“ March forward”

Guest Minister -Rev. Caesar J. David, Pastor, Union Park United Methodist Church, Des Moines, Iowa

Video of service

Scripture Lessons:

Psalm 116

I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my supplications. Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live. What shall I return to the Lord for all his bounty to me?

I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord, I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people.
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful ones. O Lord, I am your servant; I am your servant, the child of your serving girl. You have loosed my bonds. I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice and call on the name of the Lord.
I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the Lord, in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise the Lord!

Matthew 9:35-10:8

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.

“ March forward”This passage from Matthew contains the account of Jesus calling and sending out the Twelve Apostles. When we read further in the passage (v. 16ff), Jesus lets them know that it is not an easy task that they have been given. They will have to face persecutions and hardships.
It is like soldiers being sent out to battle. And talking of battles an d soldiers, we have a very beautiful Hymn that you will be singing in this service. It’s called “Onward Christian Soldiers”. It’s a sort of controversial hymn.
The hymn began as no more than a simple processional song, something for children to sing as they crossed the village of Horbury Bridge to the parish church (Yorkshire, England). The author, Sabine Baring-Gould (1834–1924) who was a school master, later became a Pastor, in writing this hymn set the scene for the spiritual conflict between Jesus and the devil. It became controversial because of the perceived militarism in text and music (“St. Gertrude” which is the second tune used in an arrangement by George Sullivan in 1871). Now, we won’t get into the details of the Anglican / Roman Catholic ecclesial understanding of the states of Church – the Church Militant, Church Penitent and Church Triumphant, but let’s just say that history had some chapters like the Crusades, holy wars and other wars and so on. And it wasn’t easy to ignore the nationalistic and militaristic overtones of this Hymn.
It comes as little surprise, then, to learn that “Onward, Christian Soldiers” was initially to be excluded from The United Methodist Hymnal (1989). The decision was picked up by local newspapers and national broadcasters, unleashing a wave of protest from across The United Methodist Church (some eleven thousand pieces of mail were sent to the hymnal committee).
The restoration of the hymn resulted from a course of healthy debate over the use of military imagery, and recognizing its biblical and early Christian origins. People still thought that it may be dangerous in perpetuating the acceptability of religious warfare — metaphorical or otherwise.
Professor of Preaching Emeritus Thomas Long’s 2012 article in The Christian Century, “The absurd in worship,” suggests another meaning to the hymn — not in viewing the church as an entity able to militaristically destroy its enemies, but as one that “makes no advance except that of love, and has no enemy but that which undermines God’s hope for human flourishing.”
Today, if we are to consider ourselves as soldiers – Christian soldiers that are at war, it would not be incorrect, for we are indeed at war. Of what kind? Let’s see. The theme of spiritual warfare is deep in the Bible. Many Christian denominations still speak of “The Church Militant”. The Methodists define it as those “engaged in constant warfare against the world, the flesh and the devil…Ephesians 6 talks about the battle gear! It says ‘put on the whole armor of God’ and it goes on to mention (Ephesians 6:10-20):
 Belt of Truth.  Breastplate of Righteousness.
 Feet fitted with readiness to proclaim the Gospel of Peace.
 Shield of Faith.
 Helmet of Salvation.
 Sword of the Spirit — The Word of God.
Notice who we’re fighting. Eph 6:12 says: For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.Coming back to our text (I want to focus on Matthew 10:8), Jesus sent out his Apostles with very specific instructions:
Mat t 10:8a – Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.
No doubt, Jesus also healed physical ailments and expects those He sends on His behalf to do the same, but there’s a deeper spiritual dimension to this and we need to understand that in the larger, scheme of Jesus’ teaching and ministry about justice, gender-justice, peace, equality, affirmative action, call to faith and service, affirmation of the Reign of God, socio-economic sensitivity and so on – what these might further mean.1. Cure the sick.
One of the main signs of being sick is being weak. And it works both ways: weakness can lead to sickness, and sickness can lead to weakness. In any case, there is a close connection for us to know that the people who are weak are sick or close to being sick. Going beyond the physical affliction and understanding it metaphorically as well, we can see that people can be weakened in the sense of being disempowered and disenfranchised. People can be divested of their power to make choices, weakened to the point of subsistence or even substandard living, or forced by circumstances to not have the strength or opportunity to make changes to lift themselves out of those circumstances.The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a great comfort in seeking to address these struggles. The Good news is that God is interested in our affairs and struggles with us for justice and peace.As people ‘called out’ and ‘sent’ to heal and cure the sick, we need to l ook at how we may bring healing to the lives of the people afflicted in every way, not only physical, but spiritual, social and economic too. Our efforts to do that may take us into the area of charity, social justice, advocacy and focusing on people in the margins of our society. It’s not easy and we may find ourselves indeed contending with the ‘powers and principalities’ of this world.2. Raise the dead
There is the obvious message for people ‘dead’ in sin – so mired in sin that this condition has removed people far from the source of life and light. If we are in that state, we can rejoice in the hope we have in the Gospel message of Jesus Christ that gives life.When we see others in this condition, we need to reflect and shine the light of Christ in a way that they are brought to the saving and life-giving knowledge of the love of our Savior Jesus Christ.We may also be dead in the sense that we don’t feel anything – nothing moves us. We lose our sensitivity, our conscious is dead. If we find people around us in that state, may be, our efforts could be towards building awareness so that we would all be alive and alert to what ails us as a society and what our responsibility should be to contribute to the health of our society and world.
If we have become dispassionate or come across apathy, let’s make efforts to reignite the passion for the kind of life that God meant for us all to have as His created beings. The Good News of Jesus Christ includes abundant life for all.3. Cleanse the lepers
We know that lepers were considered unclean. They had to live on the outskirts of the town. They were not allowed to use the same resources as other people. Today, we may or may not have people around us that are afflicted with the disease of leprosy, but in our social treatment of some people we certainly have ‘social lepers’ – people that we keep far from us. And we’re not talking only about the redlining of neighborhoods. This can perhaps educate us about those that are ostracized, marginalized and relegated to live in shame or fear on the periphery of our mainstream society. Who could these people be? May be those that are of a different orientation, or people with a different skin color, or a certain race / nationality, may be disabled, may be those that hold a different ideology, and so on. When we observe systems and people that discriminate and exclude some people from mainstream activity, we must counter that with actively building up inclusive, democratic and participatory processes towards a more egalitarian society. That will cleanse the leprosy and there won’t be lepers. Can we understand that as as we do a social reading of the Gospel message?4. Cast out demons
A demon-possessed person was a person in the grip of an evil power; he or she was no longer in control of himself/herself and of their actions. The various manifestations of evil can be seen in the diabolical crimes and atrocities we see committed. For example, there are crimes against women and children, violence and injustice that are really demonic and represent forces of evil, death and destruction. When we make efforts to root out these evils, we’re participating in building up the Kingdom of God, because then we’re replacing these dark things with the Reign of God – replacing hatred with love, revenge with tolerance, selfishness with compassion, suspicion with trust, greed with caring and so on. We can bring faith, hope and love to counter the demons of our society.I hope that we are able to see what an important task we have in taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a broken world that really needs it. As we understand our responsibilities as followers of Jesus and as His apostles, we will have a sense of being at war. It indeed is! We have been given authority. We have been equipped. Let’s march in faith. Let’s march in His love and His strength. Onward Christian soldiers!God bless you.

