1 Peter 2:19-25
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Let us pray: Lord, you are our shepherd. We thank you that you give us everything we need. You offer us rest and refreshment through your Word. You keep us on the straight and narrow when we are prone to stray. We thank you that those times when we are afraid, we can trust that you watch out for us. Amen.
This Fourth Sunday of Easter is known as Good Shepherd Sunday. In all three lectionary years we read the Good Shepherd monologue from the tenth chapter of John. It is a complicated passage, in that Jesus identifies himself as being the Good Shepherd, the Gatekeeper, and even the Gate to the sheepfold.
We also read the 23rd Psalm today and heard the words: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not be in want…Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death , I shall fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
Another that is frequently used in perilous times is “God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in times of trouble” (Ps 46:1). There are many more such verses, all expressing longing for and trust in God as a place for us to feel safe and protected, even from the worst of situations.
During this epidemic, it’s easy to question where the refuge is, and whether or not God will actually act to save God’s people. We have doctors, nurses, first responders, firefighters, police, janitors, clerks, laboratory technicians – hundreds of thousands of people doing their utmost to keep as many people safe and healthy as possible, even at the risk of contracting it themselves. Can’t we see God in them, working through and with them to create a refuge under God’s wings? What about grocery clerks and stockers who put themselves in positions of vulnerability so that those looking for food and supplies might find them? It might seem funny to think of God as a janitor or cleaning person, but God loves the meek and lowly, especially those putting themselves in danger so that others might stay well.
Because of this virus, people are being ordered, to remain at home, work from home if at all possible, and stay put until it’s okay to resume some activities. That’s what is making me so itchy (besides needing a haircut); it isn’t my choice to stay home, it’s someone else’s, and I honestly don’t like being told what I can do and when I can leave my own house.
So as we shelter in place, seeking refuge from illness and harm, let’s take time to remember those who may not see their jobs as a ministry, especially one sent from God, but nonetheless a ministry of love and hope, one that will help restore the earth and the health of all of God’s creations, human and otherwise.
Also, as we stay quarantined in our homes, may we pray for those who are in danger, who have been inflicted, and who seek to be cured of their illness. Let us find ways to praise God and thank God for the homes in which we shelter, rather than the shelter we might be seeking under a bridge or a homeless shelter. We have much to be grateful for in this time of trial, so let’s spend some time considering those things rather than our shortages or greed.
It’s easy to trust God when the sky is blue, and everything is going well. But when the skies turn dark and the winds stir, we get anxious. Life is filled with dangers and uncertainty. We can try to be in control, but we live in a world that is filled with the unexpected. We can take all kinds of preventative measures to make our lives secure but ultimately, we have to trust that God, the great shepherd, is watching over us.
The Good Shepherd never leaves the flock. The Good Shepherd goes with us, even through the valley of the shadow of death.
This Good Shepherd knows our name. He knows us personally. He loves us despite our sins, faults, and failings. He has promised to provide us with the most important thing we need - an intimate relationship with him. He knows us and reveals himself to us that we might know him as our Good Shepherd, our Lord and Savior. We find comfort, peace and meaning in life in our relationship with this Good Shepherd for with him we each know that "goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives; and we shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Let us pray: Heavenly Father, bring healing and comfort for people around the world suffering from COVID-19. Speed their recovery and slow the spread of the virus. We thank you for the efforts of all those involved in treating, testing and caring for patients, and ask your protection over them as they go about their work. Give wisdom to governments around the world as they manage this outbreak. We ask for your peace when we are tempted to panic or become anxious about this disease. Help us to place our trust in you, knowing that our life is safely hidden in you and that you are the Lord of all creation. Enable us to show your love to others, sharing the hope we have in you, in the name of Christ. Amen.
Fr. Jim is providing his sermons online during the Corona virus pandemic. Enjoy!