Why Not Shepherds?

screenshot-2016-12-11-at-7-49-28-amToday is the third Sunday of Advent. Many of us will light the shepherds candle and sing Joy to the World. We’ll read Luke 2:8-20 and talk about how joy was for all people, even lowly shepherds. That first Christmas night was celebrated by a carpenter, an unwed mother, and a few dirty, smelly shepherds from a nearby field. There is certainly a message of hope in the clear demonstration that Christ had come for all…

But why not shepherds? Continue reading

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Good Shepherd; Lamb of God

jesus_shepherdIs Jesus the sheep or the shepherd?

Just about every animal has some unique feature that allows it to defend itself from predators. Some have incredible speed, such as deer, while others have sharp claws, powerful muscles or rows of gleaming teeth. Some animals camouflage themselves into the background while the purpose of some camouflage, like that of zebra, make it difficult to distinguish individuals from the group. Even the slow, ungraceful skunk has a very potent defense mechanism. Just about every animal has something, it seems, except sheep. It’s almost as if God intended them to be food for other animals. Sheep are very nearsighted and have to be led to food and water. They cannot drink fast moving water and can actually drown trying. They have to be led to food, led to shelter, and protected from every type of danger. The Bible uses sheep of all things to represent people. Continue reading

Thoughts on Holy Week: Good Friday

good friday

If this is the day Jesus died, why is today good?

In the sense it is used good means holy when we say Good Friday. It is also called Great Friday, Holy Friday and Easter Friday in other traditions around the world. This is the day we commemorate Jesus as the atoning sacrifice. Holy Week is a time of preparation and consecration that seeks to take things one step at a time. Don’t jump ahead to the celebration; today is about the sacrifice of the Lamb of God. Today we observe the crucified savior. If you’ve been reading the Gospel accounts all week, save that last chapter for Sunday. Continue reading

Why We Have Memorials

american-flag-2aToday is Memorial Day in the United States. (Since many of us have a three day weekend, look for Happy Monday on Tuesday this week.) While I’m not suggesting Memorial Day is a religious holiday, there is definitely a biblical basis for memorial. Continue reading

Prophetic Words: An Easter Sermon

Genesis 22 tells the story of the sacrifice of Issac.  Well, Isaac wasn’t really sacrificed but it was a close call.  The point of the story is that Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son, thus passing his test of faith.  As they were going up the mountain, Isaac notices they have wood and fire and actually asks his dad about not having a lamb.  Abraham says “God will provide himself the lamb.”  (Gen 22:8)  After he was stopped – at the last possible moment – from sacrificing his son, he saw a ram caught by the horns in a thicket.  That lamb was slain as an offering of thanksgiving.  But did Abraham really know?  He reasoned that Isaac’s birth had itself been a miracle, and if God chose he could restore Isaac to life.  Now think about Jesus on the cross, the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.  Recall Abraham’s words: God will provide himself the lamb.  Truer words were never spoken. Continue reading

The Last Supper

The banner at the top of this page is da Vinci’s portrait of the Last Supper.  Renaissance Christians knew that Jesus and his disciples were not white with brown hair and blue eyes.  They would not have been sitting in chairs at a table either.  Despite the cultural “anomalies” the most important things are still visible; Jesus broke bread and passed the cup.  That, after all, was the point.

This is Holy Week, the final days leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus.  On Easter Sunday we celebrate the resurrection, but these days between Palm Sunday and Good Friday are about remembering the last precious days that Jesus had with his closest followers.  This would be the last time they celebrated Passover together, and Jesus still had a lessor or two he wanted to share.  During the course of the meal, he gets up from the table and removed his outer robe.  He then ties a towel around his waist, kneels on the floor, and begins washing the disciples feet.  We know what happens to our own feet during the summer months, going about in sandals or flops.  Imagine wearing sandals everyday and walking everywhere you went.  He then asks if they understand why.  Jews did not wash feet; feet are unclean, both literally and religiously to the Jews.  He was their Master and Lord (and maker of heaven and earth) but he was humble like a servant.  If he then, he explains, is willing to wash their feet they should each be doing the same.  It is not a literal command to wash feet, but a lesson about humility and service to others.

Jesus broke bread to remind his followers that his body was broken.  The fruit of the vine in the cup reminds us that his blood was poured out.  He said that without taking part in his body and blood we had no part in him.  But if we receive the one he sends – the Holy Spirit – then we receive him.   And if we receive him, we receive the one who sent him – God the Father.  The Hebrews had been celebrating Passover since they were brought out of Egypt.  When the death angel saw the blood of the sacrifice it “passed over” that home, sparing the first born.  Jesus takes the elements of that meal, and gives them new meaning for his followers.  He is the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.  When God sees the blood of Jesus on our hearts, his judgement will pass over.

An Easter Sermon

But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.   -Isaiah 53:5-7

“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—  this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.  God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.    -Acts 2:22-24

In John 10, Jesus describes himself as the Good Shepherd; and we are very much in need of a shepherd.  He is also described as the Lamb of God, the perfect sacrificial lamb that takes away the sin of the world.  When we need a shepherd, he is our shepherd.  But when we need a sacrifice… Jesus is that for us too. 

Easter is the celebration of Jesus Christ’s resurrection.  He is the Lamb that was slain, but he is so much more.  In short, he is an all sufficient savior. 

Listen to the sermon Jesus, Sheep or Shepherd