“The Family of God”

The Family of God” | June 7, 2020

(Minister – Rev. Caesar J. David) Union Park UMC, Des Moines, Iowa

Scripture Lessons:

Psalms 8

Unto the end. For the oil and wine presses. A Psalm of David. O Lord, our Lord, how admirable is your name throughout all the earth! For your magnificence is elevated above the heavens. Out of the mouths of babes and infants, you have perfected praise, because of your enemies, so that you may destroy the enemy and the revenger. For I will behold your heavens, the works of your fingers: the moon and the stars, which you have founded. What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you visit him? You reduced him to a little less than the Angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, and you have set him over the works of your hands. You have subjected all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and in addition: the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, which pass through the paths of the sea. O Lord, our Lord, how admirable is your name throughout all the earth!

O Lord, our Lord, how admirable is your name throughout all the earth! For your magnificence is elevated above the heavens. Out of the mouths of babes and infants, you have perfected praise, because of your enemies, so that you may destroy the enemy and the revenger. For I will behold your heavens, the works of your fingers: the moon and the stars, which you have founded. What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you visit him? You reduced him to a little less than the Angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, and you have set him over the works of your hands. You have subjected all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and in addition: the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, which pass through the paths of the sea. O Lord, our Lord, how admirable is your name throughout all the earth!

Matthew 28:16-20

Now the eleven disciples went on to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And, seeing him, they worshipped him, but certain ones doubted. And Jesus, drawing near, spoke to them, saying: “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go forth and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have ever commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, even to the consummation of the age.”

Today is Trinity Sunday. It brings us face to face with a mystery of God which makes us realize really how finite our understanding is. We have stretched our minds to the fullest to understand the Trinity. We have several examples and analogies, but they all fall short of explaining exactly how the Three Persons of the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one God. Three in One and One in Three – The One Triune God.

“To meditate on the three Persons of the Godhead is to walk in thought through the garden eastward in Eden and to tread on holy ground. Our sincerest effort to grasp the incomprehensible mystery of the Trinity must remain forever futile, and only by deepest reverence can it be saved from actual presumption.” –A.W. Tozer.

Indeed, we must realize that, with our finite little understanding, we cannot understand all things. That is where faith comes in. Like Augustine said, “The limits of our reason make faith a necessity”. If we presume to know or understand all the mysteries of God, it may be almost arrogant of us as human beings – too presumptuous for our own good. We have to be humble enough to realize and accept that we are too small to understand God and His vastness – the vastness and depth of His Love, His Mind, His Plans, His Ways. We have to let God be God. (Read Romans 9:13ff). We have already read Psalm 8 as one of our Scripture lessons. Verse 4 says, “What is man (human being) that you are mindful of him?”. We are nothing in front of the vastness and beauty of God’s awesome creation.

