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Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Shepherd and The Sheep

A Sermon for Good Shepherd Sunday
Easter IV - April 29, 2007
The Episcopal Church of St. Paul
Ms. Ellen Sutton, Seminary Intern
The Theological School at Drew University

The words in the Collect jumped out at me.
Grant that when we hear Jesus’ voice we may know him who calls us….

The past few weeks we have been talking a lot about sheep. Today we heard the twenty-third psalm with Jesus being the shepherd. The sheep know the shepherd’s voice, and he continually says that the sheep should be fed.

Some time ago I had written a song that I would like to voice. The song raises the question, What do we feed the sheep?

(Sing)
The shepherd is calling…. feed my sheep.
The shepherd is calling…. feed my sheep.
Feed.. my.. sheep.
Feed.. my.. sheep.

What do we feed them?
…Feed my sheep.
What do we feed them?
…Feed my sheep.
Green grass, clean air.
Soft ground, No stress
Comfort, Safety.

Well….That was the old song!

I have since been inspired by you- those that gather at St. Paul’s, to add some new words, which I will sing at the very end of this sermon. (pause) Sooo…when I start to sing- we are near the end…..

I see Jesus, as an exceptional shepherd who knows all the sheep by name. He feeds them and cares for them. He protects them and teaches them. He even lives among them and delights in them. The sheep follow this shepherd because he is kind. They know his voice, which is key to knowing the shepherd.

Now….Sheep are said to be dumb, but they are not so dumb as to follow anyone….For example, sheep do not follow wolves, but run from these predators, frightened and confused- until they hear shepherd’s voice. Then the sheep know where to gather and regroup.

As shepherd, Jesus calls us and calls all those who have gone before us by name….and…

That is a lot of sheep!
.
The congregation at St. Paul’s may be likened to a herd of sheep. ( I have tried not to say that S word, but that is where this is going.)

We arrive as we are… in all shapes, sizes, colors, personalities, orientations- really an infinite number of diversities in genetics alone.- without even taking into account the varieties of life circumstances we have all had.

We, like sheep, cluster together, go astray, get lost, become found and….. God only knows what else!!

What I am quite sure of is that the dynamics and circumstances of our lives are always changing- often in situations that are beyond our control. It is good to have a shepherd with a voice. It is great to have a shepherd!

What I have found to be constant at St. Paul’s is that people are kind. They take the time to say hello and converse. They use their voices to welcome each other. They listen and show interest in the other person. My experience here at St. Paul’s is one of being “heard” and one of being fed, not only with pancakes, coffee hour, and youthful spaghetti dinners, but with the voice of kindness.

Another thing I like about the people at St. Paul’s is many seem to be engaged in learning, growing, questioning, planning- living fully today, yet mindful of the St. Paul’s of tomorrow. This work in progress appeals to the artist in me because there is no end to expression of new life and possibility.

A place we hear the shepherd’s voice is in the liturgy- a conversation back and forth between the celebrant and congregation. I would be remiss to leave out the voice of the choir bringing beauty and melody to enrich the psalms, prayers, and anthems. The children’s choir and the voices of instruments bring youth and vibrance to our worship in the beautiful sanctuary. What I am trying to say to tie all of this together is that we all have a voice- Like Jesus we are shepherds whose voice gathers the sheep and like Jesus we are sheep that respond the voice of the shepherd. To go further….. we like Jesus are to be newborn lambs- innocent, gentle, vulnerable and open to the new day.

Interestingly, the voice can be heard, but sometimes it can be seen, felt, and intuited- as people at St. Paul’s work enthusiastically- because they have a desire to be working on what they are working on. They pitch in and follow their interests in the great variety and diversity of activity. I don’t hear people doing what they don’t want to do and that is remarkable.

The sheep are well fed. The voice of the shepherd carries a tune with a whole lot of love- that once heard – is recognizable and causes the sheep/us to look up, and take notice, and move toward the voice that draws a crowd -made up of unique individuals with voices to share.

(Sing)
The shepherd is calling…. feed my sheep….pause

What do we feed them?

…Feed my sheep.

Loving kindness,
Being present, validating,
Peaceful welcome.
Amen!

3 comments:

MadPriest said...

You're getting a lot better with those crayons, Lisbeth.

celebral seductress said...

i bumped into ur blog while google-ing for some pics...nway i really like this post of urs!!! i love it so much! my mom used to tell us this parable bout jesus! praise d Lord! god bless!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks for visiting.