Rev. Rosemary Webb
12th May 2019
Follow Jesus

When I hear this Gospel reading I always think it is a passage which shows we humans are often not as clever as we think we are. I say that because how often do we hear people call sheep, if not actually stupid, not the brightest of animals, the reason given being that they need to follow the shepherd, learn to hear his voice, learn they can’t do it on their own. Sheep know they have to have a leader and that they have to follow this leader.

Are we any different – don’t we need a leader someone we can trust, someone who cares for us and guides us at all times? Don’t we need to learn to hear his voice and do as he says? And I am not talking about politicians, world leaders, or even football managers after all the excitement of last week! I am talking about the fact that we need someone to guide us, someone who truly knows us. I speak as a parent and grandparent and however loving we are we have our own prejudices (even if we do not like to admit it)!

When driving down a country lane at this time of year I love watching sheep with their lambs in the fields and the other week I spent some time watching a mother sheep struggling to follow her lamb who was insistent on getting as close to the wire netting as possible, the sheep was bigger and found it harder but she never stopped following her child. And she seemed to have an unending amount of patience. Throughout the Bible God has used sheep as an example of how we should respond, to show us how much patience we need.

God, our creator, who loves us with a love beyond earthly understanding, sent Jesus to be our shepherd, he knew that since the beginning of time, no matter how many prophets he sent to guide us, his children, we could not tell the difference between God’s message for us and the message Satan wanted us to hear. He thought that if he sent his son we would listen and take notice of his word.

But today. As then, so often people begin to follow Jesus and after a time it doesn’t seem so necessary, so interesting anymore., Life seems difficult and there are so many other people telling us what we should do, so many other things we could be doing. Just look at what else happens now on a Sunday morning, and I really do know what a hard-balancing act it can be between playing sport for a school team and coming to church. It used to be so much easier. But for each of us to be able to move forward we have to learn to distinguish God’s voice from all the other voices we hear in our daily lives; voices which offer us false hope, false promises of happiness, wealth, success, all the things we wrongly believe lead to true joy.

God is such a loving God that he gave us freedom of choice, it is our decision if we stay with him; or wander away and follow the false promises Satan can offer. But if we choose to follow Satan, we will lose the security of the eternal kingdom.

The Jews asked Jesus if He was the Messiah because they didn’t think he was who they expected, they did not think he was not the same as the Messiah promised by the Old Testament, they had created in their minds a Messiah who would grant all their wishes, who would save them and them alone. They were looking for a Messiah who would use military power to free them from Roman rule. They couldn’t understand that God would love anyone who was not an Israeli.

Jesus, however, wasn’t going to arrive wearing a coat of armour surrounded by warriors, Jesus was the spiritual Messiah or shepherd promised by the Scriptures. His words and deeds were a powerful, a consistent witness to God’s love for his chosen people. And, he sincerely wanted Israel to submit, listen to his words and learn to love one another.

I don’t think that the people of Israel, the ordinary people, ever meant to stray away from the word of God, and I think we have to preach love and peace, not in the way some world leaders who say they are Christian and then call for other of God’s children to be made to suffer, to be banned, practically be made to starve to death, because they don’t like them. Remember Jesus said it is easy to love those whom we love, but we must always do the other thing as well and that is love those who are our enemies. For whoever someone is they are a child of God, he created the and loves them.

Part of the problem is that we often hear what we want to hear, in other words, we have a case of ‘selective hearing’. Far too much of our own listening is centred on the world and not on Jesus. Far too often we allow the media to guide our thoughts not God.

Christ came to those of us who were lost sheep. He has spoken to us through the power of His words and deeds. His miracles point out his divine nature and we find it hard to fully understand that since the beginning of time only God speaks the truth, only God can save us from ourselves. Only God knows all that has happened, how so many good intentions seem to get swept aside totally unintentionally. Whenever we marvel at new scientific discoveries in the realm of space let us never forget that God has always known about it, he created it.

In the passage from Acts we learn about Tabitha’s ministry, her ministry in Lydda was renowned for her mercy and kindness to all. It showed true compassion – a compassion which is desperately needed in our world today. The people were devastated when she became ill and died, they washed her and laid her in an upper room. But the people loved Tabitha and they had great faith so on hearing that Peter was in nearby Joppa they sent messengers pleading with him to come quickly. He went to the upper room and knelt down and prayed just as Jesus would have done, Tabitha arose and the people rejoiced. Tabitha was a woman of great faith and her faith healed her.

I did collective worship last Thursday with year 2 and after they had shown the school what compassion is. I said to them.; I thought compassion, was going to be difficult but you have shown it may be a long word but showing what true compassion is, is easy. It is being kind, caring, loving – being all the things you would like people to be to you.

We can all be like Tabitha, and we don’t have to be an adult, have a degree, all we need is to be caring, to listen to all that Jesus taught us and become one of his disciples. Yes, we can all minister to each other you don’t need to attend some course, of course if you wish to that is great, but we can all reach out in love show God’s love.

Each one of us can find our way of doing good and helping the poor. Sometimes just a smile will help someone, we can stop and talk for a minute, we can volunteer and most of all we can pray. And you can ask the church to pray for someone at morning prayer, just add the name on the board outside the Lady Chapel. Never forget, this is God’s house, this is a house of prayer.

He has opened our eyes and ears just like he opened the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf. Our status as God’s sheep comes from outside ourselves, not from within. It comes from our faith in Christ.

Christ has bought salvation for us through his death on the Cross and his glorious resurrection. The only person who can take that away from us is ourselves, we can lose it through denial but no one can take it from us. People may be able to take earthly life from someone but there is no one who can take away the promise of eternal life. God is the Almighty there is no earthly power stronger than him all who turn to him, love him with all their hearts will have eternal life.

For some reason when I switched the TV on last week they were talking about Judy Garland, someone held up as an icon of success, but whose life sadly ended in tragedy. One of a number of lives where talent, wealth, fame only brought pain and suffering. I think ‘somewhere over the rainbow’ is a lovely song, but the only way we can reach the rainbow is by taking hold of God’s hand and loving him, letting him guide us.

John 10: 22-30
Acts 9: 16 – end