Fourth Sunday in Easter 26 April 2015
(Acts 4:5-12 Psalm 23 1 John 3:16-24 John 10:11-18)
“God’s Not Done Yet!”
There are, I think, certain scripture passages we know very well. We know them so well that it becomes easy for us to sometimes “read past” these texts. We hear them, but we don’t really hear them. We think we know what the text might mean, but we miss what the Holy Spirit could be saying to us.
In a recent blog1, David Lose, president of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, wrote, “….every once in awhile, something completely new jumps out of a familiar passage, and grabs our attention…..” So, what grabbed your attention as I read today’s Gospel?
What grabbed my attention was verse 16. I’ll read it again. Listen to Jesus speaking. He says, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also…” [10:16].
What’s “grabbing” my attention is this: Jesus is basically saying that he isn’t done yet. Despite all his healings, despite his preaching, despite all that Jesus has already done, even his dying and rising, his work isn’t finished. By extension, God’s work isn’t finished yet, either.
To truly believe that God’s work is not yet done, means this: God continues to call people from all walks of life, from every nation, from each and every generation; in our midst and through us and through this congregation God calls us to extend the invitation of abundant life. We do this in so many different ways!
All we know is that Jesus—and therefore God—has not yet submitted his retirement papers in order to retire to Florida and collect social security until the Second Coming.
What most animates my imagination is that Jesus still has work to do; God is still searching our lives, that God is working in ways beyond our imagining to bring us together, to bring Christ’s mercy and grace to all people.
What makes me bold to proclaim these promises is just this: Jesus is the Good Shepherd who lay down his life for the sheep—all the sheep! And was raised to life once again!
Resurrection for me is a verb, an action word, so if God’s work is accomplished by our hands, and if God’s work is not finished, then our work is not finished, either.
So what does that mean for us today? I think we would all agree that one of the best ways to get work done is to get excited about the work we are doing. I could name many different ways that togetherwe are doing God’s work.
I was thinking about our Endowment Fund. A few years ago we wrote new guidelines, basically making our Endowment Fund a Mission Endowment Fund. We wrote that a certain percentage of monies coming into our endowment each year will be given for mission. This past week our Council approved how this money—more than $18,000 will be distributed in the next several months. In the bigger picture, it means we here at SJ will never have an Endowment of millions of dollars, but that’s deliberately because we have made mission and outreach a priority. This is God’s work still being done!
Our Council also voted this past week to accept a Welcome Statement where we clearly say that all people—ALL PEOPLE—are welcome here in this faith community. This is God’s work still being done!
On Easter Sunday, there was an article in the New York Times entitled, “Why Evangelicals Should Love the Pope.”2 The article began by saying that more than 2 billion people celebrated Easter Sunday with hope eternal, but then went on to say living out the hope of the Resurrection has become extremely complicated.
The article talked of Pope Francis’ vision of living the Resurrection. The Pope said, “without mercy we have little chance of truly ministering to the ‘wounded’ persons of our world, those who are most in need of understanding and forgiveness and love.
The article then told of how Francis met with gay, transgendered and H.I.V.-positive prisoners. It spoke of when on Maundy Thursday, he washed the feet of two women and two Muslims in a juvenile detention center, the first time a pope had ever included women and Muslims in the foot-washing rite. God’s work isn’t done yet!
On Friday evening I attended a lecture sponsored by the Shalem Institute given by James Findley, a psychotherapist and spiritual director who spoke about healing trauma in today’s world. During the questions/answer part of Friday evening, he was asked a question, something like this: In today’s world filled with such tragedy and violence, how can we even begin to have the energy and stamina to keep on going in the face of such seemingly insurmountable odds?
As part of his answer to this question, James Findley told this story: I think this took place in Akron, Ohio, one evening when he and his wife were driving through the city. They got to an intersection when the light turned red, and a woman came off the sidewalk to their car window asking for money. When Jim’s wife put down the window to give the woman a dollar, she realized that woman had no hands, that there are only the stumps above her wrists. As she latched onto the dollar bill she said “thank you,” and walked away.
The Findleys looked at each other and realized that there are thousands of people in the world with similar physical wounds, and when the light turned green and the Findleys pulled away, they looked at each other and Jim’s wife said to him, “How do we ever open ourselves to the suffering of the world without being overwhelmed by it?” How do we do God’s work without being totally run over by the intensity and magnitude of the job to be done?
The answer, we don’t! We are overwhelmed. We are besieged. Bad news haunts the headlines seemingly every single day—an earthquake killing thousands, human trafficking; boats of refugees capsizing; working to rid the world of malaria for so many years.
So what do we do? How do we survive? Where do we get the energy and courage and the determination to do God’s work in a wounded and weary world?
We do it by being rooted in the deeper love of God.
You see, there was another verse that grabbed my attention in this Gospel text: verse 11: “I am the Good Shepherd…..I lay down my life for the sheep.” To give our lives for the one who lay down his life for us is to be rooted in the deeper love of God! I believe that is the only way we can truly join God in doing the work that is not yet done!
To trust in the God who sustains us come what may……..to surrender ourselves to the One who surrendered Himself to us….to hopelessly lose ourselves in the face of God…..to trust and truly believe that each one of us in a beloved child of God and to know that is enough…..to know that is enough. Amen.
1 The Text this Week. David Lose, Easter 4B: God is Not Done Yet.” Posted, April 20, 2015.
2The New York Times. April 5, 2015. Why Evangelicals Should Love the Pope. p.4.
Fourth Sunday in Easter 26 April 2015