While we may not have a clear understanding of some doctrines, we must not despair because we can know, and do know, what is sufficient for us to understand His Love, to respond to His Love, to care for His creation which includes us all, and so on.

Some things however, have been clearly revealed and spelled out for us. Like the Great Commission that we’re studying this morning. As we focus on this passage, I want to look at 2 important principles or concepts that emerge from here that are important to understand as we seek to ‘do mission’.

1. Disciple -making presumes love for God and love for people. This is basic. Disciple making is helping people to trust and follow Jesus. Why would we want people to have the benefit of God’s Love if we didn’t care for them and also want them to be saved? If you didn’t love God, why would you want His Kingdom to grow? These are indicative of our love for God and for people that is at the very root of disciple-making.

The imperative command of Jesus is “Make disciples”. How we do it is by going, baptizing (joining the family of God) and teaching (not just academic or intellectual instruction, but taught to the point of responding to God in obedience).

Sometimes, an ‘empire’ or ‘colonial’ mindset that has shaped our environment and us, or continues to influence us, gives us an understanding of doing things by way of an ‘imperial conquest’.

History bears evidence of the failures of such wrong understanding of disciple making. Such efforts can result in people becoming Christians by religion, but not by relationship with Christ. And that would be proselytizing, not disciple-making.

That is why it is important to understand that disciple-making has within it the objective and method of love.

Before the Great Commission, Jesus gave his disciples (us) the Great Commandment “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27).

Love needs to be expressed through helping, caring, sharing, encouraging, protecting, forgiving, sacrificing, trusting and so on.

As we focus on the growth of God’s Kingdom, we could start with these simple acts of love and kindness that prepare the way for disciples to be made.

2. We are called to reach all people. The Great Commission clearly tells us to “Make disciples of all nations” (Italics mine).

We have already clarified what ‘making disciples’ entails. It is chiefly loving people and leading them to respond to God whereby they become part of God’s family (leading to other things in that relationship like discipleship, obedience, and so on).

The word translated ‘nations’ in Matthew 28:19 comes from the word ‘ethnos’ which means “a race (as of the same habit), that is, a tribe; specifically a foreign (non-Jewish) one (usually by implication pagan): – Gentile, heathen, nation, people”.

Scholars say that, perhaps ‘people groups’ comes closest to describing what ‘nations’ is trying to convey. It means every people group, language group and so on.

The crux of the concept is inclusivity. Sometimes we tend to become exclusive, in -grown, cliquish, and unloving. We forget that we’re not alone, that there are other people around us who have needs too, sometimes greater than our own. And perhaps we shy away because we are afraid or just plain uncomfortable. We need to become intentional about reaching out to others.

There are always going to be differences amongst people – race, color, ethnicity, language and so on. We can keep slicing our society on the basis of differences and find that we have slices that are so thin that they cannot stand by themselves. We have to reach out across our differences – reaching out to share, to help, to love, to make disciples.

Have you heard the Disneyland song It’s a small world (listen to it on YouTube)? It was created for the 1964 New York World’s Fair. The composer of the song, Richard Sherman composed this just after the Cuban missile crisis. It focuses on tolerance, empathy and kindness.

1. It’s a world of laughter A world of tears It’s a world of hopes And a world of fears

There’s so much that we share That it’s time we’re aware It’s a small world after all It’s a small world after all It’s a small world after all It’s a small world after all It’s a small, small world

2. T here is just one moon And one golden sun And a smile means Friendship to ev’ryone Though the mountains divide And the oceans are wide It’s a small world after all.

( Source: Musixmatch, Songwriters: Richard Sherman / Robert Sherman
Musixmatch, Songwriters: Richard Sherman / Robert Sherman
It’s a Small World (It’s a Small World) lyrics © Wonderland Music Co. Inc., Wonderland Music Co. Inc., Wonderland Music Company Inc., Wonderland Music Company Inc, Wonderland Music Co., Inc., Kobalt Music Pub America I Obo Hardmonic Music)

Yes, it’s a small world after all. And I might add, it’s a short life after all!

Have we been guilty of writing some people off? Do we presume for some people to not deserve God’s love? We’re given the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. We’re called to reach out, not in our own strength and authority but that of our Triune God. As we uphold and honor the mystery of God’s Being, let’s continue to do faithfully what we’re called to do – to go, to preach, to teach, to love, to bless and be blessed.

May God help us to see the opportunities we have in front of us for the growth of His Kingdom. May God strengthen us to reach out and touch the lives of all who come our way.

Sheep and Shepherds

John 10:1-16

1. “I can guarantee this truth: The person who doesn’t enter

the sheep pen through the gate

but climbs in somewhere else

is a thief or a robber. 2. But the

one who enters through the

gate is the shepherd. 3. The

gatekeeper opens the gate for

him, and the sheep respond to

his voice. He calls his sheep by

name and leads them out of

the pen. 4. After he has

brought out all his sheep, he

walks ahead of them. The

sheep follow him because they

recognize his voice. 5. They

won’t follow a stranger.

Instead, they will run away

from a stranger because they

don’t recognize his voice.”

