this week’s Homily is offered by our youth leaders, Sam Leitermann and Chelsea Swan.
Sam: When I began to think about giving a sermon this week, I immediately jumped to one of the things Chelsea and I have most in common, music. Chelsea and I are both musicians, though I am definitely the less talented of the duo, and so we set out to find music we thought would communicate the message we found in this weeks scripture. We looked at the top 100 lists from the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, 2000’s, and 2010’s, and we’d like to share them with you:
• 2010’s – Cups Song (http://youtu.be/rmO8P-p9J_Y)
• 2000’s – Calling all Angels (http://youtu.be/TaG9SDxwPBg)
• 1990’s – Wonderwall (http://youtu.be/6hzrDeceEKc)
• 1980’s – Don’t Stop Believin’ (http://youtu.be/VcjzHMhBtf0)
• 1970 ‘s – Lean on Me (http://youtu.be/KEXQkrllGbA)
While we tried to get a little variety for everyone, you may be thinking, quite understandably, what popular music has to do with Good Shepherd Sunday. I can only promise that you’ll understand by the end of our sermon today.
When I first read this week’s scriptures, I immediately began thinking about the theme of connection. In this week’s Gospel Jesus is yet again explaining a parable that the apostles have misunderstood, and he says, “The sheep hear my voice. I know them and they follow me.” He is trying to explain a fundamental Christian Truth, one he states later in the Gospel of John, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” Whether we realize it or not, we spend our lives looking for connection with God, actively seeking a relationship with Him. And Jesus has shown us what his relationship to us as the Good Shepherd means, when he says “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep…”
But we need not search for this connection alone, as Jesus shows us on the first day of his resurrection. One of the marks of the Good Shepherd that we are shown in this Gospel is that his sheep know his voice. On the first day of Resurrection Mary is in the garden, and is distraught because her Lord is missing. She turns to a man she believes is a gardener and begs him to return her Lord to her. And Jesus needs only to speak her name – Mary – for her to instantly recognize Him. Without even understanding what has happened, she instantly gives herself to His love, and then follows his commission to tell the apostles, declaring, “I have seen the Lord!”
In the same day, there are two disciples who are on the road to Emmaus from Jerusalem. Jesus joins them but again is not recognized. He sees their sadness and dejection and asks them “why?” They respond with confusion, amazed that anyone in Jerusalem could not know what had happened to Jesus. Through Jesus’ prompting, they tell him about Jesus of Nazareth, “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people.” They tell him how the priests delivered Jesus to death, and how they now could not find his body.
Jesus finally says to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” and explains to them all that was said in the scriptures concerning him. They beg Jesus to stay with them, and as they break bread in him in their home, the final recognize Jesus as he vanishes from them. They then hurry to the gathering of disciples, just as Mary Magdalene did when she saw the Lord. Jesus had gathered his disciples to a gathering of light, with the 11 disciples.
In these stories the disciples were downtrodden and sore of heart, unable to fathom how they would connect with their Lord now that he had been “given up to suffering and death”, and through these stories, we see Jesus’ love as a Shepherd, gathering his sheep, connecting to them, and guiding them if they can but hear his voice. Jesus spoke to those disciples to tell them what he tells all of us, that as the Good Shepherd he gave his life for the life of the world, and that in that sacrifice he opened the door between God and man permanently, enabling us to hear his voice if we would but listen.
Chelsea: When I read the scripture, I thought of a different theme entirely. I thought of the gifts God has given us as the Good Shepherd, and our responsibility to him to use these gifts. When I thought of the guidance of the Lord, who gives me the power to “fear no evil” and who comforts me, I thought of the times that I most needed that comfort.
When I left to go to college, I had originally planned to be a music educator. I lacked confidence in my voice and my talents, and while I harbored dreams of being a performer, I thought they were impossible. I lacked the confidence to pursue my goals, and make the most of the gifts God had given me. I think back to my first lesson, and the encouragement my teacher gave me to pursue performing and make the most of my talent. I think of the many auditions I had to endure, the concerts, the high points and the setbacks. The road to use my gifts has not been an easy one, but I believe that as the Good Shepherd, Jesus has given me the strength and provided the encouragement to continue.
I have also not forgotten to use my gifts in working with kids, even as I feel I am guided in another direction. Through my and Sam’s work in the youth group I am able to utilize my skills in working with children, and to bring both others and myself closer to God. I believe that my experiences, and the people that helped me on my way, have allowed me to utilize my gifts in ways I had not imagined, and I am excited to see what God has in store for me.
I also thought of how we act as Shepherds to each other, and I though to all the people who had guided me along my path so far. My teachers, my friends, and my family, had all acted as guides to me. They bolstered my confidence, helped me see paths I might not have otherwise found, were always there. I hope that I can act as a shepherd to others, helping them as Christ helps me.
In the scriptural stories from earlier, we see Jesus acting exactly in this role as the Good Shepherd. After his resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples to communicate to them that he was risen, that he was ascending to his father and was showing them the way. Jesus appears to the disciples not only to gather them together, but also to send them out into the world. After his appearance to Mary and the two disciples, Jesus buds the eleven disciples to travel to a mountain in Galilee to meet him, where they are charged to go out and baptize, the “Great Commission.” As disciples of Jesus we are charged in the same way to go out and make the most of our talents in the world, and through our gifts to bring others and ourselves closer to God.
Still, how do these themes apply to the Billboard Top 100 we played for you earlier? The musicians in them are expressing the same themes we see in our scripture today. When we are having trouble Jesus says to us, “Lean on Me” and he will help us suceed. When we feel hopeless we should never stop believing in the Good Shepherd’s ability to gather us as his flock. When you feel like the world is passing you by, Jesus is there for you, even if you don’t understand why. As it says in the scripture today, God and all his angels are waiting for you through Jesus. And when you just want to walk the road of life and need some “good company,” the Shepherd is there to walk with you. The artists in theses songs are asking the questions we ask ourselves, looking for their dreams and ambitions and looking for connection. Maybe we should do the same.