Summary: A sermon about listening to the voice of God.
“Life and Death”
By: Ken Sauer, Pastor of East Ridge United Methodist Church, Chattanooga, TN eastridgeumc.org
Raise your hand if you are a fan of American Idol.
It’s a popular show.
When it first came out 10 years ago, I used to watch it fairly regularly.
Now, I barely know what is going on.
It’s kind of like football or the NBA.
If you have a team that you have watched all season, a horse in the race…
…so to speak…
…it is pretty fun to watch as the season progresses.
If you haven’t been watching it, you don’t tend to have a whole lot of interest.
At least that tends to be how it works with me.
Anyhow, a big factor in the success of the show is the chemistry between the “celebrity judges.”
When the show began they had Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell.
Paula played the “good cop” role.
Simon was the “bad cop.”
And Randy was somewhere in-between.
Now, one of the judges is the infamous rock musician Steven Tyler of Aerosmith.
And he has just recently released an autobiography of his life.
Aerosmith is a hard rock band which was formed in the early 1970’s and has been going strong to this day.
They have sold over 100 million albums, and have fans all over the world.
And Steven Tyler is kind of the “star” or the “front-man of the group.”
And the life of a rock star, what with the girls, the drugs, the parties, the fame, and the fortune is a promise of full life, full to overflowing.
But, as one reads the autobiography of a rock star, one quickly notes that all which glitters is not gold.
In his book, Tyler repeatedly talks about his hardcore drug addictions which tore his band mates and his life apart.
He recounts all kinds of relationship problems that have caused him much pain through the years.
And at one point in the book he writes simply, “It’s lonely to be me.”
Of course, you don’t have to be a rock star to be “lonely,” “unsatisfied,” “unfulfilled” and a bit “dead” inside.
Anyone who has lived a life chasing after materialism and fame has more than likely discovered just how unsatisfying this kind of life is.
And yet, this is the lie that the world tries to sell…
…and sadly, business is good!!!
People are buying.
“Just try this and you will be happy.”
“Come this way, and you will find what you need.”
In our Gospel Lesson for this morning Jesus tells us “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that [you] may have life, and have it to the full.”
Many thieves tell lies, and deceive the sheep.
They steal from them…
…steal their peace, their relationship with their Creator, their precious time and leave them for dead!
On the contrary, Jesus’ call to you and to me and the rest of the world is to listen for His voice, and to find in Him and Him alone the life which is overflowing life indeed!!!
Now our passage for this morning is a parable.
We are not literally sheep, and Jesus is certainly not a literal gate!
What Jesus is doing here is speaking to the people in terms they can understand in order to convey to them the great truths of life.
The relationship between sheep and the shepherd is intense.
In Jesus’ day, no flock ever grazed without the shepherd.
He was never off duty.
Sounds a bit like Jesus, does it not?
The shepherd would guard the sheep against wild animals, especially against wolves, and yes, there were always thieves and robbers ready to steal the sheep!
In the Old Testament, God is often pictured as the Shepherd, and the people as God’s flock.
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”
In the New Testament Jesus is the Good Shepherd.
Jesus is the Shepherd Who gives His life to seek and save the straying sheep.
In Matthew and Mark, we are told that Jesus has compassion on people because they are “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
In Luke, the disciples are Jesus’ “little flock.”
In 1 Peter we are told that Jesus is the Shepherd of human souls and in Hebrews we again read that Jesus is the Great Shepherd of the sheep.
And here in John, Jesus says, “his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”
I have read that, even to this day, the sheep in Palestine often have individual names that the shepherd calls them by.
Usually the names are descriptive, like “Brown-leg”, “Black-ear,” and so forth.