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Last Sunday's Sermon

Acts 4:5-12

The day after they had arrested Peter and John for teaching about Jesus and the resurrection, the rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. When they had made the prisoners stand in their midst, they inquired, "By what power or by what name did you do this?" Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, "Rulers of the people and elders, if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. This Jesus is
`the stone that was rejected by you, the builders;
it has become the cornerstone.'
There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved."

The Gospel

John 10:11-18

Jesus said, "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."

The Sermon

I want to talk first about Peter. Peter has changed hasn't he. In the gospel readings Peter as a follower, a disciple, makes wonderful declarative statements and then screws up. He tells Jesus he will never betray him and within a few hours he does just that three times. He gets out of the boat to walk on water like Jesus and in a moment of doubt, he sinks.

I believe Jesus' resurrection transformed Peter and the other disciples as well. Peter became strong in his faith. He cured the lame and blind by invoking the name of his lord and savior Jesus Christ. He became a rock. He courageously expressed that faith to all who would hear.

Peter was one of the sheep in Jesus's flock.  After Jesus resurrection he became a shepherd guiding sheep.

This is often referred to as shepherd Sunday because of so many references to shepherding. What are these readings trying to tell us. Are we being told to be like sheep and blindly follow. I don't think so. Blindly following has never been a very strong trait of Episcopalians. After all one of the legs in our three legged stool is reason.

Can a person, in a metaphorical sense, be a sheep and a shepherd at the same time? I certainly hope so. I follow Jesus and his teachings and at the same time I give guidance whenever it seems like I need to. In a way we shepherd each other as we are guided along the right paths for his names sake.

What are we as sheep/shepherds expected to do with this life we are given. If we were real sheep our jobs would be pretty clear. We would provide wool for peoples clothing and mutton for people to eat because that is why sheep have value. As sheep in God's flock, where is our value? What are we expected to produce.

I was watching the evening news the other day and they were playing the recording of the communication between the pilot of a commercial airplane that was in trouble and the dispatcher. The dispatcher asked the pilot how many were on board the flight and he said seventy three souls. 

His response seemed so profound to me. His job as a pilot was to shepherd seventy three souls to safety. He knew he would not be alone. There was also the flight crew. (co-pilot, flight attendants and the dispatcher.) They would all work together to bring those seventy three souls to safety.

That is my analogy. We are responsible for the souls we touch in our lives. So how do we do that? We sometimes do it through sacrifice, and sometimes it is done through a welcoming smile but we cannot do it alone. Jesus guides us and inspires us. I rely on you and you can rely on me. Sometimes it seems like we are walking through the valley of the shadow of death. There is comfort in knowing Jesus is with us in dark times as well as times of joy. 

There is comfort as well in knowing that there is a church family to lean on as we walk down this sometimes perilous path. Jesus intended for us to practice our Christianity in community. When we are a part of Christian community our dark times are a little less dark and our times of joy are even brighter.

Amen

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