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We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who know and love the Good Shepherd said … AMEN!
In a scene from a Mel Brooks movie, Blazing Saddles, Mel Brooks plays a rather adle-brained governor. He is asked to sign a bill and he says “We must protect our phoney-baloney jobs gentlemen and he starts to harrumph and the rest of his entourage harrumphs with him. “Hey that guy over there didn’t harrumph” he says.
Reminds me of the scene we have here. It might be a little harsh to label them as phoney-baloneys, but the scene that comes to my mind is the Sadducees and temple guards coming up on Peter and harrumphing. “Harrumph, Harrumph, what are you guys doing here? Wait a minute that guard over there didn’t harrumph. Didn’t we tell you guys to get out of Dodge? At least put a lid on this Jesus stuff and now here you are preaching this stuff right on the temple.” I can hear at least one guard saying: “I was all nice and comfortable, having a cup of coffee and a bear claw, checking my smart phone and now I have to jump up and deal with these guys?” No one was going to cut the disciples any slack.
Remember these guys, the disciples? These are the guys who couldn’t run away fast enough when the guards showed up to arrest Jesus. Big, tough Peter and he denies even knowing Jesus to a little Jewish maid. Up until now they’ve been hiding behind locked doors and closed windows scared to death that the temple guards or Roman soldiers are going to drag them away to be crucified. I’m not minimizing their fear, they had legitimate fears, there really wasn’t anything like due process in Israel at the time. Sure Pilate did try to defend Jesus. But it wasn’t like Jesus, or now the disciples, had some smart lawyers to keep them from being punished. Jesus became a serious liability to Pilate and Pilate had no compunction of washing his hands of the situation and sending Jesus to be crucified. The same could have been easily done to the disciples. There wouldn’t have been any newspaper articles condemning this, the television stations wouldn’t have had film of marches to protest this. The disciples would be flogged and it easily could have been worse.
So what was the difference here? How did these men go from quivering with fear in dark to tigers, standing out in the most public spot they could have been at in Jerusalem? Of course we’re talking about, what was probably the Day after Pentecost they are now indwelt by the Holy Spirit. No doubt Peter and the disciples wreaked some havoc the day before, and now they’ve added 2,000 more people to the crowd they had yesterday. Ya this stuff had to stop, harrumph, harrumph!
Today is Good Shepherd Sunday. This has again taken on sort of a frilly connation, but it is intended to be a very serious, very life or death meaning. You can trust Jesus and the fact that He is the faithful Shepherd that lays down His life for His flock, and continues to stand on guard in a very spiritually dangerous world. We had a great talk about this at the Men’s Retreat. We who live in this part of the country, 21st century Americans have pretty much been lulled into very comfortable, affluent lives. Okay, so what do we have to be protected from? From our complacency, from our attitude that we’ve got it all in a brown paper bag and there’s nothing that threatens us! As you’ve probably heard me say, Satan doesn’t care how he gets your attention, so long as it’s not Jesus. If he can just lull the world into this frilly la, la world, a world where we have everything, so we don’t need Jesus then he’s happy to see us lost. Apparently the last episode of Grey’s Anatomy was very traumatic to fans. One of the threads was this great romance and the wife was put in the position where she had to watch as they had to stop treating her husband. She’s sitting next to her unconscious, dying husband telling him it’s ok, everything will be alright. How the world comes to that conclusion baffles me, how will it be alright? Death is terrible trauma, a horrible rending of life, something we were never meant to endure until sin came into the world. There is nothing alright with death and for those who are not saved in Christ, who have rejected God’s plan and lived how they want to, it means eternal condemnation!
What do we have to be protected from, what does the Good Shepherd save us from? Being lulled into death with a false assurance that it’s ok, it’s not! From the spiritual warfare that goes on around us that continues to look for ways to turn us from Jesus to anything and everything, including eternal damnation.
Jesus gives us His assurance, His promise, His genuine love “I am the Good Shepherd and I lay down my life for the flock.” His love is not only to comfort and assure, but to protect, to stand against the evil all around us that can overcome and swallow us up, while we think we are safe and sound in things that we are blessed with, but rust and are destroyed, in the end don’t do anything for us, while Jesus is eternal and all-powerful. We are always so ready to trade the eternal for the trivial.
That’s what we see in our Acts reading today. There are those in the Jewish leadership who understand who Jesus is, they know, they’ve seen all the signs of the Messiah. But like Mel Brooks, harrumph, harrumph, I’m big and important and this is what is real today and I will deal with it when it’s convenient for me. Remember Jesus’s parable of the Rich Man? Where am I going to store all my crops and God comes to him and says: “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ All of our wealth and easy living won’t mean a thing. We can either be Pentecost tigers and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit who guides us, and, like Peter, get up before those who just want to harrumph, or we can be nice and complacent. CS Lewis writes in the Screwtape Letters: “Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts,….” We can harrumph all we want and feel it isn’t fair, or it should be up to us but that option wasn’t available to the disciples at Pentecost and it’s not to those who claim to be Jesus’s disciples today. Blow the dust off those journals, ask yourself and write about whether you are of the flock that Jesus shepherds or do you just harrumph your way through life?
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom