Summit Presbyterian Church April 13, 2008
Delivered by Jim Eby Listen first John 10:1-10
September 11th continues to be recalled all too easily. A word, a phrase, and the images come back into focus in our minds eye. We have seen evil. We have witnessed the work of the demonic, and we have reason to be fearful. How are we to continue to deal with this? Where do we find our center, our refuge and our strength?
We can never return to a prior state of innocence. We cannot deny that we know what we know and pretend the nightmare never happened.
We cannot change that. But we do have a choice. We can become calloused; we can tune out and turn off as some will choose to do. We can do that, or we can choose to continue to feel the pain of brokenness, we can continue to feel the need to do something, we can search for the way we can act out our beliefs and demonstrate what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.
If we are going to do the latter, if we are to keep the commandments Christ has given us to love one another as he has loved and continues to love us, then we will have to start with the admission that there is evil at work. We have to begin with that recognition, but we need to put that in context. Recall the words of the sacrament of Baptism this morning that so clearly announced:
Before we were born, God made us.
Before we were born, God died for us.
Before we even knew what sin is, God provided the antidote for us.
God loves us.
God is for us.
God has come in Jesus to tell us of his love.
But also listen to and mark what is placed early in the questions to the parents:
Trusting in the gracious mercy of God, do you turn from the ways of sin and renounce evil and its power in the world?
We have to acknowledge the awesome power of the demonic in our midst. We must not fall into the trap of believing we can defeat evil. We will not overcome the demonic, some day. I don=t believe that is what the Civil Rights hymn of the >60's is about. We sang it over and over, AWe shall overcome, we shall overcome, we shall overcome someday...@ Our human strength will never overcome the demonic. Our human strength will never solve the problems. We are not smart enough or strong enough nor do we have the span of time in which to overcome the evil we recognize.
What then are we to do? Throw up our hands? Throw in the towel? Find a safe place to hide by never reading or watching another news account? NO!
Listen first. Listen before anything else.
Listen to the words of scripture. Listen to the words Jesus shares with his disciples that expose the demonic, the thief and the robber. Listen so you can recognize and know who it is that is calling. Listen so you can hear and identify the voice of the shepherd who calls us by name and leads us out. The shepherd who came that we might have life and have it abundantly. The one who comes to us and says in those words so reminiscent in Genesis, of God to Moses: AI am!@ AI am the door ... I am the good shepherd!@
Begin by listening, and remembering that we are the sheep, not the shepherd.
Then be involved in the singing of songs. Like AAmazing Grace that saved a wretch like me.@ Like AWe shall overcome...@ And we shall, with the strength of the Shepherd who has the power to make it happen.
We shall overcome our confusion that we are the Christ, rather than the disciples. With God=s help, we shall overcome our confusion that we are the master rather than the steward, the servant
We shall overcome our fears, with God=s help. Fears of going into the city, because neighborhoods have changed from that with which some remember as safe.
Listen. Sing. And then pray.
Pray with a confession of faith like that one we used this morning from the Heidelberg Confession. The very first question and answer is an antidote to any terror we may feel when we see the power of the demonic.
What is your only comfort, in life and in death?
That I belong‑‑body and soul, in life and in death‑‑not to myself
but to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ,
who at the cost of his own blood has fully paid for all my sins
and has completely freed me from the dominion of the devil;
that he protects me so well that without the will of my Father in heaven
not a hair can fall from my head;
indeed, that everything must fit his purpose for my salvation.
Therefore, by his Holy Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life,
and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on
to live for him.
Our prayers need to start with the confession that God=s power, God=s love is sufficient. God=s abundance is always greater than the myth of scarcity. The demonic in our midst would have us believe there is not enough:
not enough land to go around
not enough money to go around
not enough power to go around
not enough love for all of us to be loved with amazing grace.
And when we listen to the whisper of the demonic, then we become greedy, then we have to hoard and then we have to be sure we get what we want, whatever the cost to others or to the world our home. We begin to think that we have to elbow our way to the front of the line in order to receive the love we so desperately desire. We begin to work to make a name for ourselves, and before long, we find that we are acting out of a belief in the myth of scarcity. And suddenly, we feel helpless and hopeless.
The antidote? Listen first. Sing the songs of faith. And then pray, confessing that in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, God has demonstrated power over everything we fear, everything that may hurt or divide us.
Listen, sing, pray, and finally, care for those who are far away by sharing resources that are portable, like money and blankets, while at the same time, caring for those who are close by with a listening ear, helping them to hear the voice of the one who loves them with a love that will not let them go. Be a conduit of the love of Christ. Live in such a way that you are a mirror in which those around see
how loved and valued they are by their risen Lord as well as by us.
Remember your baptism.
God, our Shepherd, we give thanks for Jesus who helps us recognize your voice and the fields of labor in which you nourish us. Use what we do this week so that as we depend upon you for all our wants, others may see and recognize that you provide for their wants as well. Help us in all we do to glorify you. In the name of our risen Lord we ask it. Amen.