Since the live-stream didn’t work this morning, here is the bulletin and my sermon.
One of my favorite things about Facebook, and the internet generally, is how pastors will gather and share materials for sermons. Like this week, Good Shepherd Sunday–someone posted a video of a sheep who is stuck in the ground. (Click here to see the video for yourself!) It looks like someone is in the process of digging to place a pipe or something, because the hole is long and narrow. So there’s a sheep, stuck in this hole, and a man is pulling at the sheep to get it out. It looks uncomfortable, honestly, how hard he’s pulling at the sheep by one of its back legs, but finally it is free. He sets it on the ground, and it does a little jump of excitement before running off. This sheep runs a bit along the hole, then decides to jump over this same hole it was just stuck in. It jumps… and lands itself perfectly back in the hole again.
That video feels perfect for Good Shepherd Sunday, because I, at least, do exactly that. So often I find myself going, “Weren’t we just talking about this, God? Didn’t you just dig me out of this exact same situation? Because… er, I need you to dig me out again, please!” And I can’t help but laugh: at the sheep in the video (can you call a sheep ‘earnest’?), at myself. I don’t learn. There is something funny and honest about admitting, “Yep, I didn’t learn from how badly this went the last twenty times I’ve done this. So I tried it again!” Like sitting outside without sunscreen and getting burned (like, I lived in Arizona. I really should know better!). Like putting off doing the dishes, and then realizing I have no clean spoons. Again. (I guess I keep hoping they’ll clean themselves?)
Of course not all examples are so innocuous. Sometimes what we’re getting stuck in again and again is something destructive: anger, addiction, numbing. These can be the sorts of repeated behaviors that ruin relationships, hurt the people around us, and allow injustice to flourish.
But Jesus is our Good Shepherd. In Greek the word for good implies more than just doing a job well–it also means to be true and genuine. Jesus is a true shepherd, a genuine shepherd–meaning that He will rescue us over and over again. Even when we’ve wedged ourselves in the exact same narrow place for the 1,027th time, Jesus will rescue us, because Jesus is a good, genuine shepherd–Jesus cares for us, His sheep, and wants us to live in green pastures and by still waters, not wedged into a narrow place.
And, to be clear: Jesus’ rescues do not mean that we live lives without consequences or without sorrow. Often, we have to live with–and hopefully learn from–consequences. Jesus rescuing me from not having done the dishes doesn’t mean that my dishes are miraculously clean, it means that I’m able to cheerfully do the dishes. And when we are stuck in sorrow, or despair, or doubts, Jesus may not lift us free of them immediately. But know that Jesus is there, guiding you through the next narrow place, and the next, sending you down the next right path, calling you back if you wander down a dead end, pulling you free if you get stuck. For Jesus is our Good Shepherd.
Alleluia, and Amen.