For God did not give us A spirit of cowardice, But rather a spirit of power and of love and self-discipline.
2 Timothy 1:7
Do we have enough self-discipline To take advantage of this time – This time to just BE and just LOVE And make the world a better place?
Ann Weems, in Putting the Amazing Back in Grace, wrote: “Remember, you’re in charge of remembering that God is in charge, and that’s a big job that will last a lifetime.”
God’s got this!! Have a peace-filled Sunday, my friends.
Oh, and in case you, like us, missed church today, here is the sermon for today that our pastor, Rev. Steve Hundley sent out via e-mail.
Find a comfortable chair, grab a cup o’ tea or coffee, and augment your Sunday with a worshipful, inspiring message:
INSTRUCTIONS FOR LIFE
Read Psalm 23
Not long after becoming the pastor of three small churches in the mountains of Virginia, I was asked to give the Baccalaureate Address to the graduating class of Bath County High School. It used to be, at least in the Bible Belt where I grew up, that local high schools have both a Baccalaureate and Graduation ceremony. The Baccalaureate was held one evening, a day or two before the actual Graduation Commencement. And it was tradition to invite a religious leader in the community to speak. However, I’m not sure that the message I delivered was what the school administration, or even the students, had in mind.
In most cases, the message given would be a positive one meant to motivate the students to go out and change the world, such as: “You are God’s ambassadors, the hope for a broken world!” Or: If you can imagine it, you can achieve it; if you can dream it, you can become it.” Or, perhaps: “Shoot for the Moon, for even if you miss, you’ll find yourself among the stars!” Most Baccalaureate, as well as, Commencement speakers would have them believe that they can be and do anything they set their minds to, (but with God’s help, of course).
I, however, felt that it was my duty to inform them that they were nothing but a bunch of “harebrained” sheep. I saw that! You raised your eyebrows, didn’t you? (Note from JanBeek, see the picture of sheep I put at the end of this sermon!)
Yet, that is what the Bible says. Yes, as much as we would like to think of ourselves as having the heart of a lion, we share more in common with sheep.
You see, like sheep, we tend to stray easily and lose our way. I’ve have been told that if one sheep spooks and tears off in one direction, all the others will follow. Imagine a bunch of sheep running up a hill. Suddenly the one in front makes a sudden left turn, and all the others, with no questions asked, mindlessly follow. If the one leading heads right off a cliff, tumbling to its death, all the others follow right off the cliff as well. But, you say, “We’re not like that!”
I heard recently about a young married couple. The wife bought a country ham to cook for her husband’s family who were coming over for dinner. Before putting it in a pot to bake it, she cut both ends off. “Why did you do that,” her husband asked. “I did it because that is the waymy mother always did it,” she said. Calling her mother on the phone, she asked: “Mom, why do we cut the ends off a ham before cooking it?” “I don’t know. I do it because it is the way my mother always did it.” Calling up her grandmother, she asked, “Grandmother, why do we cut the ends off a ham before baking it?” “I don’t know why you and your mother do it, but I always did it because it wouldn’t fit in my small baking pan.”
Yes, if one sheep spooks and tears off, all the others will follow. Still, you say, “We are smarter than that!” (Try to find a roll of toilet paper, or a bottle of hand sanitizer these days. Just saying.)
Attending a Montana State University lecture not long ago, the speaker, a journalist professor, pointed out just how partisan our country has become. He said that we have lost the will, and therefore, the ability to listen and dialogue with those who disagree with us. “We only listen to those news networks that confirm what we believe to be true,” he said. “We socialize with those who believe like us. In other words, we are like sheep who follow blindly our own flock.” Oh, by the way, did you know that a flock of sheep are called a “MOB?” Google it.
Secondly, sheep not only tend to follow their “mob”, they are also fragile creatures. Ken Davis, a comedian, tells of growing up on a sheep farm. He said there was an old ram on their farm that loved to sneak up behind him and butt him when he wasn’t looking. He hated that old ram. One day he spotted the old bruiser coming around the back of the barn. Determined to get back at that old ram, he looked around for something to hit him with. With nothing in sight and ram rounding the corner, Ken jumped out and hollered: “BOO!” It was all he could think to do.
