This sermon was given by our Reader Christine on Sunday 22 April 2018.
There are a couple of reasons today is special to individuals or groups:
- For those who care for the environment today is celebrated as Earth Day, which began in 1970 in response to the Santa Barbara oil spill in 1969 and is celebrated in 192 countries across the world. Planting trees, cleaning an area of rubbish or simply enjoying nature through hiking, gardening or taking a stroll in a local park are some of the ways to celebrate the day. People of all ages and background joining together to promote environmental protection across the world, all aiming to look after God’s creation.
- At St. George’s and as a Parish, we are celebrating our Patron Saint and together we are celebrating being God’s sheep in one fold.
John tells us quite plainly that Jesus is the good Shepherd, “who lays down his life for his sheep. I know my own and my own know me.”
In Jesus’ time, sheep were important to their Shepherd; they weren’t just raised for meat, but for wool and the Shepherd would name his sheep in the same way that we name our dogs or cats. In the evenings, when the sheep were led into the communal sheepfold, there may have been other flocks already in the fold and the good shepherd would lie down at the entrance to keep watch for any dangers. In the morning the shepherd would call his sheep and his own would know his voice and would follow him even if they had mingled with the other sheep. They would not follow a stranger’s voice a thief could not just simply walk in and take them away.
Whilst preparing for today I came across this story, which I’d like to share with you.
There was a shepherd tending his sheep at the edge of a country road. A brand new Jeep screeches to a halt next to him. The driver dressed in a fancy suit, tie, shoes, sunglasses and a Swiss wristwatch gets out and asks the shepherd, “If I can guess how many sheep you have, will you give me one of them?” The shepherd looks at the young man, then looks at the sprawling field of sheep and says, “Okay.”
The young man parks the Jeep, connects his notebook and wireless modem, enters a NASA site, scans the ground using his GPS, opens a database and then prints a 150 page report on his high tech mini printer. He then turns to the shepherd and says, “You have exactly 1,586 sheep here.” The shepherd answers, “That’s correct! You can have your sheep.” The young man takes one of the animals and puts it in the back of his vehicle. The shepherd looks at him and asks, “Now, if I guess your profession, will you pay me back in kind?” The young man answers, “Sure.” The shepherd says, “You are a consultant.” “Exactly! How did you know?” asks the young man. “Very simple,” answers the shepherd. “First, you came here without being called. Second, you charged me a fee to tell me something I already knew. Third, you don’t understand anything about my business – and I’d really like to have my dog back.” Contributed by Guy Mcgraw on Apr 6, 2011
A good shepherd knows his sheep, he knows how many he has, he knows every one of them individually, he knows their blemishes and their voices. “I know my sheep and my sheep know me.”
God knows everything about us he knows our doubts, our fears, our conflicts and our struggles. He knows what we are worried about, the temptations we face and the struggles we battle with daily. He even knows our emotions and feels our pains, because he himself has suffered, but are we good sheep?
Today there are many distractions and demands on our time and we may feel that we spend too little time in God’s presence. It’s sometimes hard to allow ourselves time to listen for his voice, because we are always thinking about what we need to do next, washing, shopping, cleaning but, God knows and understands us better than we know ourselves and he never gives us more than we can handle. He forgives us for our shortcomings. He may even seem to lead us out of our comfort zone into pastures unknown, but a good shepherd he is always in front of his sheep as Jesus was in front of his disciples, teaching, healing and finally leading the way to salvation.
The disciples probably never imagined themselves as being leaders, of going out and preaching to people and defending themselves in front of rulers, scribes and elders, but filled with the Holy Spirit, they were able to speak about their faith, about Jesus whom the rulers had crucified. They were missionaries in their own right. Jesus lives in us as we live in him, and through the Holy Spirit, we too are disciples of his word, his missionaries.
I know my sheep and my sheep know me and we have many examples of how his sheep have faced trials and been strong in the face of danger.
According to some sources, even St. George faced persecution because of his Christian faith when the Emperor he was fighting for declared that all Christian Roman Soldiers had to be degraded and must offer sacrifices to the Roman gods.
We know the legend of St. George fighting the dragon and rescuing a Princess and in Sweden, the dragon represents invading armies and the Princess the Kingdom of Sweden.
If we use this metaphor and put the dragon in a position of power, then Peter and John’s dragon would be the leaders, rules and priests, but we know that ultimate power belongs to God. ‘You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above.’ Jesus’ answer to Pilate.
The good shepherd knows his sheep and with God’s help we can stand before our own dragons and allow God’s words through the Holy Spirit to work in us. By following our Shepherd we can find that time and space we need to be with God, when we allow ourselves to be still and accept that time in his presence is precious and necessary.
We are one flock with one Shepherd.
Let us pray:
Loving God, be with us as we go about our daily tasks. Stay with us when we come close to temptation. Stand before us when we feel weary. Be at our side when difficult things are asked of us. Be a bright flame before us, a guiding star above us, a smooth path beneath us and a kindly shepherd with us today and evermore. Amen
God of hosts, who so kindled the flame of love in the heart of your servant George that he bore witness to the risen Lord by his life and by his death: give us the same faith and power of love that we who rejoice in his triumphs may come to share with him the fullness of the resurrection.