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.
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.
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”→
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….