“JUST WANT TO BE A SHEEP!”“JUST WANT TO BE A SHEEP!”

CHRIST THE KING SUNDAY

NOVEMBER 26, 2017


BIBLE SCHOOL –

The rhythm of the Christian year is always purposefully out of harmony with our conventional calendar. Often we don’t notice this but this Sunday is the end of time and the beginning of a new time - Christ the King Sunday ushers in the Christian New Year. Next Sunday is the New Year, Advent. This day is a time between time where we are waiting for the in-breaking beauty of God, to be open so we are touched, A time to let go of conventional ideas and be willing to be surprised.

The parable today is one of the last things Jesus says to his followers before he’s nailed to the cross in the Gospel of Matthew. What Jesus is doing here, at the end point of his earthly ministry, is making it very clear to people who claimed to be his disciples and supporters that there is no gray area at all when it comes to following him. You’re either with him, or you aren’t.

SCRIPTURE LESSON – MATTHEW 25: 31-46

THEOLOGY (GOD TALK) –

This is a serious scripture so I thought I might bring a little levity into the sermon with a song that I hope you will help me sing. It’s called, I’d Just Wanna Be a Sheep (Words and Music by Brian M. Howard), which is also the title of my message.

Chorus

I just wanna be a sheep

Baa, baa, baa, baa

I just wanna be a sheep

Baa, baa, baa, baa

I pray the Lord my soul to keep

I just wanna be a sheep

Baa, baa, baa, baa,

Verse 1

Don't wanna be a goat…nope

Don't wanna be a goat…nope

Haven't got any hope…nope

Don't wanna be a goat…nope

Chorus Verse 2

Just wanna be a child of God

Just wanna be a child of God

Walkin' the same path He trod

Just wanna be a child of God

Chorus

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International copyright secured.

Used by Permission.

Before we begin this morning, I believe we need a little background on sheep and goats. In North America, sheep and goats are easily distinguishable, due to specialization through breeding. Sheep are fluffy and wooly; goats are not. However, throughout history, and still today in parts of Asia and Africa, sheep and goats are almost identical, and no one but a shepherd can easily tell the difference. Sheep walk with their tails down but goats walk with their tails up. So there are somethings that only our Shepherd can see in us, and that unseen thing tells God whether we are sheep or goats. It determines whether God sorts us to the left or to the right, to heaven or eternal punishment.

Sheep have a reputation for being stupid and just sort of worthless. They are, and have always been, dependent on their shepherd and are defenseless. Goats, on the other hand, have a reputation for being independent, opinionated and curious at best—or dangerous and destructive at worst. “If your fence won’t hold water, it won’t hold a goat.”

Shepherds protect sheep from their environment, whereas goat-herders protect the environment from their goats. So for us to be God’s sheep, we must depend on Him to defend us. If we push, take, destroy and bully, we are goats. The central difference between sheep and goats is really simple: Sheep follow the voice of their shepherd and trust him to lead them to food, water and safety. If they wander, which some do, the shepherd will go out and rescue them and bring them back to the safety of the flock. Sheep separated from their shepherd and flocks are nervous and vulnerable because they have no defensive or offensive survival abilities. A goat, however, doesn’t follow anyone. A herd of goats goes where it wants, and the goat- herder follows behind. Instead of grazing, goats “browse”—foraging for whatever strikes their fancy. So that tells us that if we are allowing ourselves to be led, being sensitive to the pull of God’s Spirit, and following the path of our Shepherd, we are sheep. If we are headstrong, going our own way, and pulling back against God’s Spirit, we are goats. Jesus and the Bible always see God’s people as sheep. So the thing that God sees in His sheep is a gentle and yielded spirit. They trust their Shepherd. They follow His voice. On the other hand, the goats have a spirit of defiance, self-will, or independence from God’s involvement in their lives. So now that you know these things, how are you feeling? Are you more of a sheep or more of a goat? So how do you know if you are a sheep or a goat? – You don’t!

One of the amazing things about this lesson from the last few pages of Jesus’ earthly life is that the sheep didn’t know that they were earning heaven by their actions! These sheep said: Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you? They had no idea that their good deeds meant that they were inheriting the Kingdom prepared for them. They weren’t trying to earn God’s favor, or sneak around his mercy. The sheep weren’t fending for themselves or desperately trying to avoid punishment or earning for themselves eternal rewards. They just saw people in need, and they served them. They were just living their lives of faith the way that they always did. They were living their lives focused on God and the needs of others instead on themselves and their own needs. They were sheep who became like the Good Shepherd.

No one expects to see Jesus in the face of the disadvantaged, the poor, the imprisoned, and all those who are in manifest need. When we think of God, we typically think in terms of power and might and glory and all the rest. Jesus promises to be always with and for those who are in greatest need which means that if we want to experience God’s presence fully, deeply, and truly, we will look for God in the need of those around us and, indeed, in our own need as well. This is not, I realize, what we expect of God. We typically think of God in ultimate terms – all knowing, all-powerful, all-just, and so on. And that makes a certain sense, as we are talking about the creator of the cosmos and author of all life. But that’s not where Jesus invites us to meet him, or be met by, God. (Dr. David Lose, … In The Meantime, 2014.)

If you look at the full context of this passage, Jesus seems to be saying that the criteria on which you will be judged will not be what you know or what you say you believe, but rather what you have actually done (or neglected to do) for the less fortunate — specifically, whether you have helped feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and imprisoned (practices that are known as the “Traditional Works of Mercy.”

The Good News here is that there is no checklist of good deeds to fill out. Jesus is talking about a manner of living here, and it’s one that isn’t motivated out of the fear of Hell or the hope of Heaven, but a life that’s driven by an authentic love. It’s a manner of life that recognizes that Christianity isn’t about us! If this isn’t crystal clear from the sheep and goats story, read on in the Gospel of Matthew until you get to the crucifixion. There, Jesus demonstrates the exact same selfless, genuine, and authentic love that he demands of us. He was flogged, mocked, tortured, and executed for God and for us, not for himself. It wasn’t some selfish egomaniacal stunt to gain fame and fortune. He loved God and us with his life and his death, and that is exactly what he asks of us. When Jesus addressed the sheep about going to heaven, the sheep didn’t even realize that they had been generous. They were not even aware. Jesus’ ways were their ways. That is the way it is with love, the true love of God. You yourself forget yourself in loving and caring for another person.

A man arrived at heaven and was shown into God's office for judgement. One office wall was a huge window looking down on earth. The earth was beautiful with its blue waters, green forests, and white clouds. There was a pair of glasses on the table. They must be God's glasses. No one was around, so the man tried them on and looked at earth again. This time he saw hunger, poverty, sickness, and so much inhumanity that he could not bear it. He heard a voice behind him, "Take off my glasses." He did so, and he awaited his punishment. After a pause, the voice gently asked, "What did you see?" "I saw hate, corruption, and evil!" the man answered. "Did you feel any love or compassion?" the voice asked. "None!" said the man. "I would destroy the whole planet without any hesitation or regret!" "That's why you can't use my glasses," said God. "You may not see what I see, unless you can feel what I feel." (THE JOKESMITH) The goats did not see nor did they feel. Caring compassion was not who they were at the core of their life. That was their shortcoming and it was devastating.

A Franciscan Blessing is a benediction in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi who famously gave up his inheritance to serve the poor. Here is a Franciscan blessing from the twentieth century: May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart. May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy. May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world; so that you can do what others claim cannot be done. I just wanna be a sheep? What about you?




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