Scripture/Sermon of the Day. April 25, 2021

Acts 4:5-12

5 The next day the leaders, elders, and legal experts gathered in Jerusalem, 6 along with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, Alexander, and others from the high priest’s family. 7 They had Peter and John brought before them and asked, “By what power or in what name did you do this?”
8 Then Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, answered, “Leaders of the people and elders, 9 are we being examined today because something good was done for a sick person, a good deed that healed him? 10 If so, then you and all the people of Israel need to know that this man stands healthy before you because of the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead. 11 This Jesus is the stone you builders rejected; he has become the cornerstone! 12 Salvation can be found in no one else. Throughout the whole world, no other name has been given among humans through which we must be saved.”

John:10:11-16

I am the good shepherd
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 When the hired hand sees the wolf coming, he leaves the sheep and runs away. That’s because he isn’t the shepherd; the sheep aren’t really his. So the wolf attacks the sheep and scatters them. 13 He’s only a hired hand and the sheep don’t matter to him.
14 “I am the good shepherd. I know my own sheep and they know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. I give up my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that don’t belong to this sheep pen. I must lead them too. They will listen to my voice and there will be one flock, with one shepherd.

Reflection/Sermon:

I. Some of the greatest leaders in the Bible were shepherds: Abraham, Moses, David, and of course Jesus who, in the Gospel of John referred to himself as “the good Shepherd.”
When I was young, my mother attached a picture —a 3x5 print laminated on a piece of wood— on the center of the headboard of my bed. It’s a famous print from 1917 and the artist is unknown. It is of Jesus cradling a baby lamb close to his chest with one hand, and with his other hand he holds a shepherd’s staff, and he’s walking, leading a flock of sheep. The sun is behind his head and is positioned so that it looks like a halo. Jesus is barefoot, walking on a dirt path with stones on either side.

II. Maybe the most valuable religious education my mother gave me was nailing this photograph-size image of Jesus on my bed — because all these years later, it’s still the picture of Jesus that still teaches me. It shows God as a compassionate and loving refuge.
We all carry a picture of God with us. And we need to keep comparing that image-of-God we carry with the God revealed in Jesus. BECAUSE THERE ARE MANY GODS IN THE BIBLE. YOU CAN FIND JUST ABOUT ANY KIND OF GOD YOU WANT TO IN THE BIBLE.
1) There’s the angry one in the Book of Job who thunders out of the whirlwind and verbally smacks poor Job senseless, till he can’t talk.
2) There’s the God who commands Abraham to kill his son Isaac.
3) There’s the compassionate God who encounters Moses at the burning bush who wants to rescue the Israelites from their slavery.
4) And the Conan-the-Barbarian-God who destroys Pharaoh and his army and kills the millions of fish in the Nile River and all the firstborn Egyptian infants and livestock.
5) Or there’s the gentle-nurturing-mother-God who met Elijah at the opening of the cave with a quiet voice.
THERE ARE SO MANY EXPRESSIONS OF GOD IN THE BIBLE, no wonder everyone from the Ku Klux Klan to the Trappist Monks can claim that their God is in the Bible — it is!!!

III. Which is why, to clear the confusion, God came to us as Jesus. There is a clear picture that emerges as we read the gospels. God is one who forgives, again and again. There is nothing we can do that God will not forgive. Even when Cain killed his brother Abel, God forgave him and put a mark on him to protect him. Jesus forgave everyone, even his executioners.
In Jesus we know that God heals us, body and soul. He sustains us every day with the bread of life and living water that never run out. And especially, through his parables, and stories, and example, Jesus taught us to love one another, as he loved — EVERYONE.

IV. In the first reading Peter was arrested for proclaiming that in Jesus there is resurrection from the dead. To show people what he meant, he took a man’s hand who was lame from birth and said, “In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, stand up and walk.” The man stood up and began to walk, and then started jumping and praising God. The authorities told Peter to stop. Peter said, “Stop what? Stop doing good? Stop bringing healing to people? Stop showing people how much God loves them? I can’t stop it!”
And neither can we — because Jesus, the Good Shepherd, was raised from the dead and lives in each of us — restoring our souls and leading us in paths of righteousness.