Rev'd Karen Hollis Minister
Slideshow image

Rev. Karen's Sermon, the Announcements for the week of April 22, and the Prayers of the People for the Sunday Worship Service

Karen Hollis - Sermon John 10:11-18 April 22, 2018  

I had a lovely visit with the Grays last week and was able to visit their sheep, just down the road here. I met mamma sheep and 3 week old lambs down to day old lambs. Bob showed me how the hay is all squished down in the feed bowls by the lambs who decide to make them beds. I had a great time.

Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, God our rock and our redeemer. Amen

If you’ve spent enough time in church over the years and noticed the psalms that come up again and again, you might pass by Psalm 23 as one you’ve heard again and again. Yeah, I know, the Lord is my Shepherd; it’s a lovely image, thanks church for bringing it back again and again. It’s like singing Kumbaya around a campfire, it’s a beautiful song with lovely words – and everyone just got sick of it! Psalm 23 is so well known in the church, it remains 1 of 2 psalms I can remember the reference to with a high level of certainty. I may not be alone in that. If we’re reading this rich psalm half asleep and with one ear turned to something else, I suggest we freshen it up a little. What if we considered the opposite? What if we considered life without God as our shepherd? The psalm might go something like this:

I have no shepherd – I am lost and needy;

I search for comfort, food and clean drinking water;

I go without and I am depleted;

I wander and end up nowhere. Around every turn is a new danger;

I have no help and no companion And so I run from my enemies and I fight for my own survival. For what do I live?

Shall I continue on, one step at a time?

Will I ever find a place to belong?

It really reframes the psalm, doesn’t it. The line that gets me is, I go without and I am depleted. When I read (and wrote) this version (it’s a good exercise to write an opposite version of the psalm) my mind immediately starts running in the other direction – no, no, I want that other version! What blows my mind is that Jesus knew Psalm 23. He sat as a young child and studied: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.”[1] Jesus knew this psalm – it was a part of him, he took it with him as he walked through life and when the time was right, spoke these words to people who also knew the psalm: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep . . . I know my own and my own know me . . . 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.”       

      Why this image? You realize he’s calling all of us sheep, right? What do we think about that? What is it to be a sheep? The sheep’s relationship with the shepherd begins with food and develops from there. “Sheep seem to consider their shepherds part of the family, and the relationship that grows up between the two is quite exclusive. They develop a language of their own that outsiders are not privy to,”[2] according to Barbara Brown Taylor, a well-known preacher and theologian. Sheep are not dumb. They cannot be pushed and prodded from behind like cattle. Sheep must be led. I experienced this drive to follow as I found a particularly curious sheep right behind me several times during my visit to the farm. I’m sure she didn’t see me as her leader, rather something new and a possible food source. Sheep have their own personalities, their own gifts and challenges, and a good shepherd pays attention to that and responds accordingly. The relationship is one of mutuality: the shepherd knows each sheep and values each, while the sheep put their trust in the one who cares for them and trusting in the shepherd’s wisdom, follows without reserve.    

         So where is Jesus the good shepherd leading us? On this Earth Sunday, let us consider where he is leading with regards to creation care. We know Christ as the one who came in human form, one through whom all things came into being, and remains with creation, speaking through all of creation. And creation is shouting at us. With every turtle that inhales a straw, community that has to move due to rising sea levels, hurricane that lines up in a queue, bird that finds itself dripping with oil, old growth forest that becomes exposed from nearby clear cutting, creation calls out to us. Creation responds to the things we do with complete authenticity – creation doesn’t sugar coat it’s response, rather it responds in whichever way is natural.

My friend, Melanie Delva who had an office next to me at Vancouver School of Theology, is the animator for reconciliation in the Anglican Church of Canada. She recently took a trip to Nunavut to meet the first nations there and learn about how they live – you may have read about it in the Anglican newspaper. At the time of her trip in January, the ice had not hardened to the point they could go hunting, and the landscape looked more like October than January. If they can’t hunt, they can’t feed their families. Their ability to live life as they know it is literally disappearing before their eyes. This is a story from just one of many communities around the world who are immediately affected by climate change. The problem, as always, seems too big to know where to start. A lot of us feel ourselves back at the beginning without a shepherd when thinking about what we can do:

I have no shepherd – I am lost and needy;

I search for comfort, food and clean drinking water;

I go without and I am depleted; I wander and end up nowhere.           

  The good shepherd is everywhere because the Christ speaks through creation, so all we need to do is listen in the ways we know how. Listen in the ways we know how to the one who leads us to new life. In this season of Easter, we know the resurrected Christ goes before us and blazes the trail ahead. All we need to do is follow; to do our part in the redemption of our broken world, we must follow. And so we must listen – I’m terrible at remembering EVERY DAY to sit and listen to God. I try every day and some days I just can’t manage to do it; still it is my goal to make sitting and listening to God an every day practice. Consider for a few minutes your way of listening to God . . . perhaps your way includes reading scripture, having a conversation with another human or maybe a 4-legged friend, moving your body; maybe it includes music or nature. Perhaps your way of listening is loud and messy, full of emotion; maybe it’s quiet and still.

Let us notice the ways in which we listen and make it a practice. I love the stories I hear from islanders, see in the newspaper, and watch on Facebook about what people hear from God, and the ideas they enact in the world. Some of us are making our houses more efficient, walking or riding our bicycles, protesting ships docking and plans for pipelines; some are engineering solar-powered machines to clean up plastic in the oceans; some hold or held public office, provide a local source of food, some are even growing food in skyscrapers and on top of buildings. Perhaps part of listening is googling all of the amazing ideas and projects of young people, and praying about ways to support the next generation in their endeavours and solutions. Christ speaks in everything, so let us listen everywhere.

Jesus leads us in caring for us, as well as our care for the planet. We look to him for discernment; we trust him and his wisdom. If we are sheep, we don’t blindly follow, rather we follow the one who we know will care for us, and has our well being at heart. Christ has already shown his wisdom, he knows the beauty and shadows that come along with human endeavours – he leads us with eyes wide open to what we might encounter. Let us allow ourselves to be led where Christ will take us. Let us allow ourselves to be led by the one whose only purpose is life and life renewed.  

   [1] Psalm 23 [2] Feasting on the word, year B, Vol 2.