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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sermon 04222012 Easter 2, Second Sunday After Easter

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer.  AMEN.

Let us pray, Jesus Christ is Risen from the dead, Alleluia!  Jesus Christ You laid down Your life for we Your sheep.  For in and through our baptism into Your life, death and resurrection, we are grafted into the flock of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.  May we understand that we are in Your flock and that in knowing You we will be one flock with the One Shepherd, You Jesus Christ our Lord.  May we listen to Your voice and flee to Your loving arms that promise us eternal life for all the world, including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.

Jesus Christ laid down His life for us, but He is Risen!  He is Risen indeed!  Alleluia!

Recently, Michele and I saw one of the preview clips for the upcoming two-part movie adaptation of The Hobbit: Bilbo Baggins.  For those of you who enjoyed the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Peter Jackson returns with the prequel to the trilogy.  Having already met the character of Gandalf, it is not a stretch to see Gandalf a few years younger embarking upon an adventure with the Elves, Dwarves, Men of the Age and a hobbit.  In this prequel Gandalf plays a key role as leader, guide and shepherd as the band of ‘explorers’ head to the Misty Mountains.

Just as Gandalf leads and guides this group, this morning’s Gospel opens the door to the biblical understanding of some terms that we need to ‘come to grips with’.  The first term is ‘hireling’.  In an agronomic society in the Holy Land, Jesus Christ used terms that the people would easily understand.  Ironically here in Western Kansas, we grow the same crop, wheat.  And we know that sometimes on the farm we need additional help.  The term ‘hireling’ simply denotes a day laborer who only has an interest in working and being paid a fair wage.  We have heard many stories of laborers from the bible, like the story of the denarius and the landowner paying the one who worked 12 hours the same as the one who had worked one hour.  The sad aspect is that the hirelings were usually exploited and sometimes abused and in most cases could leave one farm and go get another job rather quickly.  Thus the hirelings in some cases did not care about the land owners investment, the crops yield or even the herd if they were watching a flock of sheep or pigs.

A disciple on the other hand was one who craved to ‘learn’ what was being taught in order to pass on the teachings.  It is clear from Jesus that He had 12 ‘real’ disciples who were always with Him and hung on His every word.  These disciples walked with Jesus, soaked up His knowledge and presence for the sole purpose of passing on what they learned.  The disciples were learning about the salvation message that was fulfilled in Jesus Christ life, death and resurrection.

But for us today, we need to ask ourselves are we ‘hirelings’ or are we ‘disciples’?  This is a tough question if we truly ask ourselves and honestly discern our true feelings.  On the surface all of us want to say we are ‘disciples’, but the truth that God sees from our lives is that we sometimes act like ‘hirelings’.  We want what we want immediately and do not see, nor understand ourselves as ‘interested’ or ‘investing’ in what is most beneficial for the kingdom of God.  Whether it is reading the bible daily, exercising the muscle of faith given to us in baptism like we had this morning with Matthew and Abigail, or individually seeking opportunities for service as a lector, acolyte, coffee host or greeter.  Should we seek for the glory with our names in the bulletin like a ‘hireling’ or should we be a disciple and do the job, not for our own glory, but for the glory of God?  Hence, the question still requires an honest answer; are we hirelings seeking our own glory, or are we disciples, seeking God’s Glory?

The promise we have no matter our answer, whether hireling or disciple is that Jesus Christ died for each of us.  Jesus Christ Who came down from heaven, suffered and died the death we deserve, is our Great Shepherd Who calls, gathers and cares for us in each of our daily lives.  Jesus Christ, no matter the situation had as His primary focus His going to Jerusalem and suffering for each and every one of us.  Jesus Christ in the Gospels clearly tells of His impending suffering and death and had as His focus the eternal gain we would inherit by His active obedience as the Great Shepherd.  Jesus Christ was not a ‘hireling’, but a true ‘disciple’ and shepherd of the Great Flock of witnesses gathered now in heaven.

But what is our answer are we ‘hirelings’ or ‘disciples’?  No matter our answer Jesus Christ lived, died and rose from the dead in order to set us free from the sins that bind us.  As the Great Shepherd we who are His sheep hear His voice and are gathered into His loving eternal arms.  For this is the message of salvation that we share with each other and which God shares with us clearly and freely for all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel.  May we who gather here at today, whether hireling or disciple embrace the message of salvation offered for each of us and understand our role as model and mentor for the newly baptized like Abigail and Matthew and journey with one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the World might be saved through Jesus Christ and His life, death and resurrection for all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel.  AMEN.
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