Sunday, April 21, 2013

Good Shepherd Sunday Sermon

This week began with beauty, & I’m not talking about tax day, but the beautiful Monday, Spring was in the air & the running of the Boston Marathon, a tradition 117 years old. It was a lovely day. By the end of the day, we were stunned and grieved for Boston as two brothers chose evil over good, planted bombs intended to injure, main and kill.

And it didn’t get any better…

· A Mississippi man was suspected of sending ricin-laden letters to President Obama and Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi, letters intended to poison and kill.

· A terrible explosion happened at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, destroying 75 buildings and killing 14 and injuring nearly 200.

· The Senate failed to pass even the simple idea of universal background checks for all gun purchases.

· On Thursday morning, I looked on Facebook and saw a post that a friend of mine had died from cancer.

· On Friday, we were glued to the manhunt for the bombing suspects.

· On Saturday, a major earthquake hit China.

It has been a terrible week. Death has seemed very close. Darkness and Evil abound. It was an exhausting, anxiety filled week. And yet even in the darkness, the words of scripture have comforted me:
"Who are these robed in white & where have they come from? These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes & made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
This passage from the Revelation to John, is a common passage at funerals. It speaks of hope, it speaks of a time when “They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Martin Richard, Krystle Campbell, Lingzi Lu, & Sean Collier have come through the great ordeal in Boston and they like my friend Maureen Haas, and those first responders in Texas (and earthquake victims in China) now rest in that place where every tear from their eye is wiped away & they have come home to God’s sheepfold.

This Good Shepherd Sunday reminds us that even at the worst of times, it is Jesus who calls to us, a voice of comfort in affliction, a voice of strength in sorrow, a voice that stays with us even when we can’t hear it in our own pain.

Jesus said, “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.” Nothing can take us out of Jesus’ hands, no terrorist bomb, no accident, no cancer. Nothing will separate us from the love of God in Jesus… as a friend has put it (adapted from Romans 8):

And from that love is the gift of life. None of us knows how long that gift will last, Sandy Hook, Boston, and the town of West, all are reminders of the preciousness of life.

So what we do with this one wild & precious life as Mary Oliver put it, is important and it is up to us as we follow the voice of the Great Shepherd Jesus…

And as we follow him, Easter is a reminder of the grace given to us, where the victory over death is final, where God has burst forth and calls to us live in the power of the resurrection. So our voice should echo his, and be a voice of comfort and help, of joy and promise.

How will we give our voice? This story is from The Power of Kindness: The Unexpected Benefits of Leading a Compassionate Life…
Every evening she could hear the newborn in the apartment next door cry and cry. The parents put the child to sleep alone in the dark. The baby cries for a long time; the exhausted parents clearly are oblivious to their child's anguish or are at a loss as to what to do.

What can and should she do? She's not sure. Speaking to the parents might make what is just an annoying situation into something much worse. So she decides to sing.

Just as she can hear the baby, the baby can hear her. So every evening when her mom and dad put the child to sleep, she sings lullabies and cradlesongs, talks softly and reassuringly to the baby through the walls, consoles and comforts the child. The baby hears her invisible friendly voice and falls asleep peacefully, without a tear or whimper. [From The Power of Kindness by Piero Ferrucci, 2007.]
Christ speaks in many voices - including our own. We can be the "voice" of Christ's compassion, his comfort & forgiveness even through our smallest and simplest "songs" of kindness and selflessness in our weary world.

And as we confront the horror of what humans can do, the Good Shepherd calls us to emerge from the isolation of our own fears and disappointments, our resentments and expectations, and hear Christ speaking in the plight of the poor, the needs of the helpless, the cry of the persecuted and injured and bereaved. In our own acts of generosity & kindness, love and forgiveness, we echo and give voice to the Risen Christ and the good news of hope and grace that is the resurrection at Easter.

(I think of the videos of the carnage on Monday - so many people helping - compassionate, healing)

May we leave here today, listening for the voice of the Risen One, who asks us to do his work of compassion, love and forgiveness through what we offer in his Spirit of Easter. Amen.