The Good Shepherd
This past Sunday was intense for me. The technical issues with Branson’s sermon (not Branson’s fault), combined with the questions I was getting about what was going on, threw me into a bit of a tizzy. Not knowing what to do about getting the sermon online, combined with my inability to think rationally, led me to head across the parking lot to record an old sermon. A rational me would have simply instructed folks to watch a sermon from another pastor friend. If only rational me was available…
I dug through my limited sermon file and pulled out a message on John 10, where Jesus declared he is the Good Shepherd, and also declared himself to be The Gate. I adjusted some of the content of the sermon quickly, and then started to record it on my phone like I always do. Five minute in, my dad called, and while I didn’t answer the phone, it turned off the recording, and I about lost it.
Thankfully, by about that time I was finally able to post Branson’s sermon, and a little relief set in. I’m not sure what it seems like at home, but I can tell you it is much easier to prepare for and preach a live sermon, than it is to record one to a camera and an empty room.
Don’t worry, I’ve long since recovered from the stress of that morning, but Jesus’ teaching on being the Good Shepherd has stuck with me this week. In fact, the Holy Spirit brought Psalm 23 today as I was thinking again about our Good Shepherd. You’e likely heard it…
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
This Psalm spoke volumes to me today, and maybe it speaks to you as well. Think about that first verse. Some of us feel like we’re lacking because we can’t see people, can’t do the fun things we’d normally be doing, and can’t… well, I don’t need to make a list, you know what you feel you’re lacking. But the Psalm reminds us that with the Lord as our shepherd, we actually lack nothing. See, the Lord, or Jesus, is actually everything we need. In Jesus we find peace, comfort, safety, salvation, joy, and even hope! The Psalm centers us on the reality that Jesus, our Good Shepherd is who our soul really needs.
Not only that, but Psalm 23 tells us that our Shepherd makes us lie down, leads us beside quiet waters, and refreshes/restores our soul. Look, I know there are a number of reasons that the situation we’re in right now isn’t good. But what if, in this great pause we find ourselves in, God wants to do some soul restoring work. We’re generally horrible at Sabbath, which is when our soul should be refreshed and nourished, and now, there is a sense of Sabbath every day. Life isn’t normal, there is way less activity, and perhaps God is leading you and me to rest our tired soul which has been run ragged with weariness from all of life’s demands and burdens. Are you seeking the Good Shepherd and the rest he offers? Have you stopped long enough to see what good God might be bringing into your life right now?
Of course, the Psalm doesn’t end there, and some of you might resonate better with the walking through the darkest valley piece. It feels dark right now, and not just because it’s Michigan, and often overcast. It feels dark because of unemployment, or health, or loneliness, or job decisions, or… Psalm 23 reminds us that even in the dark place, the Shepherd is with us, and he is protecting us. The thing is, our Shepherd is good, and no matter where he leads us, he never leaves us.
When Jesus talks about being the Good Shepherd in John 10, he picks up on this and even says that what makes him THE Good Shepherd is that he lays down his life for his sheep. See, the thing about Jesus, as your shepherd, is that he’s already proven he’s willing to pay any cost imaginable for you. He died for you. But he isn’t gone, he rose from the dead, and he is with you always, even until the end of the world. The Good Shepherd Jesus has sent His Holy Spirit to reside in you to provide comfort, safety, restoration, and hope.
You can trust the Good Shepherd who has laid his life down for you. Will you trust him in the darkest valleys, and by the quiet waters? What does trust look like for you today?
Let me end by encouraging you to spend time with the Good Shepherd today. Open up to the gospel of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John and listen to his words, reflect on his actions, wonder at his miracles, and be encouraged that this Good Shepherd counts you as part of his flock. He loves you.
Remember, with Jesus you lack nothing, even when technology breaks down and for a moment life feels more stressful than it should.
Oh wait… that message is for me.