Life for the Sheep – April 21, 2013 – John 10: 22 – 30

On the day Betty Cole received her first treatment for leukemia, I got a call from Marge Overlot.  Marge was visiting Betty.  Betty wanted to fix her nails.  Marge asked if I could bring Betty some pink nail polish.  Betty’s nails were always done well, since she was voted best hands in high school.  I stopped at Walgreens on my way up to the hospital.  I picked out a pink nail polish and took it to her in the hospital.  I figured if she was going to endure 7 days of intense treatment she should be able to have her nails done.

That’s why you want to tell me that you or a loved one is in the hospital – I’ll bring you pink nail polish.

Betty painted her nails as we talked that day.  She told me about how her sisters passed of cancer.  She talked about Joe and her kids and grandkids and great grandkids.  And, we prayed that she had no pain from her illness and treatments.  Then, I went around the corner and visited Joe Cole because they were both in the hospital.  They didn’t see each other much during the last couple weeks of Betty’s life – probably when she needed Joe most.

But, it was her faith that sustained her.  She knew what the future held.  She was strong through her treatments and returned home with only a little help.  Her faith was strong when we spoke about what to pray for.

As you can imagine, Betty’s death was difficult for Joe after being married for 67 years.  I saw him this week.  We talked about the kids, grandkids, and great grandkids.  He told me a great story about his great granddaughter.  Reese told Betty that she had the best mashed potatoes and wanted to know her secret.  Betty said that you start with a box of instant potatoes prepared as directed, mash in 1 real potato, a couple tablespoons of some cream cheese, then Betty whispered the secret ingredient into Reese’s ear.  Joe laughed and laughed remembering the exchanged.  He has a good laugh.  He still doesn’t know the secret ingredient to the mashed potatoes.  Her potatoes must have been really good, because that is not the first time I had heard about her mashed potatoes.

Its been just about 2 weeks since Betty’s funeral.  She and Joe had been quite regular in their attendance until Joe got sick.  Would anyone like to share a story about Betty?  Remembering Betty and sharing stories about her gives us the opportunity to remember that she has been a part of this family for many years.  Did anyone play bridge with her?

This morning there are many churches in Massachusetts and Texas who are remembering beloved members of their family.  Two tragic events took place this week.  Three were killed at the Boston marathon, several lost limbs, and over 100 were wounded.  A police officer and one suspect are dead as police pursued the suspected bombers.  Then, Wednesday evening, a fertilizer plant exploded killing 14 and wounding hundreds.

It seemed like a long week as we heard the news of days of combing through evidence from the Boston marathon to identify the suspects and days chasing the suspects to death and justice.  In this long week, the media has brought us news of 20 tragic deaths.  This morning, churches are remembering those lost to accident and violence.

We can remember our loved ones trusting they are in Heaven and hoping for that day when we will be united again.  In my funeral liturgy, I talk about our sure and certain hope in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We know that by the resurrection of Jesus His promise of eternal life can be trusted.  We hope in the day that we will be raised to eternal glory with Christ Jesus.

In the Scripture today, Jesus continues His use of the metaphor of sheep and shepherd.  Earlier in this same chapter of John, Jesus teaches that He is the good shepherd and cares for His flock.  He teaches that He protects His sheep.  Jesus tells us that there is a gate keeper who allows Him in to the sheepfold and let’s the sheep into the sheepfold.

This Scripture we read today is the end of that teaching.  Some Jews have inquired of Jesus about His identity.  They want to know if He is the Messiah.  He tells them that He has already told them His true identity, but they don’t believe it.  He has told them His true identity by His actions.  Jesus has said that He speaks the words of God.  He has said it before, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.”  They are one.

There is nothing left to say.  Jesus does the will of God and speaks the word of God; therefore, He is one with God.  He can’t say anymore.  Hearing the news of what He has done and said has not caused the Jews before Him to believe.  He isn’t going to say anything to them now that will convince them that He is the Messiah.

That’s the thing about faith.  You can’t reason faith.  You have to experience the work of God and the words of God in order to have faith.  I could explain to you ‘til I’m blue in the face why you should believe in God, but it won’t make you believe.  You believe because you have had a experience of God.  It spurs you to want to experience more of God.

Jesus couldn’t tell them anymore that He was the Messiah they had to experience it so they could believe it.  I think we have a lesson about evangelism here.  We can tell people over and over and over again the Good News of Jesus, but it won’t make them believe.  They have to experience Jesus in order to believe in Jesus.  When we share the Good News, we need to do as much as we say.

Jesus doesn’t answer the question of the Jews, but He makes a promise to those who are His sheep.  Jesus knows those who follow Him.  He gives us eternal life and promises that we will never perish.  He promises that no one can take us away from Him.  Jesus promised that He gives eternal life.  He didn’t say that He will give eternal life.  He said He gives eternal life.  Our eternal life begins with faith in Jesus.  That eternal life is His eternal care in this life and in the next.

At the Elders / Deacons meeting this week, we talked about our church family.  We have family members that we see every Sunday for many years.  Then, they stop coming to church because they are too sick or too weak to come.  It seems suddenly we don’t see them again.  Joe and Betty Cole are a good example.  They had faithfully attended for years, then Joe got sick.  We haven’t seen them in worship since August.  Then, Betty suddenly died.  We likely won’t see Joe back in church on a regular basis.

How do we keep these loved ones at the fore front of our minds after we don’t see them on Sundays?  We add our home bound members to our prayer list, but is that enough?  Our Elders deliver communion to our home bound members each month.  Our Elders and Deacons are keeping in contact with those on their care team list.  Perhaps, we should monthly share a story about one of our home bound members so that they remain in our hearts and minds even though they are out of our sight.  I don’t know.  I’ll have to think about this more.  I’d love your ideas.

May we remember our loved ones even before they die.  Amen.

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