A Sermon preached at Boise Presbytery meeting
May 14, 2011
We are in good company when we disagree over interpretation of Scripture. In our text this morning, we’re told that the community was divided because of Jesus’ words. They weren’t even dealing with issues of translation or cultural context, as we must, when we read and study Scripture.
They were divided even after hearing Jesus, himself, speak, and in their own language.
And we, too, are fractured and divided. A flock scattered and confused. Some of us are hopeful and joyful about what the changes to our Book of Order might mean for the life of the church. Others of us are angry, or disappointed, and wondering where we go from here. We all hear Jesus saying the same things, yet we just cannot agree about what they mean.
We are quick to assign roles in this text. We think we know who the thieves and the bandits are, but that’s not what this text is about. Our brothers and sisters are never the thieves and bandits. They are, we are, always the flock. This text calls us to listen for the voice of the shepherd, even as we are scattered, divided, and unclear about where we’re being called.
And here we are. Together. In the same room. Worshiping the one Lord, to whom alone we cleave and whom alone we serve. We are one flock. We are all, despite our diversity—because of our diversity—one in Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd who calls his sheep by name. We hear him calling the names of our churches—Covenant, here I am! First, come to me! Kirkpatrick, I’m over here! Reflections, this way! Bethany, come to me!
And we know he’s the Lord. We know he’s our Shepherd and not some other voice. We trust him. And so when he calls us, we answer.
This week, I shared this passage with people who had gathered for committee meetings at Southminster, and while we were talking about it, one of our members told a story about ranching in Wyoming in his previous life. There’s no “day off” or vacation when you ranch, as many of you well know. So his dad came out to take care of the cattle so Nick and his wife could get away for a break. But while his dad was there, caring for the cattle, the animals didn’t eat anything. Because Nick would call out to the cattle to tell them to come get food. But they didn’t come for his dad, because they didn’t know his voice. They didn’t trust him. He was just some guy yelling in the field.
We are the sheep who follow Jesus’ voice because we know he’s the shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep. We recognize his voice. We trust him. He calls us in to safety and shelter, amidst the dangers of the world. He also calls us out of the safety of the sheepfold and calls us to follow him into the world.
And he’s calling us today. Some of us may be excited about where we’re being called. Others of us may not see much to look forward to. But Jesus is calling us. We are his flock. There is one flock and one shepherd. And it is into the future of serving Christ here in Boise Presbytery that we are being called.
Regardless of how our votes are tallied today, regardless of how the votes are cast denomination-wide, we are still one flock. And we have to figure out how to be one flock, how to live together as one.
I hope we will have this conversation in real and substantive ways. Because we are stronger together than we are alone.
I hope we will recognize that we are called to be one, but are not called to be the same. The shepherd doesn’t only call the sheep who look the same, or who have brown spots. The shepherd doesn’t only call the perfect or the righteous sheep. He calls us all, in our different personalities and with our different gifts. And we all truly have different gifts and areas of ministry. I’m sure that while some elements of this service likely seem familiar to you, I’m sure that there are other pieces of it that are different enough to be uncomfortable. And that’s a good thing.
It is such a relief to know, as a pastor, that the congregation I serve doesn’t have to be everything to all people. We just have to be everything to the people God sends our way. Because there are other congregations in Boise who can be everything to some of the other people. We here at Southminster just need to be the best Southminsterians we know how to be. We don’t need to try to be just like Covenant or Trinity or First Boise. If we trust that you are all being who God has called you to be, then we can just be who God is calling us to be.
And then we can bring our gifts together, in support of each other.
Our congregation just submitted a grant proposal for some of those Mission dollars that the presbytery has to spend. We are doing this because First Boise invited us to join them in Mission. Sure, we have other projects we were already working on. Sure, it can be complicated to coordinate schedules and plans.
But we responded to their invitation because we are stronger together than we are alone. We responded to their invitation because the world can get a better sense of what it means to be Presbyterian when they see us together, with all of our differences. We responded to their invitation because there are people out there who need to experience the Good News, the life abundant that Jesus offers.
That is why Jesus the shepherd came. “I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly.”
Friends, the shepherd is calling our names. He is gathering the flock. He is offering us a life together of abundance. Let us listen for the voice of the shepherd as we move into the future with hope. Amen.