Acts 2:42-47: Life among the Believers
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
Psalm 23: The Divine Shepherd
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. The LORD makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me beside still waters. You restore my soul, O LORD, and guide me along right pathways for your name’s sake. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil, and my cup is running over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
1Peter 2:19-25: The Example of Christ’s Suffering
For it is a credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly. If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example so that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.
John 10:1-10 Jesus the Good Shepherd
“Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
Sermon: Gates, Doors and Cats
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. When I lived on our farm in Wisconsin and I wanted to do some reading or writing without being interupted; I would go into my bedroom and shut the door. I had to do this otherwise my cat Shadow would be sitting on the paper I would be trying to read or write on; staring at me and demanding my attention! Any other time he ignored me unless I was trying to do something with paper. As most cat people know (and I won’t call you cat owners because we all know who does the owning!) a cat wanting your attention can make anything you try to do that needs concentration difficult.
Well, it didn’t take very long and I heard him jumping on the furniture by the door and try to turn the door knob to open the door. When that didn’t work he started to meow and scratch the door. So I gave up, took my book and went into the livingroom to read. Soon Shadow was on the top of the chair, purring, and satisfied that he got me to move where he wanted me!
Shadow didn’t like doors; he always needed to know what was on the other side. He didn’t like the barrier and if the door was open-he rarely went into the room behind the door. But gates and doors are precisely for this–barriers. They often serve as protection but they can also be obstacles which keep us apart from one another. There are times I would rather give Shadow all the attention he wants. Sometimes I have other matters calling me. Sometimes my door is open to the world. Other times it’s locked out of fear, wisdom, or a need for privacy or a little time alone to recharge. Gates and doors are for this. They stand as boundaries, offer protection, separate inside from outside, and yes, insiders from outsiders.
As many of you did; I grew up in a time when doors marked boundaries, but we weren’t afraid of others crossing them to do us harm. Most of you can probably also remember a time when you didn’t lock your doors. When we finally did; everyone knew where we hid the spare key–just in case we locked ourselves out. I can remember when this all changed for the town I grew up in. A young couple was abducted from a small town close to ours in the late spring and killed. Their bodies were found in the fall by deer hunters after the corn fields had been harvested. The killer wouldn’t be caught for almost 30 years. But the damage was done–our little corner of the world was no longer safe. And ever since, people have closed the gate, locked the doors, and lived in a kind of fear some can remember not feeling before.
Gates and doors are precisely for this. They provide protection and shelter. They are the means for going in and going out.
It is interesting in today’s reading that Jesus, our good shepherd, doesn’t describe himself as the gatekeeper only, but rather as the gate itself. We who are far removed from what it meant to be a shepherd in Jesus’ time might think that something got lost in the translation. It turns out that is not the case. Jesus calls himself the gate, because that was part of what a shepherd was. In sheepfolds where there was no actual physical gate, the shepherd would lie himself down in the opening which allowed entry and exit. In this way the shepherd knew who or what came and went or who or what attempted to come and go and so could serve as protector of the sheep.
In our reading today there is no door that separates Jesus from the sheep since he is the gate, the door itself. While my poor Shadow scratched at the door–none of us needs to beg to be let in–what Grace! Jesus the gate and the gate-keeper opens and closes the way for us. Letting us in. Letting us out. Keeping us safe. And giving us all we need.
During this time of pandemic, of fear, of sheltering in place; how would our perspective change if we saw those doors not just as barriers keeping us in and separating us from others; but that it is Jesus protecting us and giving us all that we have and need? Can we be like the sheep who know they need the shepherd and that is enough? Can it be enough for this difficult time to lie down and rest in the presence of Jesus? As Christians we have not been promised an easy life, but God has promised to be with us throughout it all–the good and the bad. No matter what happens God in Christ is with us–supporting us and loving us. There is nothing we can do or any place where we go that God is not with us! I pray that gives you peace in these difficult times. Amen.
Uplifted by the promised hope of healing and resurrection, we join the people of God in all times and places in praying for the church, the world, and all who are in need.
Shepherding God, we give thanks for all who are continuing the church’s ministry in this time of crisis. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
Creating God, we praise you for those who maintain and operate farm equipment, for those who plant and harvest crops, for local farmers’ markets, and for those involved in agriculture of any kind. Strengthen their hands as they feed the world. Give them strength to get through these trying times in agriculture. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
Guiding God, be with your servants at Red Oak Grove as we travel on paths unknown. Help us as we navigate in these uncertain times giving us wisdom to do your will. We especially lift up to you this week: Peter Aldahl; Kenny Anderson; Connie Benson; Kacey Boyle; Shaina, Matt, Walter, and Emmit Christiansen; Daniel and Carrie Christianson; Zachary, Stacie, Matthew, and Dakota Hoffman; David Lindquist; Dorothy Phipps; and Samuel Weikem. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
Comforting God, you carry us tenderly. We pray for those who walk through dark valleys overshadowed by anxiety and overewhelmed with suffering especially Kim, Audrey, Arlene, Loren, Karen, Harlan, Nathan, Madelon and those we name in our hearts. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
Everlasting God, your beloved have heard your voice, you have called them by name and guided them to your side in death. We thank you for their lives of faithful witness. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
With bold confidence in your love, almighty God, we place all for whom we pray into your eternal care; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Lord, remember us in your kingdom and teach us to pray. Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
Blessing: The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord’s face shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord look upon you with favor + grant you peace. Amen.
Go in peace and serve the Lord. Thanks be to God!