The Good Shepherd that Brings Unity

SERMON #THIRTEEN JULY 2018

Readings: Jeremiah 23: 1 – 6, Ephesians 2: 11 – 22 and Mark 6: 30 – 34, 53 – 56.

Theme: The Good Shepherd who brings unity

“O God, thank you for the gift of Jesus so that we may be reconciled to you and one another.  Help us as we seek to follow him in ways that will bring this to fruition in our lives so that others too may believe in him. Amen”

As people we often have to have a safe space we can go to get away from what can upset us or to help us to be and feel OK. What or where is your safe space? The church is a safe space for reconciliation to happen: Reconciliation between God and people and between people. When we want reconciliation with God and/or with people we can go to the church. This is so because Jesus is the foundation of the church and because of that we speak a particular language making reconciliation possible.  Reconciliation is to bring together that which previously seemed impossible. In Jesus we speak about grace and mercy and forgiveness and love which can help us with reconciliation. In the church we thus are helped with dealing with our past so that reconciliation becomes a possibility. All reconciliation involves a sense of loss – letting go of the past whether it be some aspect of one’s way of life up to now, or a part of one’s tradition, or one’s pain or hurt. It can be one or more of many things depending on one’s own life story or the group one belongs to. The church is a safe place to let go of one’s past or that which stands in the way of reconciliation.

However, although because Jesus is the foundation of the church and therefore the church is the safe place for reconciliation to happen we also know from experience that very often for many people the church is not as safe as we make it out to be. We don’t always know why this is so. Maybe because Jesus has been exchanged for another to be the foundation or maybe it is that we simply struggle to let go of the past or maybe it is because our big enemy is self – centred-ness. Whatever it is the reality is that for many people the church is not as safe as it should be – instead of speaking Jesus language of forgiveness and mercy and grace and love we speak of condemnation and un-forgiveness and coldness in people’s hearts. So, in the church we live with this tension: On the one hand because of Jesus the church is a safe place for reconciliation to happen and on the other hand it is not always experienced as such.

It is in this tension that we can only hold onto Jesus as the Good Shepherd. The good shepherd must journey with his sheep to where there is food. This however is often dangerous and risky. Reconciliation is also like that – we don’t always know what the outcome will be. But in this task we can look to what Jesus offers us at the end of it – when reconciliation is or has taken place there is something good for us: Jesus speaks about life in its fullness. It does not set us free from having to undertake the journey of reconciliation filled with danger and risk but as the Good Shepherd we know that Jesus will bring us to places of pasture and thus life at the end of it. With Jesus we are safe to go for reconciliation – and as his body the church, focussing on him as the Good Shepherd, and the good he brings to our lives because we have undertaken the journey of reconciliation the church may just be the safe place to make reconciliation happen even when the church goes through all the difficulties of reconciliation.  Let us focus always on the new that is possible in a life lived in following Jesus – the greener pastures waiting for us where we may know the joy of having received and given forgiveness and mercy and grace and love and justice and so much more – so that we may let go of what has become destructive in the past.

“Gracious Jesus, help us to follow you more closely so that we may grow in our love for you and each other. Help us to have the courage to follow Jesus the Good Shepherd so that we may not be afraid to do what you require of us, namely, to know God and know each other. Help us to trust in Jesus to take us through our difficulties with reconciliation and gives us something much better in the end. We pray this in Jesus’s name. Amen”       

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