Sunday, May 3, 2009

Who Are We Following, the Good Shepherd or the Hired Men?

The question from the gospel that I would like us to think about this morning is, “Who are we following, the Good Shepherd or the hired men?” We know who the Good Shepherd is, Jesus, but who are the hired men? Who or what is it that we choose to follow but then deserts us when we need them the most?
How often do we stop and realize that Jesus is there for us; has always been, is always there for us. How often do we thank him for the sacrifice or sacrifices he made and makes for us? It’s not often I suspect.
I hadn’t thought about this before, about who the hired men might be that is. Jesus was referring to the Jewish religious leaders, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, who weren’t caring for the people as God had directed them to in the laws given to them when they entered the Promised Land. But who are the hired men today? I think it is those people or those things which take our focus away from God and the work He has for each of us to do.
Just look at how easy it’s been just this week to take our minds off worrying about the economy to worrying about swine flu. And next week what will take its place?
Friends, we, and I include myself here, spend too much of our precious time that God has granted us worrying about things of the world, things that when our time here is done we can’t take with us and most likely our friends and families will not see as important as we do. We worry about our investments, our money that we have put in different pots hoping that it’s enough to provide for our needs until it’s time for us to go home. We worry about our houses, our cars, our yards, our sons and daughters, and their sons and daughters. We worry about our climate, our environment, our nation, and the world. We spend our time worrying about wars that spring up all over the world. We spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about things that, in the long run, really don’t matter at all. Now I know some of you will disagree with me and that’s all right.
The point I’m wanting to make this morning is to remind all of us that Jesus has told us he is the Good Shepherd who cares for us. He intercedes for us before the Father. Behind the Father we are next in importance to him. He even said that he is more concerned for us than he is for himself. So why do we worry? He’s got it all taken care of.
This is the Good News. The Father knows Jesus, Jesus knows the Father, and because they have this intimate connection Jesus willing sacrificed himself for us, those other sheep that weren’t of the original flock.
John reminds us of this fact in his letter we heard read this morning. It’s because of Jesus’ sacrificial love that we are able to experience and understand love, true love. And this is how we are to live our lives, not worrying about the things of this world or its hired men, but living lives that give of themselves to our fellow believers, not just out for ourselves, as The Message translates John’s letter.
Remember Jesus, the Good Shepherd, made the ultimate sacrifice for us and John reminds us that if we turn our backs on or give our brothers and sisters the cold shoulder when they are in need then God’s love isn’t there. We made it disappear.
Jesus was talking in John’s gospel to his disciples who were Jews, God’s chosen people. He told them, though at the time they didn’t understand what he was saying, that he others who weren’t part of the chosen ones that were his also. Friends, sometimes I think we think we are God’s chosen ones instead of the others Jesus spoke of here. In fact I think we Americans believe we’re God’s chosen ones. I wonder where we can find that in the Bible, the USA is the home of God’s chosen ones.
Because our ancestors chose to take the risk and travel to this country we have been supremely blest by living in the wealthiest country in the world. But it could also be a curse. This country could be the hired man we follow instead of the Good Shepherd. Think about it.
Mark 8, beginning with verse 35, says in The Message, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am…Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?” This is losing your life so you can have true life in Jesus. This is what we mean when we talk about serving others without thinking about what we’ll get in return.
Who are we following, the Good Shepherd or the hired man? What is God doing or saying to your heart today?
Friends, God loves you and so do I. Thanks be to God. Amen.

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