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Sunday Message for 25 April 2021: “Soulful Sheep”

Today’s passage focuses on Jesus the good shepherd (John 10:11-18). The imagery is iconic, with our Lord described as the guardian shepherd watching over his flock of followers.

Jesus repeatedly uses the metaphor of shepherds and sheep to emphasize the way in which he cares for his human, spiritual children, who are also prone to straying. Jesus is not just any casual shepherd because he is the one who gave his life for his sheep.

If Jesus is like a shepherd then what about us? If Jesus’ followers are like a flock then this means that Jesus the shepherd will protect and nurture us. Jesus’ commitment is such that he helps believers gain connection to God, who is the eternal essence of love. The shepherd loves his sheep even as we, in turn, love God and one another.

Do you feel sheepish about your faith? Sheepishness is a type of debilitating timidity. The big question is if you are reluctant or even petrified with fear. Does some reluctance impede you such that you don’t feel God’s presence? Jesus can go to great lengths to comfort his often weak and vulnerable followers. When life seems overwhelming or you are scared about something then you can look to God for help.

There’s nothing wrong to admit how challenging it is to feel God’s presence. Statistics indicate that Americans are the busiest people on the planet, a status that can drain internal resources such that there’s little leftover for a personal relationship with God. With life’s hectic nature you may not  recognize the marvelous ways in which God looks after you.

Often, peoples’ attention is bound in distractions that tempt them to stray as if they are wayward sheep. Humans’ free-ranging nature leads many people into spiritual peril and distant from the God who offers them care. The liberating promise is that God is always there ready to embrace those willing to be guided by the Almighty good shepherd.

God has not abandoned you. You are still being watched over and you share the same essence—spirit—of which God is made. You are a spiritual being just as God is. Through the enlivening presence of the Holy Spirit you are sealed with God’s comfort and care. You are forgiven and redeemed as you seek to receive and share countless of God’s blessings.

Let us place ourselves more fully into God’s care. Even when we have friends and family, there are times when no amount of earthly help will suffice. Jesus as the good shepherd will apply resurrection power in safeguarding your spiritual health.

God also enlists us to help other people. We can find other sheep who, like us, were once lost and alienated from God. As you help gather others into God’s kingdom you can experience a joyful life not otherwise possible. Our wonderful responsibility and privilege is to reach out to souls in peril, those who have not yet responded to God’s call.

Often, people most at risk don’t realize the dangers they face until a catastrophe takes away their façade of normalcy. Before, during and even after a disaster we can be there to help lead our neighbors to God. Through outreach we can share the gospel and assist those who may have strayed from God the good shepherd.

–Reverend Larry Hoxey

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