“IN TUNE EACH DAY WITH OUR HOLY SHEPHERD”

 

Text – PSALM 23:1 and JOHN 10:14-16

 

GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR LORD AND SAVIOR – JESUS THE CHRIST – OUR DIVINE SHEPHERD.

Several decades ago, Robert Goulet had a record out about his life being tuned to a different drummer.  The writer of that song was quoting the naturalist-philosopher Henry David Thoreau: “If a man does not keep pace with his companions perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” What both Robert Goulet's song and Thoreau's philosophy are saying is that within every one of us there are those beliefs, values, goals and hopes which combine to set the cadence which motivates our lives. Who or what do we believe in?  Where do we   put our trust?  What is ultimately important to us?  Who do we love?  The cadence founded in our answers is always with us because it is composed of those beliefs and values which shape our temporal journey.  

Now caring for sheep in Judea has been and still is a rough job. In Judea, the land where shepherds tend their sheep is dry and parched ... dust on top of limestone rock.  The rain is minimal – perhaps a few short showers during two months each year ... and nonexistent the rest. There are no grasslands and the plant in greatest abundance is the thorny burnette - a dry, brittle, sun-bleached-out thorn bush.  In David's day, the land had lions and wolves among its inhabitants and robbers were frequent in their attempts to steal a straying or unwatched lamb or two.  

During the daylight hours, the sun bakes down so hard you cannot be outdoors without a head covering.  At night when the clear skies permit the heat to escape from the earth, the temperature drops rapidly and you need to bundle up. You’re out in all the elements – the sun bakes your skin and roasts your body.  When the wolves don’t attack your flock, the sheep stray and you must find and rescue strays.  You rise with the first crowing of the rooster and you go to sleep when the night is far spent. The cadence that beats within you most certainly is as   monotonous as Revel’s Bolero on a never-ending CD.  

 

 

"THOSE WHO RENDERED--AND WHY"

Text: MATTHEW 22:17-21 and ROMANS 13:1

GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND SAVIOR – JESUS THE CHRIST.

        

I miss Jim Carpenter and that patriotic shirt he always proudly wore at our Memorial Day and 4th of July worship services.  Seeing that shirt, my mind always wandered back to that hometown of half a century and more ago when Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthdays, Flag Day and Veterans’ Day made a child like me think about the meaning of being a Christian in this land of the people, for the people, by the people.  Today those days are ignored and not considered politically correct. The village of Towne Lake in Georgia has even passed a law designating which days people can fly the American flag in front of their own homes and have taken two veterans to court for flying their flags on a day when the American flag did not fit in with “the aesthetic and architectural theme of the community."

Each Memorial Day, as we remember those who gave their lives in defense of our country and each 4th of July as we are reminded of our Christian responsibilities as American citizens, we have an opportunity to focus on Jesus’   definition of what He calls Christian citizens to be.

 

  

  

We recall how the Pharisees and Herodians teamed up to trap Jesus by asking Him, “Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”.  Asking to see the coin the taxes were paid with, Jesus asked “Whose likeness and inscription is this?”. When they responded “Caesar’s”, Jesus said, “render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.”  

 

 

“THIS IS OUR FATHER’S WORLD”

   

Text – DEUTERONOMY 5:16 and MARK 10:13-16

 

GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND SAVIOR – JESUS THE CHRIST.

Guenther Tharp’s Uncle Henry was sitting on the edge of the bed, observing his wife Mary looking at herself in the mirror.  Since her birthday was not far off, Uncle Henry asked her what she’d like to have for her birthday. “I’d like to be six again,” she replied, still looking in the mirror.

On the morning of her birthday, Henry rose early, prepared her a nice big bowl of Lucky Charms and then took her to Cedar Point.   He put her on every ride in the park and then took her to McDonald’s where he ordered her a Happy Meal with extra fries and a chocolate shake. Then it was off to a movie, popcorn, a soda pop, and her favorite candy – M&Ms.  Finally, they headed home and collapsed into bed exhausted.  Uncle Henry leaned over to his wife with a big smile and lovingly asked, “Well, Dear, what was it like being six again?”

Her eyes slowly opened - “You, Dummy, I meant my dress size.”

 

 

“HE CAME FOR US – UNLIKELY AS WE MAY BE”

 

Text - MATTHEW 9:9—13

 

GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR PERSONAL LORD AND SAVIOUR....JESUS THE CHRIST.

“Just as I am, without one plea,

But that Thy Blood was shed for me,

and that Thou bidd’st me come to Thee.

O Lamb of God, I come, I come.”

How powerfully those words spring to life as I read “As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office.” That man sitting at the tax office was a man totally despised by everyone he knew –  a Galilean man named Levi who took a Gentile name Matthew to enhance his Roman position and loyalty.

      

Rome ruled the world and it takes money to rule the world ... a great deal of money. Having conquered much of the then known world, Rome had most of the nations of the world from which to collect those taxes — including the people of the Holy Land.  Rome’s worldwide system of taxation involved prominent Romans or local officials in league with Rome - known as  publicans - buying the right to collect taxes in a given area or territory.  In the Galilee, the publican with the tax franchise was no doubt the despised Herod Antipas — tetrarch of  the Galilee and Perea.

The publicans hired local men who bid to do the actual collecting of the taxes.  At the end of the year, the highest bider had to deliver the amount of revenue he had bid.  He had to make up any shortage out of his own pockets — a position these greedy and disloyal men were not likely to get themselves into.  Any amount he was able to collect over the amount he bid was his salary. These men, with intimate knowledge of their neighbors’ finances, a willingness to put material gain ahead of friendship and personal loyalty and with military support to back them  up, knew how to collect taxes.

“CALLED TO SERVICE WHILE WE WAIT”

 

Text - MATTHEW 28:16—20

 

GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR -- JESUS THE CHRIST.

    

     

Last Sunday, during our Pentecost Confirmation service, I was reminded of a sermon I preached a little over a decade ago.  It began with a question – 

how many of Jesus' disciples can you name?  I responded to that question by first listing the eleven who were His original disciples and then reading names in our Church Directory.

A disciple is a student studying life with a master teacher. The eleven disciples who gathered with Jesus on His ascension day were truly disciples of The Ultimate Teacher and so are we - and every one else who accepts Jesus as our Lord and Savior and seeks to constantly increase our knowledge of Jesus and His Word. 

How many of Jesus' apostles can you name?  There again we list those eleven and we list ourselves. "Apostles" are "ambassadors, envoys, official representatives" who are "sent to proclaim" what The Lord Himself sends us to proclaim.

 

Today is Trinity Sunday – the day we focus on and celebrate The One True God Who, though one, is so filled with Power, Knowledge, and Love that He constantly comes to us in three persons –The Father  symbolized by the outstretched hand reaching down from heaven as The heavenly Father Who created and constantly sustains us and everything else that exists - The Son symbolized by the now empty and conquered cross Who, though truly God, came to us as The vulnerable flesh and blood Christ to live the perfect human life and to offer that life as The Perfect Sacrifice to pay the penalty of our sins and gain us the gift of eternal Salvation - and The Holy Spirit symbolized as the dove Who descends among us to enlighten and empower us to come in Faith to accept all that The One True God offers us. 

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