Seldom do we do things alone or by ourselves. Now, there are a few private things that we do by ourselves, but those excluded a great deal of what we do as human beings is done in conjunction with and surrounded by other people.
Even more so in the life of the church or the faith community. What we do as Christians is surrounded by the fact we have people who are like us, support us, and promise to be with us through thick and thin.
Did you see this story last week? A guy from North Dakota accidentally ran a marathon. How do you accidentally run a marathon? I mean, I’ve had those runs where you’re just feeling it. Where you feel like you can go on forever. But, at most that means I’ll run like a couple miles more than I had planned. Never once have I thought, “Maybe I’ll just go ahead and, instead of running five miles today, I’m going to run 26.2 miles.” That just has never happened!
I don’t know about all of you, but our kitchen contains a hospice ward! A place where good fruit goes to die. It’s in the right hand corner, the side of the kitchen the sink is on. A beautiful banana hanger, a nice bowl for oranges or the “literally forgotten fruit” the apple may rest until the day it makes its way to the cemetery at the end of our stove known as the trashcan. Why, are we as humans so concerned about the way we keep things alive ? Why do we set aside a place in our kitchen to have perfectly healthy fruit, age into the process of decomposition just so we can say we “have fresh fruit” when our friends ask? Or maybe, it’s because we aren’t real sure what to do with the fruit when we get it!
In 1955, Andy Williams recorded one of the greatest love songs known to humankind, “Love Is A Many Splendored Thing.” From 1967-1973 this was the theme song for the great soap opera by the same name. Hear the beginning words;
“Love is a many splendored thing, It’s April rose that only grows in the early Spring Love is nature’s way of giving a reason to be living, The golden crown that makes a man a king...”
We make a gigantic move in our Biblical text this morning, from post-resurrection appearances to kingdom work imperatives. We have before us now very familiar passages both surrounding the nature and relationship of the shepherd. Too often we take these images for granted. In our culture of Biblical reading, we have often elevated the image of the shepherd and the sheep to the equivalent of angelic proportion.
We live in a society that demands the facts! We want to be “sure” of what we see, what we hear, what we witness, and what we believe. There are certain professions in our society that seek to find the facts for a living. One might say those professions are quickly being called into question with the rise of social media infringement; “fake news”, proclaimed un-truths that have been noted by specific recordings or proof that what was said was really NOT said. We seek to find those things that cannot be questioned, that solidify for us a path on which we cannot deviate.
We have just wrapped up one of the biggest sporting events known to humankind. The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. A little over 16.5 million people watched basketball games over 4 weeks. To me, that is extraordinary! Now, some of those people were watching because their favorite team was playing, some because their favorite player was on the court, some so they could see the “under dog” topple the #1 Seed, and some were watching for the money! They had wagered big (or even little money) on a chance for more earnings. But no matter why they watched it, a bigger concern was people had a shared interest in a champion! Really, it didn’t matter who that champion would be, but rather a champion that would shine forth.
HE IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN INDEED!! We come this morning as a forgiven and reconciled people who, despite the work of the secular world, cannot be fooled! That my friends is Good News! It has been a long and arduous journey these past 40 days! It has not been fun, I have failed miserably, but Jesus rose from the dead for me despite my failures.
It was the eve of St. Patrick’s Day, 1982. We had traveled to New York City from our small rural mid-western college. Some of our choir was from the Northeast, but the majority of our singers were rural city or farm boys and girls from the mid-west. Excited to be in New York City to sing at the famed New York Unitarian Church, we spent a good part of the afternoon after rehearsal sight-seeing; the Statue of Liberty, The Empire State Build- ing, The Metropolitan Opera, and the list continued. We were in awe of what we were seeing. It was magnificent to behold.