The person who doesn’t enter

the sheep pen through the gate

but climbs in somewhere else

is a thief or a robber. 2. But the

one who enters through the

gate is the shepherd. 3. The

gatekeeper opens the gate for

him, and the sheep respond to

his voice. He calls his sheep by

name and leads them out of

the pen. 4. After he has

brought out all his sheep, he

walks ahead of them. The

sheep follow him because they

recognize his voice. 5. They

won’t follow a stranger.

Instead, they will run away

from a stranger because they

don’t recognize his voice.”
6. Jesus used this illustration as

he talked to the people, but

they didn’t understand what

he meant. 7. Jesus emphasized,
“I can guarantee this truth: I

am the gate for the sheep. 8.

All who came before I did

were thieves or robbers.

However, the sheep didn’t

respond to them. 9. I am the

gate. Those who enter the

sheep pen through me will be

saved. They will go in and out

of the sheep pen and find food.

10. A thief comes to steal, kill,

and destroy. But I came so that

my sheep will have life and so

that they will have everything

they need. 11. “I am the good

shepherd. The good shepherd

gives his life for the sheep. 12.

A hired hand isn’t a shepherd

and doesn’t own the sheep.

When he sees a wolf coming,

he abandons the sheep and

quickly runs away. So the wolf

drags the sheep away and

scatters the flock. 13. The hired

hand is concerned about what

he’s going to get paid and not

about the sheep. 14. “I am the

good shepherd. I know my

sheep as the Father knows me.

My sheep know me as I know

the Father. 15. So I give my life

for my sheep. 16. I also have

other sheep that are not from

this pen. I must lead them.

They, too, will respond to my

voice. So they will be one flock

with one shepherd.

Sheep and Shepherds

I don’t know much about sheep and I’ve never been a

shepherd. I grew up in Iowa,

where agriculture is king. I’d

venture a guess that most of

the land is in some row-crop

like corn and soybeans. But

there are plenty of farms and

corporate farms with cattle,

both beef and dairy. Oh yes,

hogs! “Smells like money.” 2nd

in the nation in hogs!

Chickens, layers and fryers are

everywhere on small scales

and large factory farms. But

Sheep? Ì can only recall seeing

sheep in the agriculture

buildings at the state fair. My

impression? Stupid, stinky

animals.

and I’ve never been a

shepherd. I grew up in Iowa,

where agriculture is king. I’d

venture a guess that most of

the land is in some row-crop

like corn and soybeans. But

there are plenty of farms and

corporate farms with cattle,

both beef and dairy. Oh yes,

hogs! “Smells like money.” 2nd

in the nation in hogs!

Chickens, layers and fryers are

everywhere on small scales

and large factory farms. But

Sheep? Ì can only recall seeing

sheep in the agriculture

buildings at the state fair. My

impression? Stupid, stinky

animals.

Since I personally know so very little about sheep, I asked

Google. On a site called

very little about sheep, I asked

Google. On a site called

Modern Farmer and one called

An Introduction to Sheep

Behavior

I found these fun facts.

  • Contrary to what I have
    thought, sheep are not
    stupid. They rank just below
    the pig and on par with
    cattle in intelligence among
    farm animals. (I know that
    is not a ringing
    endorsement of
    intelligence, but they are
    smarter than I previously
    thought.)

  • it’s estimated their field of
    vision is between 270 and
    320 degrees; compair that to
    humans average about 155

  • sheep don’t walk in a
    straight line to make use of
    that 320° degree field of
    vision, and walking a
    crooked path, they can see
    behind them.

  • Sheep see in color

  • They have poor depth
    perception

  • Sheep can’t right themselves
    if they’re on their back.

  • They can literally die of
    fright due to a copper overdose that they produce
    in their brains

  • Sheep have excellent
    hearing. their ears can
    swivel to better detect from
    where a sound is coming

  • Loud and clanging metal
    noises scare them

  • if one sheep will move then
    the entire flock will follow.

  • Sheep have an excellent
    sense of smell (which is
    unfortunate because they
    stink). But I suppose it it’s
    sweet perfume to them.

So, all in all, sheep couldn’t be designed any more perfectly to

be eaten by predictors unless

they had no legs at all.

designed any more perfectly to

be eaten by predictors unless

they had no legs at all.

They have no real defensive weapons in their arsenal, no

claws, fangs, nor horns. Their

only defence is avoidance.

weapons in their arsenal, no

claws, fangs, nor horns. Their

only defence is avoidance.

When attacked, their only means of survival is to run

from danger and to band

together in large numbers for

protection. They huddle into a

group and face the enemy so

they can, as a group, avoid the

predictor. But the fact is,

without a shepherd, at least

one sheep is going to get eaten.

means of survival is to run

from danger and to band

together in large numbers for

protection. They huddle into a

group and face the enemy so

they can, as a group, avoid the

predictor. But the fact is,

without a shepherd, at least

one sheep is going to get eaten.

