“The Lord is my shepherd!” named in a song, guaranteed in the Gospel words of Jesus, and envisioned by John who was privileged to preview the ultimate celebration; each in their own way announces there is a shepherding God who could be called: “our security system” that’s free and easily activated, but requires staying connected.
Almost weekly an unsolicited email ad appears citing all that threatens us in our homes: a break in, a fire, a gas leak, and promises to send an alert to the police and firefighters who will respond almost immediately, if we buy their system that will then protect our home and our possessions.
But what about our lives? What about our minds and bodies and souls?
Last week’s news broadcast the decision of some companies
to end the practice of a seven-day work week and a 24/7 on call
contact with employees, because research has found the quality of work and the health of the worker increases when the schedule changes to a six-day or less work week.
When we humans are robbed of sleep and quietness,
are poisoned with the demands to work until we drop,
and consumed by the fire of a frantic pace we set for ourselves at work or a play,
then a built-in security system goes off, triggered by health problems, exhaustion that shows as depression or anger, broken relationships and maybe even the loss of a job.
“Our security system” alerting us to God’s rules called the “Ten Commandments,” with one being: “Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy,” which the ancient Hebrews understood to be a health rule more than a religious edict,
meant to give humans time to renew body, mind, and soul.
God’s built-in security system sounds the alert to our sheep-like need to “lie down in green pastures” and be refreshed “by still waters,” or as Jesus, the Good Shepherd, modeled – to take a break from busyness and be renewed in the quietness of a prayer-conversation with God. What we sheep-like people require and a shepherding God provides; call it “our security system” and it’s free! and easily installed.
Recently we had a security system installed in our home with the signal sent to the company’s headquarters in the mid-West. We learned how sensitive the system is when browning a roast on the top of the stove; a little smoke set off the signal that had the company calling us and the fire siren sounding the alarm.
We pleaded with them to cancel the call which they wouldn’t do until we gave our pin number. In a panic, we answered, “We don’t know what it is!”
After a short blast the siren stopped, the fire chief and policeman who appeared at our door chuckled,
and we wrote down our pin number.
I thought of that nerve-racking and embarrassing experience, as I read today’s Gospel word of Jesus:
“My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.” Jesus is the “pin number;” to follow Him is to activate His presence, especially in times when we desperately need His promised response:
“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish.
No one will snatch them out of my hand.”
How and where do we pick up that pin number today? The Rev. Elizabeth Mitchell Clement who has worked to recruit young people to the ministry, says they and the rest of us pick it up “in the church,…in the very midst of the people, in symbols and sacraments of the faith and in the practiced patterns and rituals of their church family.”
She calls the church “the Good Shepherd's flock” where each person picks up the pin number that connects us to Jesus, Who is God’s easily activated in-the-flesh “security system.”
But it is a system that requires staying connected. For years we simply posted a security system’s sticker on our back door to give the impression that we had one, but we didn’t; we weren’t connected!
Now I realize we how we may give the appearance of being connected to the shepherding God we meet in Jesus when we are seen wearing a cross on a pendant or a lapel pin or a tattoo, but we really aren’t if we keep on living a life that’s turned in on self and away from God and others. A life described in the words of the Canadian singer and songwriter, Shania Twain: (adapted)
“We live in a greedy little world – that teaches every boy and girl to earn as much as they can –
then turn around and spend it foolishly…Our religion is to go and blow it all –
So it’s shoppin’ every Sunday at the mall. We spend money we don’t possess;
(yet) All we ever want is more A lot more than we had before. So take me to the nearest store.”
But when we let Jesus pull us into His embrace, and dare to believe there is no better life than being a sheep of His fold, we discover our choice is not the mark of dumbness but the wisdom of sheep who “follow their shepherd wherever he leads them”…and learn “to know him and trust him.” (Adapted from Rev. Dr. John Pavelko’s “The Voice That Calls Us to Follow”)
After committing to that trust, Elizabeth Mitchell Clement said her mind has been filled with the lines from Isaac Watt’s hymn,
The sure provisions of my God Attend me all my days;
O may Thy house be my abode, And all my work be praise.
There would I find a settled rest, While others go and come;
No more a stranger, nor a guest, But like a child at home.
The sheep-like faith that connects us to Christ and to one another has us picking up the strains of a distant hymn echoing through the vision seen by John of a day when a human flock beyond counting, people of every nation, who will be gathered:
before the throne of God,
and worship him day and night within his temple,
and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.
They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;
the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat;
for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of the water of life,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
Our incentive to stay connected, because it is for an eternity.
The earliest pictures of Christ showed a shepherd carrying a young lamb on his shoulders;
some were mosaics above the Baptismal pool in the church, others drawings in burial sites in the catacombs under Rome. They, though faded, are the seal of guarantee on God’s security system: in life and in death, now and in the future “The shepherding God seen in the good Shepherd, Jesus, is “our security system.”
The only one that works, forever! Amen.