Feeding His Sheep, Even the Nefarious Ones

 

<Ask a Church Member> Do you love Jesus more than these

(they will answer yes, then continue)

Jesus calls us to care for His Sheep

But what if that means tending to people

Who seemingly refuse to care for the  places,

The neighborhoods,

The communities

That they should be safe.

Time and again we watch through social media

The news

Television

Read the statistics

About the reality of real life

People cutting down one another

Through violence

Because instead of seeing the Risen Christ in one another

They only see hatred

In a haze of drugs

Of jealously

Because of labels transposed upon them,

That they were useless

Sacrificial

 (pause, then go over to another church member)

<Church Member> Do you love Jesus more than these?

(the church member will say yes)

Jesus calls us to tend His Lambs,

But what if that includes people

Whose vision of God is unlike our own?

Or even accepting Jesus like we think they should

Whose songs and prayers and chanting and submission

Makes us uncomfortable

So that we join with others

In deeming them heretical

And when they are suffering

We push them as if they are an afterthought

Casting them outside the walls

Damning them to an exiled existence

(pause, then go to a third church member)

<Church Member> Do you love Jesus more than these?

(the church member will say yes)

Jesus calls us to feed His Sheep,

But what if that means feeding people

That we have pigeonholed undeserving

Time and again, they have wedged themselves in predicaments

To where they have nothing,

And seemingly offer nothing productive

And grope at our well stocked harvest

Causing friction and tension when they come begging,

Pleading

Crying,

And we push and shove and move them away from us

So we don’t have to see their anguish

So we don’t have to be affected by their pain,

Though deep down,

We are shuddering,

Because the power of the Gospel

Is embedded in our core.

(pause)

Or even tending, feeding caring for His people

Who decline community

Instead belittling

Persecuting others.

What if,

The Creator God called upon you

For compassion  

Using you to heal

Through the power of the Holy Spirit

An enemy?

Can we confess as people of faith

That it is hard to live out Jesus’s commandment

To love one another

Because Love encompasses so many things

(pause)

Ananias,

One of God’s flock

Is perplexed in Acts

This directive to “love” Saul

By actually laying on of hands, healing him

Let’s be honest

Those that we love

We will do anything

For their health,

Try any cure

But an enemy?

Saul?

Saul who approved the stoning of Stephen

Saul who relentlessly pursued those

Who he had deemed

Traitors

Abandoning the faith and the teachings of their forefathers

Abandoning the edicts, the principles of their ancestors

Laws that encouraged division

Divisiveness

Separation

Instead of the Love

And mercy

And Grace

That God, Our Redeemer created,

Wanted for God’s People.

The Way-

What was this new Way,

That blurred all the lines of hierarchy?

Where they forgot their place,

And opened up their houses, their hearts, themselves

Disregarding endless rules of purity

Welcoming in Gentiles, tax collectors, widows

And overlooking sins

What was this Way

That saw all people equal

Welcomed

At the table?

Unnatural!

(pause)

“Lord I have heard from many about this man

How much evil he has done

And here he has authority

To bind all who invoke your name.”

Just as the Risen Son Jesus Christ asked of Thomas,

To not doubt

But believe

Believe that God’s power beyond anything we can fathom

The Creator works through unusual people

The Gospel is heard and experienced through unusual ways

These lessons,

This Gospel message is infused into our time

Testing us

The uncomfortable truth is that when these holy and sacred texts speak to us

It is never in the abstract

So we may doubt,

But we are called as people who follow the Way

That follow Jesus

To believe

(pause)

But can I confess to you this morning?

What I have found,

Embedded deeper into this call of public ministry

Is being challenged by this command of Jesus-

Feed my lambs

Tend my sheep

Love one another as I have loved you

Because

There are people that I cannot love

Or trust

Or forgive.

Remember Maundy Thursday,

When I posed the question

When has it been difficult to Love?

Or

Do we find that we are interjecting our own question

God,

When your Son gave the commandment

To Love one another

Surely there were some disclaimers

Or an addendum

Or footnotes to that?

(pause)

But we have a Good and Gracious God,

When we have denied our own connection to the One

Through our actions towards one another

When we have forgotten about the One

Who would give His life

For us-

Jesus offers us forgiveness in ways we don’t even realize-

Just as He offered to Simon Peter

Reminding us,

What we are called to do

To Feed and Tend His Flock,

Even when they are disobedient

 (pause)

When we question,

When we can not see how the Holy Spirit

Could ever penetrate a heart so darkened

That could move someone so pitiful

The Good News of Jesus Christ is that in that moment of conversion

Not from one denomination or from one faith to the “right” or “true” faith

But from darkness to light

From blindness to seeing

From hatred to love

From dominating

To submitting to the One

Who holds the power of Life, of Love, of Forgiveness

REGARDLESS of what we have done

Not only happens to the Sauls in our lives

Or the Saul within us

But also to those faithful Ananais

People such as you, and me

Who need to see the God in everyone

Even in yes,

The nefarious ones

Beloved, do you love Jesus more than these-

More than the superficial,

If you can work seeing past their failings

Tend His Sheep

Feed His Lambs

Love one another.

Thanks Be to God.

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