And Jesus calls us sheep! No compliment there. Helpless

human sheep. We like to think

that we are at the top out the

food chain. But in the spiritual

food chain we are at the

bottom, totally defenceless

without the Good Shepherd.

compliment there. Helpless

human sheep. We like to think

that we are at the top out the

food chain. But in the spiritual

food chain we are at the

bottom, totally defenceless

without the Good Shepherd.

Now let’s talk about shepherds. If Jesus’s calling us sheep

sounded demeaning to you, he

wasn’t elevating his status by

claiming to be our shepherd

either.

If Jesus’s calling us sheep

sounded demeaning to you, he

wasn’t elevating his status by

claiming to be our shepherd

either.

If the image in your mind’s eye of a shepherd is of sheep

peacefully eating in a lush

green pasture while the

shepherd daydreamed in the

shade of a tree, think again.

They were rough, weather

beaten men who spent their

lives in the vast wilderness

exposed to the rain, the wind,

and the ever present sun.

of a shepherd is of sheep

peacefully eating in a lush

green pasture while the

shepherd daydreamed in the

shade of a tree, think again.

They were rough, weather

beaten men who spent their

lives in the vast wilderness

exposed to the rain, the wind,

and the ever present sun.

Maybe it would help to equate them to something more

familiar to our American

culture. Think of them as the

cowboys of the old west,

without the horses, hats, guns,

and spurs. No, not the idolized,

sanitized, clamorized

Hollywood version of Roy

Rogers and Gene Autry, but the

actual men who ate the dust

riding behind beef cattle as

they herded them up the

Chisholm Trail from San

Antonio to Abilene. Always on

guard against dangers to the

animals and themselves.

them to something more

familiar to our American

culture. Think of them as the

cowboys of the old west,

without the horses, hats, guns,

and spurs. No, not the idolized,

sanitized, clamorized

Hollywood version of Roy

Rogers and Gene Autry, but the

actual men who ate the dust

riding behind beef cattle as

they herded them up the

Chisholm Trail from San

Antonio to Abilene. Always on

guard against dangers to the

animals and themselves.

Shepherds were pretty low on the social standing ladder.

They were uncultured,

uncouth, unaccustomed to the

niceties of civilized society.

They were as far removed

from priesthood as the east

from the west. And this is

where Jesus placed himself on

that social ladder.

the social standing ladder.

They were uncultured,

uncouth, unaccustomed to the

niceties of civilized society.

They were as far removed

from priesthood as the east

from the west. And this is

where Jesus placed himself on

that social ladder.

Jesus did not come to humankind to lead the people

in elaborate rituals or to

preach beautifully crafted

sermons. He did not come to

stand apart from or above his

flock. He came to be in the

midst of his flock, warning

them, guiding them, and

educating them by simple

stories to which they could

relate.

humankind to lead the people

in elaborate rituals or to

preach beautifully crafted

sermons. He did not come to

stand apart from or above his

flock. He came to be in the

midst of his flock, warning

them, guiding them, and

educating them by simple

stories to which they could

relate.

Jesus made promises for us, his sheep:

sheep:

  • He opens the gate

  • He teaches us his voice

  • He calls us by name

  • He leads us

  • He goes before us

  • Those who enter through him will be saved.

  • He knows us

  • He died for us

And guess what friends. Jesus expects us to stop being sheep.

We are in training to be

shepherds. That is what meant

in Matthew 28:19-20

expects us to stop being sheep.

We are in training to be

shepherds. That is what meant

in Matthew 28:19-20

“Therefore go and make

disciples of all nations,

baptizing them in the name of

the Father and of the Son and

of the Holy Spirit, and teaching

them to obey everything I

have commanded you. And

surely I am with you always, to

the very end of the age.”

