Woeful Shepherds & Good Shepherd

A Homily for the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

Texts: Jeremiah 23:1-6; Psalm 23


Grace and Peace to you from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, the Good Shepherd. Amen.

There were two men, one wealthy and with many flocks, and one who had a only one small ewe – not so much a piece of livestock but a pet. “Like a daughter to him.” A traveler called upon the rich man – who, hesitant to part with one of his own sheep, stole the poor man’s ewe, butchered it, and served it to his guest.

Upon hearing this story, King David – himself a former shepherd – grew angry, condemning the hypothetical rich thief. “The man who has done this deserves to die!” the king raged. “He shall restore the lamb fourfold because he did this thing, and because he has no pity.”

Continue reading “Woeful Shepherds & Good Shepherd”

Little Child, Get Up

A Homily for the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Texts: Lamentations 3:22-33; Psalm 30; St. Mark 5:21-43


Grace to you and peace, from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who call us to get up from our deathbeds. Amen.

Unfortunately, it’s not difficult to imagine what the woman in today’s Gospel story endured because we have all, at some point, suffered from some illness that took a physical, emotional, and social toll on us – even something as common as a cold can knock you out for a few days, depriving you of sleep and shutting you off from friends and family. But I dare say almost all of us have more experience than that – is there any among us who has not received that fateful call from the doctor that the test results came back and it’s not good news? Or spent years watching a loved one slowly fade? To place ourselves in her shoes is less a matter of imagination and more about remembering that time in our own lives.

The text tells us she “endured much under many physicians” and “spent all that she had” – and still only grew worse. It’s an all-too-common story.

Continue reading “Little Child, Get Up”

The Good Shepherd

A Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Easter

Texts: Psalm 23; St. John 10:11-18


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Risen Lord, the Good Shepherd. Amen.

Every year, on the fourth Sunday of Easter, we mark what has come to be called Good Shepherd Sunday – reading through part of John 10. Arguing with a group of Pharisees, Jesus says that he is the shepherd, that the sheep hear hisvoice for they know him (we read that section last year). In today’s text, he clarifies: he is not just any shepherd but the Good Shepherd.

Christ isn’t merely some hired hand who runs off at the first sign of trouble but rather the very one who seeks out the lost sheep, who wades into the swift waters to rescue the drowning, who crawls through the briar patch to free the ensnared, who fights off bandits and wrestles wolves to save the lambs.

Far from the clean-faced and bed-sheet-clad shepherds of modern Nativity plays, Christ is the shepherd who, to quote Pope Francis, smells like the sheep.

More than that, Christ is the one who lays down his life for the flock.

Continue reading “The Good Shepherd”

How Long? Not Long

A Homily for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Text: Psalm 13


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who strengths us to endure the trials and tribulations of this world. Amen.

“How long, O Lord?” the psalmist asks.

It’s the cry of the elect throughout the ages.

“How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” Continue reading “How Long? Not Long”

The Good Shepherd

A Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Easter

Texts: Psalm 23; St. John 10:1-10


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Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Risen Lord, the Good Shepherd. Amen.

On this Good Shepherd Sunday, we set out to read through a familiar passage – one we’ll read in its entirety over the three years of the lectionary cycle.

Today, Christ tells us he is our shepherd – and, spoiler alert, next year, he’ll clarify that he’s not just any shepherd but the Good Shepherd.

Christ isn’t merely some hired hand who runs off at the first sign of trouble but rather the very one who seeks out the lost sheep, who wades into the swift waters to rescue the drowning, who crawls through the briar patch to free the ensnared, who fights off bandits and wrestles wolves to save the lambs. Continue reading “The Good Shepherd”

Hear the Good Shepherd’s Voice

A Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Easter

Texts: Acts 9:36-43; Psalm 23; Revelation 7:9-17; St. John 10:22-30


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Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Risen Lord, the Good Shepherd. Amen.

We’ve been dropped at the end of a familiar story: “I am the Good Shepherd,” says our Lord. (Indeed, this is Good Shepherd Sunday, and over the three years of the lectionary cycle, we make our way through the entirety of this extended metaphor. This time last year, we read that more famous portion of the text.) The Lord is our shepherd – not just any shepherd but the Good Shepherd. Christ isn’t some mere hired hand who runs off at the first sign of trouble but rather the very one who seeks out the lost sheep, who wades into the swift waters to rescue the drowning, who crawls through the briar patch to free the ensnarled, who fights off bandits and wrestles wolves to save the lambs. Far from the clean-faced and bed-sheet-clad shepherds of modern Nativity plays, Christ is the shepherd who smells like the sheep and lays down his life for the flock.

Hearing this imagery, the crowd is… Continue reading “Hear the Good Shepherd’s Voice”

“Any Mixture of Error”

I spend a lot of time around self-described fundamentalists — perhaps because I live in the Southeast, in the land of Southern Baptist churches. One of the defining doctrines of the modern SBC (and of fundamentalism in general) is their belief in a literal interpretation of Scripture; this tenant is spelled out in the first article of the Baptist Faith and Message, the SBC’s statement of faith:

It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. [Emphasis added.]

It is worth noting that fundamentalism is a new position, dating back less than two centuries, and it would not come to dominate the Southern Baptist Convention until a concentrated campaign called a “resurgence” by its champions (men like Albert Mohler and Paige Patterson) and a “takeover” by its detractors.

Scripture, according to fundamentalist Baptists, must be absolutely and in all ways true otherwise it is worthless. Continue reading ““Any Mixture of Error””

Sheep with a Shepherd

A Homily for the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

Texts: Jeremiah 23:1-6; Psalm 23; Mark 6:30-34


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Christ the Good Shepherd, Dura-Europos

Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, the Good Shepherd. Amen.

When we last saw the twelve apostles, they had been sent out two by two on their second mission trip. After a rough trip to Jesus’ hometown, he sent them out to do exactly what he had not been able to do among his own kin. And immediately after they went out, we heard about John the Baptist’s violent end at Herod’s hand. The apostles’ mission was perilous and by no means a guaranteed success. They were sent out with no food, no money, no change of clothes: only each other and a (difficult) message. Failure was a very real option.

Today, we join them on their return. By all accounts and despite all odds, things went well. Verse 13, which we read two weeks ago, tells us that the Twelve “cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.” And verse 30, at the outset of today’s Gospel, depicts their reunion with the Lord: they “gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught.”

Imagine their excitement; the twelve just worked wonders! They’ve glimpsed the Kingdom of God erupting into this world! They’ve received a foretaste of the Feast to come! Continue reading “Sheep with a Shepherd”

The Already and the Not-Yet: Easter People In-Between

A Homily for the Third Sunday of Easter

Texts: Psalm 4; 1 John 3:1-7; St. Luke 24:36b-48


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Risen Lord, who has conquered the grave and will come again in victory to raise us up. Amen.

Christ is risen. Our Lord is victorious over Death. So why does Death still pack such a punch? Continue reading “The Already and the Not-Yet: Easter People In-Between”

You Are Dust

A Homily for Ash Wednesday

Texts: Joel 2:1-2, 12-17, Psalm 51, St. Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21


Grace to you and peace from God our Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who calls us to repentance. Amen.

Rarely is the tension of our faith on such stark display as it is today. We sit here, brows smeared with ash, and ponder the words of Christ:

Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them….whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others….

On the face of it, there’s a sharp contrast between our Lord’s teaching and our actions. Continue reading “You Are Dust”