.
I should know better.
It doesn’t help if I have negative and annoying people around me.
Too much caffeine doesn’t help, either.
I’m guessing I’m not alone.
I find myself annoyed by lousy, aggressive drivers.
I find myself annoyed by news stories that should be self-evident, like
“What should I do with my tax refund?
Pay down debt or spend it on a new flat screen T.V.?”
Shake my head.
I find myself annoyed by people who refuse the think critically,
Asking themselves Who? What? Where? When? How? Why?
I find myself annoyed by people who are spoon fed information
Are too lazy to form their own opinion, so
They blindly echo what they’ve been told.
Law and order.
Filling the dishwasher in the kitchen and
Putting down the seat on the toilet in the bathroom.
You name it, I can find something on just about any topic
That annoys me to death.
My guess is, there is much about the world that annoys you, too.
I don’t like being annoyed.
I want to live differently.
I hope you do, too.
Living a life of being chronically annoyed
Makes me think of an office, school, job site, or factory
Filled with discontented cubical dwellers, teachers, or employees
Complaining about everything and everyone,
Gossiping around the water cooler,
Loafing-off while on the job.
Hired hands rarely care about a company, institution, or reputation
As much as the owner, operators, or administrators.
“So what if we snooze at our desk?
So what if I flunk the test?
So what if we fail to make our goals?
So what if the machine blows up or the place burns down?”
“That’s what insurance is for,” the hired hand may indifferently state.
“The company will just buy another one.”
Annoyed hired hands
Won’t take the initiative,
Refuse to go the extra mile.
They will grumble about mandatory overtime or weekend attendance.
Try to bend the rules,
Wiggle around the rules,
And are the first to call Cellino & Barnes at the drop of a hat
(a local law firm noted for suing everyone for just about everything).
Many will seek to enter another way,
So as not to be seen by the dean, foreman, or supervisor.
Like climbing secretly over the back wall
Instead of entering through the front gate.
They might conspire to have an accomplice clock in or clock out.
Annoyed and discontented sub-contractors will look for the first excuse
To walk off the job and flee,
Leaving a mess behind.
I don’t like being annoyed.
I’m tired of hearing my own complaints.
I pray you are, too.
Our Gospel is a call to choose:
Choose to change!
I don’t want to be a complainer
Like the Pharisees who were investigating Jesus healing the blind man,
In the narrative from John
Immediately preceding our Gospel lesson of the Good Shepherd.
Lord, don’t let me become like the group of gutless Pharisees who,
Forty years after Jesus, cut and ran,
Fled the Roman legions
Who were leveling the Temple and burning Jerusalem.
Pharisees ran for their lives
To the village of Jamnia on the southern coastal plain,
Abandoning their own people.
I don’t want to be an annoying whiner or wimp like a hired shepherd.
The contrast between the Good Shepherd and the Hired Hand
Couldn’t be more clear.
Make a choice
Will you lead by complaining?
Will you lead by apathy?
Will you flee at the first hint of adversity?
Or, Jesus asks us,
Will your leadership be modeled after the example of the Good Shepherd?
Lead like the Good Shepherd, or
Live like the Hired Hands?
Mold me and make me
Into the image of the Good Shepherd.
Yes, Lord, I pray sweating blood,
That each of us are so inspired,
To be molded and shaped into the image of Jesus Christ,
Our Good Shepherd.
Good Shepherds care about their sheep;
They care so much they are willing to lay down their life for their flock,
Like Jesus freely laying down his life for our benefit.
The hired hand? not so much.
Faced with this contrast and requirement to choose -
Yes, Lord. Teach us to be good shepherds.
The Good Shepherd knows his sheep.
They know the voice.
They know they belong.
They know each and every sheep is essential.
Every sheep has an authentic, intimate relationship with the shepherd.
As the heavenly Father is intimately related to Jesus, his Son,
So, too, is the Good Shepherd related to his sheep,
So, too, are the relationships in our Christian community,
So, to is the relationship between a pastor, parish leaders, and parishioners.
Jesus elevates the model for church leadership,
Of those called to lay or clergy shepherding,
To that of service above self,
To the extent of caring for others
To the point of willingly surrendering our own lives.
Give it away!
Wisdom, riches, talents, time, even our life itself.
Invest in others until we don’t matter anymore.
Life has never been about me or us,
Career, success, or status;
Our life together is always about Jesus,
Loving God and loving neighbors;
Loving such that the self disappears
And perfection, as John Wesley describes it,
Becomes complete selflessness.
Perfection is complete
When the self becomes completely selfless and all are loved and served.
It tickled my imagination
When I read the narrative from the Acts of the Apostles (4:1-12).
The Jewish leadership –
The high priest, chief priest, temple guards, elders, scribes, Pharisees who were members of the council –
The Jewish leadership, not the people,
Were annoyed with Peter and John
Who were teaching the people and proclaiming that
In Jesus there is the resurrection of the dead. (4:3)
Resurrection is an annoyance
To those who would kill Jesus,
The living presence of God.
How could the good news of Christ’s resurrection be so annoying?
Resurrection isn’t believing that
God resuscitated a corpse two thousand years ago.
Resurrection isn’t believing
The miracles Jesus enacted,
To a man born blind.
Belief in resurrection is to say that
God is greater than death.
God is greater than crushed lives and limbs.
Resurrection people are disciples of Jesus
Who embrace life,
Who choose to live loving and generous lives.
Resurrection people reject a culture of death and defeat,
And embrace tolerance, understanding, and the welcoming inclusion of every neighbor.
Living as resurrection people
Destroys annoyance, complaining, self-centeredness.
Living as the Body of the resurrected Christ
Is to live selflessly - serving others above self,
Willing to sacrifice the self, even unto death,
Is to chose to live the life of the Good Shepherd.
Lord, lead me to a life of resurrection.
Lord, lead us all to live as your resurrection people. Amen.