Sermon from 5/8/2022 by Rev. David Rasmussen
When you hear the word “heaven” what images come to you?
Do images of Multitudes worshipping God forever and ever Amen.
That image comes from today’s 2nd reading from Revelation
but NO “Amen” because worship of God goes on and on for eternity
Maybe the word heaven creates thoughts of a dominant feeling of love
maybe a visual image of streets of gold pearly gates pearly gates is familiar.
Those visual images may come from singing hymns like “When We All Get To Heaven” with the line “Soon the pearly gates will open, We shall tread the streets of gold.”
Rev 21:21 indicates there are 12 gates and each is a single pearl
A Single pearl as a gate is unbelievable.
Your image of heaven may NOT align with scripture because The Book of Revelation is from a vision, a dream, that the writer experienced rather than physical reality because no earthly pearl is big enough to be a gate of any size.
Images and ideas about our Christian faith have been influenced by hymns and words from sources other than scripture. Your image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd has probably be affected by the image on the stain glass window that you see. Bright white clean robe image rather than a dirty messy robe of a Good Shepherd who has been doing hands on caring for dirty sheep. The 10th Chapter of John’s Chapter is where Jesus says he is the Good Shepherd and it is also where we find today’s Gospel text.
It is helpful to understand that Good Shepherd claim by Jesus comes just before today’s text because both texts involve people not believing what is occurring. Realize that we Christians, especially those in congregations named Good Shepherd, have been living with the image of Jesus being the Good Shepherd for a some time. To the people hearing it for the first time from the lips of Jesus, that is a new idea. BUT not only is it NEW but it is a frightening image.
Not just any shepherd but The Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep. Note that the artist of our stain glass window has included a blood red section of Jesus’ robe. Perhaps symbolic of the Good Shepherd laying down His life for the sheep.
That image is more than a shepherd with a dirty robe holding a dirty sheep. It is a bloody red shepherd dying for dirty sheep. An unacceptable image and a course of action so caring that some people would not believe it was possible.
Hence After that hearing image the text indicates in Vs 19 “Again the Jews were divided because of these words.”
Some people believed what Jesus said, but may have been thinking about a very caring shepherd rather than a sacrificial shepherd.
Others were saying Jesus was crazy?
So in today’s text they ask Jesus to plainly tell them if he is the Messiah because they cannot conceive of Jesus as being the Messiah. IT is hard to believe what seems to be beyond believing.
As Jesus said to them in the words:
“...you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep.”
Jesus is not talking about actual sheep, but about a relationship of trust, faith in Jesus that what He says is reliable even if it seems unbelievable.
This NOT blind faith, It is NOT faith in oneself, it is faith, trust in GOD,
For some examples:
Ananias evidently believed the vision and stepped out on faith when he went to give sight to the blinded Saul / Paul
Peter believed to some degree when he actually stepped out on water as Jesus called Peter to step out of the boat and walk on water. AND Jesus had to rescue Peter because Peter began to sink.
Taking the words of Jesus from today’s Gospel (“...you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep.”) and remembering Peter’s walking on water would create an image for us today. NOT for walking on actual water, but for living out our Christian faith.
Peter, the great leader of the ancient Christian Church AT THAT point in time and at other times. was needing to strengthen his relationship with Jesus.
AND so do all of us. We will never be perfect and we will struggle to be better with time, but keep the faith that God still loves you.
Realize that parents, those earthly human beings love their children even when their children feel the anger or the parents great disappointment because the child has made an error. God does better than our earthly parents as God’s love is always waiting for us to realize that it is available to us. God’s love is unbelievable and yet by being with our brothers and sisters in the Christian faith we strengthen our faith and come to realize that belonging to a congregation is part of belonging to God’s flock. Believe in Jesus Christ as the Good Shepherd and believe the unbelievable love that God has for each of us.