Aloha Friday Message – May 5, 2017 – Seeds and Sheep

1718AFC050517 – Seeds and Sheep

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John 10:9 I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.

John 10:14-15 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.

¡Que la bendición esté siempre con ustedes y que Dios los bendiga, Amados! (May blessing always be with you and may God bless you, Belovéd!) It looks like Spring has sprung here, but perhaps where you are the winter still has a grip on the world. When we watch the weather reports on the evening news, it seems that every newscast has a piece about fierce storms causing misery. extensive damage, and tenacious cold. We are hoping that our current trend of “The Best Weather on the Planet” continues.

This weekend is special for our Parish, – St. Catherine of Alexandria – to have their annual School Carnival which helps fund our school (now K-12!). Many hundreds of people work hard to get it all set up, to operate the booths and kitchens, to provide entertainment, and to help the thousands who come to the Carnival to have a great experience. It takes a lot of work, and that work is the fruit of a lot of love. Love is the seed, and the fruit of that seed is the joy that is shared among workers and with the attendees. This year we are hoping again for super-nice weather so the Carnival will be even more successful. Good weather or ill, we know that every year we go through the same processes of getting ready, doing the work, inviting the community, and then putting everything away until next season. It’s just like farming in way. Everything we do is in anticipation of a good harvest for our little flock.

Sunday will be Good Shepherd Sunday. The Gospel for this “Fourth Sunday of Easter” comes from the tenth chapter of John’s Gospel. It is set during the winter, and in this chapter, Jesus is telling the crowds that he is the sheep-gate, the good shepherd, the shepherd who willingly gives his life for his sheep. The Gospel of John contains several quotes from Jesus that are reflexive – that is, the refer back to Jesus. They begin with the words I AM. His critics found this deeply offensive because by doing so, he intimates that he is divine, he is God’s Son. I’m going to list these for you, so you can look them up later.

Seven I AM Statements

            I AM …

  1. The Bread of Life (John 6:35, 48-51)
  2. The Light of the World (John 8:12)
  3. The Gate (John 10:9)
  4. The Good Shepherd (John 10:11)
  5. The Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25)
  6. The Way, The Truth, and The Life (John 14:6)
  7. The True Vine (John 15:1 & 5)

All these sayings are like mini-parables. They are statements that illustrate what and who Jesus is, they describe his purpose, and illustrate what he wants the people to understand about God’s plan for redemption through Jesus’ sacrifice. Jesus’ teachings often came in parables. One of the most beautiful chapters in the Gospel of Matthew contains many parables in one big chunk. That chapter is Matthew 31 containing the Parables of the Sower, the Wheat and Tares, the Mustard Seed, the Yeast, the Treasure in the Field, the Pearl of Great Price, the Net Filled with Fish, and the Disciple who gathers and uses both old and new. Perhaps as you go over that list, at least one or two of the titles remind you of the stories there. Another one with which you might be familiar in is Matthew 18:10-14 – the Parable of the Lost Sheep. People could understand stories about seeds and sheep. Farming and herding were mainstays of their lives. They also fished, participated in trading, built things, and Jesus spoke to them about The Kingdom using images like those as well. But sheep and seeds were especially important. Can you think why?

Do you remember who were the first farmer and first shepherd in the Bible? Turn to Genesis 4:1-2Now the man knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have produced a man with the help of the Lord.” Next she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a tiller of the ground. Now, that’s not to say that Adam didn’t do a little of both of course – God had told him he must till the ground to produce his bread and given him charge over all the animals, fish, and birds. But his sons took up the roles of farming and herding. We all know how that turned out for these two men. Each presented an offering to the Lord. Cain’s offering was rejected; Abel’s offering was accepted.  Because of this, Able was the first victim of murder in the Bible. Both of these occupations – farming and herding – were difficult, and required extensive preparation, planning, nurturing, protecting; in both occumations, the one responsible for all of that also had to deal with all the incidents that could damage or destroy the crop or flock. Jesus shared stories about farming and herding because the people knew not only this story of Cain and Able, but also the stories of their own lives and how seeds and sheep shaped their future.

“Tending flocks” was usually a lonely job. One solitary shepherd might tend to a dozen sheep or several hundred sheep. Sheep are fairly obedient – although we tend to think of them as dim-witted and unwise – but they are easily spooked, too. When they are frightened, their tendency to bolt makes it difficult to keep them under control. That is why the familiarity between the shepherd and the flock was so important. The shepherd definitely needed the sheep, but most certainly the sheep needed the shepherd even more. They depended on each other. So must we. Our Good Shepherd leads us safely to good pastures and peaceful waters.