So, I’ll send you out from this worship service not as sheep

or cattle, you no longer are. I

send you, my friends, into the

world into the herd to round

them up, to protect them, to

guide them to the heavenly

coral, and most of all to make

them disciples. In the name of

the Father and of the Son and

of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

worship service not as sheep

or cattle, you no longer are. I

send you, my friends, into the

world into the herd to round

them up, to protect them, to

guide them to the heavenly

coral, and most of all to make

them disciples. In the name of

the Father and of the Son and

of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Ice Water Steam

1ST READING Genesis 1:1-2:4a
2ND READING Matthew 28:16-20
3RD READING 2 Corinthians 13:11-13
MESSAGE
A basic tenet of Jewish faith is the Shema as found in Deuteronomy 6:4 where it says,
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: 5And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
One God. One Lord.
Jews and Muslims share this basic belief in ONE GOD.
The Trinity that Christians believe in seems, at first glance, to say that we believe in THREE GODS.
And has and still is misunderstood that way by some today.
That is, of course, NOT true.,
Hear O Christians, Our God is one God.
We just see the various aspects of God as; Father, Son and Holy Spirit”
Different forms, different functions but one God, Commonly called the Godhead.
The Jews take the commandment,”Thou shalt not take the name of God in vain.” So serous that the name is too holy to be spoken aloud.
To make sure it was not mistakenly said while reading the Torah, it was spelled out without vowel marks – therefore unpronounceable.
In our English translations, when you see the word LORD written in all capital letters, that is a way of translating the unpronounceable name of God.
Here is another interesting thing about the name of God: as it is written in Hebrew, it is, by its nature, plural.
So while saying our God is one God.
It recognizes the many facets of God.
Also, throughout the Old Testament many ways were used when referring to the One God.
They used various names to describe various attributes of God,
Now, several weeks ago, I mentioned that a instructor of mine had said that anyone who tells you that they FULLY UNDERSTAND the Trinity is a liar.
And I said, at that time, that I had A way of understanding the 3-in-1 and 1-in-3 nature of the Godhead – that works for me
So, having said that, let me add my own “fine print”
Trying to understand the Triune God is not easy and it may not even be HUMANLY possible. .
This, however, is an analogy that gives me a “working understanding” of the Trinity.
Now understand that this is JUST AN ANALOGY and if you try to stretch it too far it may fall apart.
You may find something else that works better for you.
I find the analogy of water to work for me.
Water – H2O – 2 atoms of hydrogen and 1 atom of oxygen. 3 components combine to be 1 molecule.
Water also has 3 states of being.
Liquid Solid Gaseous 3 Forms but one substance.
Each of the 3 Forms of water have different properties without becoming a different substance.
Liquid water flows. The flow can be nearly still or in violent motion.
It is essential to life and yet can destroy.
Life, as we know it, must have water to exist.
We are literally made of water. 50 to 80 percent of our body is water.
In my mind I equate this liquid form of water to God the Father.
God the creator, God the life giver.
Solid water (ice) retains a distinct shape and easier for us to see and touch.
It is also, used for preservation.
I like to think of God the Son as ice.
God in solid form. Emanuel, God with us.
God the Son, preserver of my soul.
Gaseous water (steam) is harder to see but is the most energy filled form of water.
Steam harnessed can do amazing work.
So much power from something nearly invisible.
To me, the Holy Spirit is like steam.
The Spirit is what embowers us to do the work of the Trinity.
We can easily see the workings of the Spirit without seeing the Spirit.
No matter what form water takes (liquid, solid, or gaseous) it is still water.
So God is God whether He is in the form of Father, Son or Holy Spirit.
The Godhead is easily seen in our Genisis reading..
God the Father spoke.
In the gospel of John we see that God the Son was the agent through which creation took place.
And we see the Spirit of God moving across the waters of an unformed world.
Let’s take a look at what was the going on in our Genesis reading.
Repeatedly “GOD SAID” and miraculous things happened.
And it was GOOD.
When everything was done it was VERY GOOD.
God commissioned Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”
We are part of creation and as God’s final creation, we were to be caretakers of creation; to maintain it the way God willed it to be when he spoke it into existence.
However, we, as people of Western Civilization, have set ourselves above and apart from creation.
In our error, we have, used His command to “subdue and have dominion” as excuses to exploit and destroy that which God created.
This is related to the “fall of man” and how that has affected ALL of creation.
Because of Adam and Eve’s willfulness in disobedience, all of creation was affected.
Therefore, we no longer live in the perfect world as it was created.
In the computerized day and age, you could say that the default setting for creation was perfection.
However, a virus (sin) has corrupted the system.
The Godhead has been and still is working to set the system right.
God, the Father, through the Law and the Prophets, gave us rules to live by.
The rules are not hard to understand.
By living within the rules people could align their will with God’s will.
As a matter of fact, If the Law were to be lived out by everyone universally, it would make for a nearly perfect world.
It would not, however, restore the world. The system is still corrupted. This would just be a “patch” to make it function better.
As I said, the rules / the Law is easy to understand. It is, it seems, impossible to live within the boundaries of those rules though.
Jesus, God the Son, came to set right that which had gone wrong in the relationship between man and God, man and man, and man and nature.
For about 33 years He lived among us. He experienced life as we live it.
By example and by teaching he showed us how we are to live in relation to God, to each other and to the rest of creation.
In His final moments as Emanuel (that is God with us), He gave His disciples what has been called the “great commission”;
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”
If you look at the Son’s command you will see that it is not that far different than what the Father said to Adam and Eve back in Genesis.
Go into all the earth and bring it into the will of God.
We may have a tendency to think of the great commission in connection with sending missionaries or evangelists into the world.
You know, sending THEM.
It is easy to think that it is somebody else’s job.
The truth is, the command was given to ALL His disciples – that is, those who followed Him.
The command is to ALL who follow Him.
That means US. – YOU and ME.
Here is another thing about the commission that is often misunderstood.
It is often interpreted to be, “Go and get people into the church to do what Jesus taught.”
But today we are invited to hear it more deeply, and differently.
The first word of this text in Greek is not an imperative. It is a participle.
That is, the idea of going somewhere else is not commanded, but rather assumed. “As you go,”
This means that this is not some special pilgrimage or mission trip we are to take.
It means that as we go about our lives we are to make disciples; that is create and train followers of God who will restore the world to its “default setting”.
How?
As we go.
What we do, what we say, what we think, what we demonstrate to the world should all be useable to bring about changes in others.
By the way, I know that in our culture, when we say “make” disciples” we may be tempted to think of some assembly line process where we take the raw product (people) and force it into a mold that stamps out little Jesuses.
However, If we follow the example of Jesus, we can see that he didn’t force His followers to become copies of Himself.
Yes, He is our example and we are certainly to work toward the perfection that He demonstrated, However, we are not Him. We are US.
Frankly, we are unable to do what God, the Father and God the Son, have commanded us to do.
Really!
We are too weak.
We are too self centered,
too self willed
Too old,
Too young
Too ignorant
Too smart
Too fat
Too thin
Too …. Too … Too … US!
However, God, the Holy Spirit, that dwells in us, will use our talents, our strengths and even our weaknesses to further the kingdom of God.
If we let Him.
If we let Him, through Him, we can do anything.
“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me!” That is what is says in Philippians 4:13
You can do all things through Him who strengthens you.
We can do all things through Him who strengthens us.
Here ends the lesson.