“Startled,” Ken said, “that old ram just keeled over AND DIED!”
Later, his father confronted him, “Son, you hit that sheep, didn’t you?”
“No dad, I said, BOO! and it just died!”
A crack of thunder is all it takes to scare a sheep literally to death. As much as we like to think of ourselves as indestructible, this present pandemic and the fact you are reading this sermon in your own home, shows just how fragile we are. Our Lord Jesus said: “When you pray, say, ‘Our Father, who art in heaven…give us this day our daily bread…and, deliver us from evil’.”
Yes, we are like sheep who are in need of a Shepherd. We need help. Going it alone, depending on our own wiles, spells certain disaster. I remember one sheep herder/shepherd telling of turning his flock loose one night in the mountains to graze alone on their own. He knew it was a risk, because sheep cannot defend themselves, much less outrun, even the slowest predators. Sheep tend to go astray, grazing along without looking where they are going.
He did, however, leave them in the care of his trusty sheep dog. Locating them the next morning, he discovered that they had wandered into a rather rugged mountain park. Being the rather clumsy animals that they are, more than a few of them had managed to fall over while feeding on the uneven ground. He found sheep scattered around the meadow upside down on their backs unable to get up. He said: “I had to go around picking up sheep and placing them back on their feet.
The Prophet Isaiah warns the Israelites of the danger of going it alone. “See, the Lord’s arm is not too short to save … to pick you up when you have fallen.” (Isaiah 59:1)
While I doubt that anyone was prepared for me to compare the graduating class of Bath County High School to a “flock”, or should I say “mob” of sheep…the foolish notion that the future of the world rested on their shoulders is categorically untrue! The longer I live, the more I am convinced that what we need to make it in this world is not popularity and success, not financial wealth or even personal happiness.
What we need is Christ, the Good Shepherd, to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves and instruct us in the proper order of our lives. For, “The Lord is our Shepherd, we shall not want. He makes us lie down in green pastures; he leads us beside still waters; it is our Shepherd who restores our souls, who leads us in right paths. Even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we fear not evil…”
Notice how Psalm 23 reverses the order of how we tend to live our lives. It is our tendency to approach life head on, burning ourselves out. And then, turn back to God in search of rest and soul-restoration after a week of chasing the illusive American dream. Yet, notice that this Psalm reverses the order. First, there is the Shepherd who provides what we need most, rest and soul restoration. Only then is it possible to find meaning and purpose in God’s emerging kingdom or face dark valleys.
This is the blessing Jesus wanted Martha to see when she was burning herself out by busying herself in the kitchen. Jesus said to her: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part…” (Luke 10:41-42).
Notice how the New Testament church began in Acts 2:46-47: “They followed a daily discipline of busying themselves with programs and activities, burning themselves out, so that people liked what they saw and everyday their numbers grew…” ??? NO! NO! NO!
It says: “They followed a daily discipline of worship in the temple, followed by meals together in their homes, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Everyday their numbers grew as God added those who were saved.”
Yes, Genesis tells us that “God created the world and on the seventh day, and then He rested.” That’s true, but WE ARE NOT GOD! Christ died for our sins, our weaknesses, and on the first day of the week He arose from the dead! So, we begin with rest, worship, and spiritual recreation before facing the challenges of daily living and serving our God.
We are His sheep, who find our rest in the arms of the Good Shepherd, so that He might equip us for the facing of this hour even as we face this dark valley of the shadow of death. For we are not alone, for God in Christ is with us. Amen.
Read Psalm 23 again.
In what new and unique way have you felt God’s comforting presence?
See ya tomorrow. Thanks for visiting JanBeek and for hangin’ in there together. Have a beautiful Sunday. Together, in FAITH, we shall overcome!!