Thursday, April 17, 2008

Sermon for Easter 4

Behold the Lamb of God

I wanted to bring a lamb--
a real live lamb--
to church with me today.

After all we hear about a shepherd in our opening collect--
…Jesus is the good shepherd…
We have the 23rd psalm today—
…The Lord is my shepherd…
1 Peter talks about going astray like sheep
And John’s gospel is filled to the brim
with sheep who know or don’t know the voice of their shepherd.

Easter is a season of celebration and joy--
and let’s face it,
everybody loves a cute little lamb.
There is a delightful sweetness about most baby animals—
baby humans, too.

But the only person I know who tends sheep
is a friend of my husband Tom’s,
a friend who lives in Abingdon, Virginia.
Tom thought asking him to drive from Abingdon to Asheville
with a lamb on a Sunday morning
just so I could have a sermon illustration
was asking too much.

So no live lamb.
(But maybe next year!)

And then I got an email from Lynn Coulthard.
Lynn is our missionary in Durgapur, India.
She is on our weekly prayer list.
Lynn sends out an email when she posts something new on her blog.

Finally on Tuesday morning I had time to check out her blog—
And I realized I had not read it in months.
I had not even read what she had posted about Christmas in India.
So I spent some time on Tuesday morning
reading Lynn’s blog.
And a very different image of the Good Shepherd began to appear for me.

Lynn writes in her blog about a young girl named Punima.
She writes:

Then there was Punima, 13 years old;
a beautiful young girl who, escaping an attacker,
jumped from a second story window.
She broke her leg in the fall
and ended up in the government run hospital.
She was discharged at some point, her leg still in a cast,
but readmitted sometime later.
Her leg was still in the same cast
and because she had been bed-ridden
the whole time she was at her home,
bedsores appeared over most of her buttocks;
deep penetrating sores eating through her flesh
and tissue all the way to the bone and into the bone.

Neglect and ignorance landed this child
with her severly infected body back in the hospital.
…I was able to talk to the Misssionaries of Charity about Punima,
and they decided to get her discharged into their care.

Punima would die,
but she would die knowing that there were others
who cared about her.

These kinds of death are happening all over India on a daily basis.

This little girl, Punima, died.
But she did not die alone.
She died in the arms of the Good Shepherd—
who on the day of her death
just happened to look a lot like
Lynn Coulthard and the Missionaries of Charity.

The Lord is our shepherd.
but we too are called to be shepherds,
to be people of compassion and people of action.
Like the believers in the Acts of the Apostles,
we too are called to the ministry of sheep tending.

Reading the Bible
and coming to church
and saying our prayers
and breaking bread together--
none of these things are an end in themselves.

These spiritual practices are what give us strength for the journey.
These spiritual practices create and grow in us glad and generous hearts.
These spiritual practices help us listen and to know the voice of God—
so we, too, can follow,
we, too, can speak up and speak out and act
against injustice and cruelty and ignorance.

Jesus calls each of us
to reach out
to anyone and to everyone.
regardless of how little we may think we have in common.

We are called to reach out and wrap our arms
around those who are suffering
those who are frightened
those who cannot find their way home.

You know, little fluffy lambs are easy to love.
But sheep—full grown sheep—can be quite cantankerous.
Not easy to love.

Being a shepherd in the ancient world
or being a shepherd today
is not easy work--—
not easy on a farm or a ranch,
not easy in Durgapur, India,
and not easy in the city of Asheville.

The gospel of John says:
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.

We need to take a hard and close look at the thieves in our world—
the thieves of poverty and injustice and addiction and greed and apathy.
Laying the blame upon the shoulders of others
is not telling the whole truth.

We need to take a hard and close look at our own lives
and determine if we, through things done and things left undone,
keep company more often with the thieves and the bandits
than we keep company with the children of God.

Jesus tells us:
I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

The question is: Who is they?

The answer is: All the sheep.
You and I.
The little girl Punima.
All God’s children.

We are called to the same ministry as the believers in the early church.
We listen to the teachings of the scripture.
We gather for fellowship.
We break bread.
and we say our prayers.

This is not where it ends.
This is where it begins.

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Here are a few blogs that are worth reading on a regular basis:

1 comment:

Lynn said...

Thank you Jeanne.
Awhile back I had asked you to read that blog because no one had responded to it, and I thought maybe I was losing my touch to aggravate folks. So thank you for reading it and thank you for sharing Punima's story.
Peace, Lynn