We Are Touching Lives Through Christ By Reaching Out, Bringing In, Lifting Up, Sending Forth.

Before you read this sermon, understand that parts of it are specific to my home congregation. However the message goes beyond that group. It speaks to all who call themselves Christians.

Ezekiel 34:1-17
The LORD spoke his word to me. He said, “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel. Prophesy to these shepherds. Tell them, ‘This is what the Almighty LORD says: How horrible it will be for the shepherds of Israel who have been taking care of only themselves. Shouldn’t shepherds take care of the sheep? You eat the best parts of the sheep, dress in the wool, and butcher the finest sheep. Yet, you don’t take care of the sheep. You have not strengthened those that were weak, healed those that were sick, or bandaged those that were injured. You have not brought back those that strayed away or looked for those that were lost. You have ruled them harshly and violently. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd. When they were scattered, they became food for every wild animal. My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered throughout the whole earth. No one searched or looked for them. “‘So, you shepherds, listen to the word of the LORD. As I live, declares the Almighty LORD, because there is no shepherd, my sheep have become prey. My sheep have become food for every wild animal. My shepherds haven’t searched for my sheep. They have taken care of only themselves, not my sheep. So, you shepherds, listen to the word of the LORD. This is what the Almighty LORD says: I am against the shepherds. I will demand that they hand over my sheep. I won’t let them take care of my sheep anymore, and they will no longer take care of only themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, and my sheep will no longer be their food. “‘This is what the Almighty LORD says: I will search for my sheep myself, and I will look after them. As a shepherd looks after his flock when he is with his scattered sheep, so I will look after my sheep. I will rescue them on a cloudy and gloomy day from every place where they have been scattered. I will bring them out from the nations, gather them from the countries, and bring them to their own land. I will take care of them on the mountains of Israel, by the streams, and in all the inhabited places of the land. I will feed them in good pasture, and they will graze on the mountains of Israel. They will rest on the good land where they graze, and they will feed on the best pastures in the mountains of Israel. I will take care of my sheep and lead them to rest, declares the Almighty LORD. I will look for those that are lost, bring back those that have strayed away, bandage those that are injured, and strengthen those that are sick. I will destroy those that are fat and strong. I will take care of my sheep fairly. “‘As for you, my sheep, this is what the Almighty LORD says: I will judge disputes between one sheep and another, between rams and male goats.

Matthew 25:31-46
When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all his angels are with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. The people of every nation will be gathered in front of him. He will separate them as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right but the goats on his left. “Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, my Father has blessed you! Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger, and you took me into your home. I needed clothes, and you gave me something to wear. I was sick, and you took care of me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ “Then the people who have God’s approval will reply to him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you or see you thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you as a stranger and take you into our homes or see you in need of clothes and give you something to wear? When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ “The king will answer them, ‘I can guarantee this truth: Whatever you did for one of my brothers or sisters, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did for me.’ “Then the king will say to those on his left, ‘Get away from me! God has cursed you! Go into everlasting fire that was prepared for the devil and his angels! I was hungry, and you gave me nothing to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me nothing to drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t take me into your homes. I needed clothes, and you didn’t give me anything to wear. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t take care of me.’ “They, too, will ask, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or as a stranger or in need of clothes or sick or in prison and didn’t help you?’ “He will answer them, ‘I can guarantee this truth: Whatever you failed to do for one of my brothers or sisters, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you failed to do for me.’ “These people will go away into eternal punishment, but those with God’s approval will go into eternal life.”

We Are Touching Lives Through Christ By Reaching Out, Bringing In, Lifting Up, Sending Forth.

When studying the scriptures we need to ask questions as we read. We need to ask; who, what, when, where, why, and how. We also need to insert ourselves into the narrative. It is often helpful to ‘try on’ the roles of the different characters in the story. We can gain new insights by ‘seeing through another’s eyes’. And finally, we need to ask, what does this mean to ME?
We are going to first examine our reading from Ezekiel. Let’s take a look at what is going on here. First of all who are the players in this story?

Well, God is God. Ezekiel is the man God has called on to be his messenger. That’s pretty straight forward. The sheep are lost. It seems clear that these are people that are lost, they are without God. But we’ve got shepherds, who are they?