When the Psalmist says, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I lack for nothing” he is saying that he is in a one-to-one relationship with God. God needs him and he depends on God. God loves and cares for him, and he in turn loves and serves God. God gives him peaceful, contented rest and renews his strength through healing. As a shepherd, God leads David (and us) in the ways of righteousness, his own righteousness and goodness keep us nurtured and safe and shows us the goodness of a holy life. Even in the worst of times, David knows (as do we) that God will protect him from his enemies and strengthen him and his allies; God’s protection will be effective and generous.

We belong to the Good Shepherd, the Great Shepherd, but we also depend on other shepherds in our day-to-day lives. Our Pastors, Priests, and Rabbis are also part of God’s abundant generosity, part of the richness of his Table. The foretaste of that Banquet we receive at the hands of these consecrated and ordained ministers is what nourishes our spirits and makes our joy overflow while the enemies of God can only watch from afar.

We also depend on the people who feed us with crops produced from seeds. In the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13:37-39, Jesus says “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38 the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels.” Throughout the Bible, especially in the Old Testament, “seed” means “descendant.” The seed of Abraham means all of his descendants – more numerous than all the stars or grains of sand in the desert. Those “seeds” must be tended to as much as one tends to herds. We also know that we plant “seed verses” in our hearts, passages from Scripture that grow within us when we nurture them with love. Those seeds of faith produce a crop “some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” (See Matthew 13:8).

Beloved, where is your crop? Where is your mustard-seed bush, your acres of wheat, your vineyard of grapes, your orchard of the fruit of the spirit? You cannot expect a harvest if you do not commit to the stewardship of planting. In Matthew 25:14-30 we hear about a greedy king who harvested where he had not sown and gathered where he had not scattered seed. He coerced others to do these things on his behalf. Good stewards saw that opportunity and profited by it. If your harvest is small, unsatisfying, and unsustaining, did you plant enough seeds? When you plant the Word in the “good soil” of your heart, you have to plant more than one seed to get a harvest. You must also add to the stewardship of planting the stewardship of nurturing. And if you nurture the seeds, the crop they bear will require you to add the stewardship of harvest. It is from the harvest that the sower gets seed for the next crop and grain for the bread to feed himself and others.

Belovéd, where is your shepherd; whose voice do you follow? In whose fold do you find safety? Who is the gateway that protects you from harm? In whose flock do you find comfort? If Jesus is your shepherd, then surely goodness and mercy shall follow all the days of your life because you belong to the Ideal Shepherd.

 

The Ideal Shepherd Isaiah talks about in Isaiah 40:11 is the Davidic Shepherd in Psalm 23, and in Ezekiel 34, especially Ezekiel 34:15-23. Isaiah portrays this shepherd carrying the lambs with tenderness and care. Little lambs have a lot of energy, but they also tire easily. When they are moving with the flock as they graze, the little guys sometimes get tuckered out and just can’t go any farther. The good shepherd will pick up that little one and carry it for a while so it can rest without being left behind. As for the ewes, especially those still carrying their progeny, they must be led with care – slowly, with an eye toward safe paths, gentle slopes, adequate water, and  gradually move the flock so as not to endanger their lives. When Jacob and Esau were going through the process of reconciling with one another, Jacob makes a comment that driving the herd hard would kill the future of the herd – the ewes and the lambs they carried. Here’s the thing: If there are bleating, hopping, stumbling, messy, cute little lambs around, they are the future of the herd, and there will soon be more during the herd’s birthing season. Same for the Church. If there are squalling, wiggling, falling, messy, dear little children around, they are the future as well as the present Church. Their participation in the Stewardship of Worship is an essential part of The Church of Today.  Soon enough they will bring their own children to Church. Jesus loves the little children. We too should love them and as unconditionally as he did. They are our seed, our dependents, our present, and our future. They are of our flock, and our Shepherd blesses them, and us, with his tender care. Jesus is the gate, and when we enter the Kingdom through him, we are saved because he laid down his life for us. Plant that in your heart and nurture it.

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Belovéd!

Share-A-Prayer:

  • For Michael’s son, Dakota, a child who suddenly started seizing and had to be air-evacuated to the hospital. Still in serious condition.
  • For KS – meth addiction, homeless, just got out of jail, and no one has seen him since. Family is worried, and prays he will return home and that he will hearken to the Lord’s voice and follow him.

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Aloha Friday Messages by Charles O. Todd, III is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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