A short time ago, during the midweek communion at St. Mary’s, a greenfinch flew in. It was trying to find the way out, but, within the lofty structure of the church, became trapped. Over generations, people have also been imprisoned by religion. Often, church has become only a source of colourful ceremonies and binding obligations. Where is God’s love in all this?
At the time of Jesus, for many Pharisees, the path to God’s love had become buried under well-intentioned, but suffocating traditions.
There is a Path that seems Right…
My mum and Patsy’s mum wouldn’t have had jobs if it hadn’t been for the Pharisees! Both were Shabbat goyim – Non-Jews who did the household jobs for Jewish families on Saturdays – tasks which Jewish law forbids on the Sabbath.
After many years of thinking the Pharisees had come up with the 39 activities on the left. You cannot keep the Sabbath properly unless you cease from all these activities from sunset on Friday evening to sunset on Saturday.
The Gospel Reading for today: John 10 – Getting back on the Path
Jesus said to the Pharisees:
“10 I have come that they may have life in all its fullness.
“11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep….
“14 I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me
, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep….
. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.”
A Path from Long Ago
When He speaks to the Pharisees, Jesus takes them back a thousand years, to the time of David, the writer of Psalm 23, and He distils the Psalm into the words above – this is what God is really like.
“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for the sake of His name. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”
Jesus’ sole intention is to bring people back into what life should really be like – life bubbling up and flowing over. A life where we can truly say we know the Shepherd. A relationship where we hear His voice and fellowship with Him in our hearts. A certainty that not only is His love for now, but it will flow on into the timelessness of eternity.
This is a God whose goodness and mercy are without limits.
Jesus is the Shepherd of Psalm 23. He is calling you now. Nothing you are, or have done can trap you any longer. Trust Him.
Sharing the Lord’s Unlimited Love
From 1945 to 1989, Christians in East Germany had a very difficult time.
Under their notorious leader, Erich Honecker, the people were in dread of the Secret Police – the Stasi, and many trying to escape were killed. When in 1989 East Germany broke free from communist control, Erich Honecker was universally hated and under death threat. He had nowhere to go, and in sheer desperation appealed to the Church for sanctuary.
The family of a Lutheran vicar, Uwe Holmer, took Erich and Margot Honecker into their own home to live with them. Honecker had personally presided over the building of the wall, the wall that separated Uwe’s family and kept him from attending his own father’s funeral. Uwe Holmer’s ten children had been denied admission to any university because of their faith, and members of his church had been persecuted by Honecker’s communist regime.
Revd. Holmer’s charity was not shared by the rest of the country. Hate mail poured in. Some members of his own church threatened to leave or cut back their giving. Uwe defended his actions in a letter to the newspaper…..
“In the middle of my village, Lobetal,” he wrote, “there is a statue of Jesus inviting people to himself and crying out,‘Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’ We have been commanded by our Lord Jesus to follow him and to receive all those who are weary and heavy laden, in spirit and in body.” Jesus’ love is without limits, and that included Erich Honecker.
Heavenly Shepherd, when my sin is too bad, and I am crippled by conscience, bring me back to Your unlimited love. Enable me to show that same love to all who are weary and heavy laden. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.