The shepherds are the leaders. Remember that in that day and age the religious and political leaders were the same people. There was no division of church and state. So these leaders were supposedly men of God, his spokespersons to the people but they are falling down on the job.

Now we have the WHO let us examine the what. The WHAT is the scattering, neglect and destruction of the sheep, the lost people.
WHEN is the next question that we ask. Ezekiel may have had a specific time in mind for this prophesy, but when we examine it we’ll see that the story is timeless. It could and has taken place over and over.
Where did these events take place? Again, as in the question of when, the WHERE is not important to the events of the story because it is a story about universal events.
Moving on to the next question, WHY, we find that there are many WHYS here: greed, laziness, self centeredness, self willed and on and on.
The HOW of the story seems to indicate a general neglect of the sheep by the shepherds. When it is not neglect it is abuse.
Okay, so God says, Hey Zek! Take this message to the leaders of your nation. Tell them that I am really NOT happy. And when I’m not happy, ‘aint nobody happy. Do you blockheadds really think that I can’t see what is going on?
You are down there getting fat off of My people. You take the blessings that I have given them to pad your own nest eggs. You are all dressed up in your fancy clothes , living in your mansions, driving expensive cars – er, camels, and taking the best of everything for yourselves.
Man, it sure points out how little things have changed doesn’t it? If you watch the TV or read the paper you can tell that these guys would feel right at home in our world today.
They were supposed to be leaders. Now, you can’t be a leader if you aren’t moving and nobody is following! And according to this parable, the sheep – that is the people – were lost. They were scattered over the face of the earth and nobody was searching for them.
Not one of these, supposedly good, Godly people was getting out of their comfort zone and …. Oh oh! I just got one of those spiritual slaps up side the head! I was feeling fairly comfortable with my place in this parable. I was seeing myself as a sheep – were you?
But look here, we are not the ‘lost’. We have been redeemed. We are sitting here in church because we have found THE WAY. Oh, we’re not perfect and we may temporarily get turned around but I really can’t see casting us in the role of the sheep.
But wait a minute, Tom, if they are the lost sheep, who are we? Well, we sure aren’t God. And unless God has your cellphone number, I don’t think we are Ezekiel either.
Man, I hate to admit this, but I think that we may be the shepherds that ol’ Zeke here is talkin’ to. I was feeling so smug and comfortable a minute ago. Now, not so much.
The shepherds were the religious leaders and yet they were not doing what shepherds do. Shepherds do not sit at home while the sheep are in the field. Shepherds feed the sheep. They lead them to where the water is good. They protected them from the wild beasts. They bring them safely home. That is what shepherds are SUPPOSED to do.
Ol’ Ezekiel’s shepherds did not protect, did not heal the injured, did not lead, they did not even do the most basic of care by feeding the sheep. And as a result, the Almighty Lord says: I am against the shepherds. I will demand that they hand over my sheep. I won’t let them take care of my sheep anymore, and they will no longer take care of only themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, and my sheep will no longer be their food.
In our Gospel reading, Jesus lays out the job description for being the right kind of shepherd.
for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’
Now, this congregation does many good things to take care of the sheep. We do protect through various programs such as the blanket bucks,

We feed through programs like the food pantry, the monthly meals at Trinity, the Heifer Project and even the suppers provided through UP kids.
We clothe the naked through our contributions to the Ingathering and yes through the rummage sales.
We visit, pray for and send cards and flowers to the sick
We welcome the stranger that enters our doors.
However, I’m wondering if we doing all that we can to go find the lost sheep that are scattered across the face of the earth. Our church’s mission statement is. We Are Touching Lives Through Christ By Reaching Out, Bringing In, Lifting Up, Sending Forth

Answer this for yourselves, are we really reaching out? Are we seeking the lost? I know that if the lost find their way into our fold, we will welcome them, we will protect them, we will feed them, and many other things that a good shepherd would do. But let’s face this, a good shepherd does not just open the gate to the shephold and hope the sheep find their way to. He actively seeks the sheep and herds them into safety.
I have to ask this, and understand that I’m not just asking YOU, I’m asking US, are we actively inviting people in? And if we are, are they the lost sheep? Or we inviting the saved to come and join us?
I ask that because … well, here is a personal admission: We just recently got some new neighbors who will be spending the winter in an RV near ours. Ella asked them if they had found a church home yet and we invited them to come to church with us.
Were we being shepherds? Not really, these people are already Believers. We were not inviting sheep. We were inviting more shepherds.
If we are to live up to our mission statement, we need to go find the sheep and bring them in. We need to be seeking the lost. Just as Jesus did. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10. Jesus was fulfilling what Ezekiel had prophesied, “For thus says the Lord GOD: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.” We, as Christ’s hands and feet on earth are under an obligation to continue this work.
Remember the words of the Great Commandment in Matthew 28:19-20 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit,and teaching them to obey everything that I have command you.”
This was not a suggestion to sit in our comfortable sanctuary and wait for the lost to wander in. This is a command to go and find them.
We each have to ask ourselves how we have obeyed this command. When we stand before God will He say, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’?

God bless

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All content (except quotations) ©2011Thomas E. Williams