Summary: A word picture of the lessons for the 3rd Sunday in Lent.
A sermon for the 3rd Sunday in lent – March 27, 2011.
By Clarence Semonious, Pastor
Prince of Peace Lutheran - AFLC
Kernville, CA 93238
Amid Beauty, Dangers Abound.
(Unless otherwise noted, all scripture is from the ESV.)
Psalms 84:1-9 and 95:1-5
Take a mental trip with me to an art gallery. On one of the walls, you see a picture of five sheep. Four are on a roadside hill and the other is in the middle of the road, with its back to the others. The hillside is steep and easily higher than a man’s head but not a problem for the grazing animals. It is sunlit while most of the picture and road are shaded by trees and shrubs. There are shadows. One appears to be a sign on a pole. The top of a second pole-like shadow ends amid the sheep on the hill. I am not going to explain what you should think or feel – only to remember the picture as we venture into God’s word. You may want to return to the picture, then sit and ponder what you see to gain new understanding.
Awesome beauty can be seen, heard, and experienced. When God told Moses, “Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink." And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel, ” in Exodus 17:6 as awesome event happened. Chapter 17 does not say that water came out or that the people drank – but could the account end in failure without the grumblers reactions being recorded? What is recorded in 1Corinthians 10:4 is that the rock followed them and was a type of Christ. Return with me now to that picture of the sheep. One observer, being a shepherd, might feel disturbed by the dangers he sees because of his experiences with shepherding. Another observer, being discouraged by misfortune, sees the shadows as unnamed dangers lurking all around the sheep in similar manner as his experiences. Still another, remembering the trials of a difficult pregnancy, sees the sunlight on the sheep as assurance that God has his protecting presence spotlighting his sheep. Another, after witnessing the pillars of smoke and fire or Jesus and Peter walking on water, experiences again the awesome reality that the glory of God is a physical incarnation of the invisible King of the universe. Maybe first impressions are based not on what is seen, but in a very real way, what is unseen.
Saul saw threats inside the picture. He was familiar with sheep and their place in the picture, in the shadows, were lurking the new Christian individuals. A threat, he thought – until the invisible Son of God presented himself to literally stop him in his tracks and change his name to St. Paul. Paul, who had been looking in the picture for danger, Christian danger, saw the glory of God. God’s glory was in Jesus, God’s son. Remember the smoke and fire; the rock that gave water and the heavenly food? “They asked, and he brought quail, and gave them bread from heaven in abundance. He opened the rock, and water gushed out; it flowed through the desert like a river.” Psalm 105:40-41. Paul looked for danger and found that he was the danger. I have to ask, did you bring danger to the picture?
The picture has one sheep in the middle of the road. Do you see a lost sheep or an outcast? Maybe you see a sheep who is in danger or fragile, confused wonderer.
He who is the glory of God came to a well (or maybe out into the dangerous road) and asked for a drink from a woman in Samaria. She was truly a secret lost sheep of the house of Israel. When Jesus sent out 12 disciples, he said, “"Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Matthew 10:5-6. There must be something in the picture that has been missed. The answer is in Matthew 15:22-28. The sheep is a Canaanite woman. After talking to her, he said, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.”
God would have you look at the picture and respond, “How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts!” Psalm 84:1. God wants you to abandon your sinful truth about yourself. Jesus has paid that debt, “For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.” Psalm 95:4. But the picture is about more than the sheep. “In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also.” Psalm 95:5. Pray: O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy, be gracious to all who have gone astray from Your ways and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of Your Word; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. And, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7.