Sermon for the 4th Sunday of Easter (Good Shepherd Sunday)

Acts 4:5-12
Psalm 23
1 John 3:16-24
John 10:11-18

Anyone here ever go to high school? I did. And honestly, it kind of sucked. I mean, all the awkwardness of growing into your body, figuring out your personality, learning how to say “apple shawsh, that’sh shwell”. Just trying to fit in and not look like a total dork is such an impossibility. Yeah so, high school sucks. Anyone here the youngest in their family? I am. And you know, it kind of sucks. I mean, you get no respect from your parents and older siblings, you aren’t trusted to make any good decisions, you aren’t even given any responsibility. Man, being the youngest sucks. Anyone here a parent? Woo man, that stuff sucks. Kids take up all your time, drain the fun out of everything including your own wallet, and it’s like I don’t even know my spouse anymore. Parenting pretty much sucks. Anyone here born in Canada but with Asian descent? I was and do. And let me tell you, it sucks. I mean no one thinks that you’re from here and just assumes that you’re an immigrant that doesn’t understand the language and culture, and other immigrants think that you’re one of them and start speaking to you in a different languages that you don’t understand, and pretty much all the “real” Canadians never really see you as one of them. Man, being a Canadian born Asian sucks.

Anyone here a pastor? Because I’ll say… it’s pretty awesome…

The point I’m trying to make is that any aspect of life, any area of life, anything that we could ever even remotely experience could be seen as bad. Sure, being the youngest, going to high school, being a parent, all those things don’t seem too bad, but they most definitely have their downsides and we can totally pick them out.
I just gave a few examples, but the list is actually endless. Maybe you’re bad at sports, maybe you’re too good at sports, maybe you’re not smart enough, or maybe you’re too smart for your own good. Maybe you have no friends, or you have too many friends. Maybe you don’t make enough money, or you make too much money. Regardless of where you sit on whatever coin there is, you can always find a negative side to it.

A couple weeks ago I heard on the radio about an anonymously written opinion piece. It took me a bit to dig it up, but here it is:

“Woman claims being beautiful makes life harder…” and the piece goes on about the author, claiming to be usually the most attractive person in the room, has lived a harder life than average looking women, because people were intentionally mean to her because people in general hate on beautiful people more than others.

I know what you’re thinking…. And it’s true, I go through that every day of my life. Man it is tough being this good looking.

No really, didn’t you want to just roll your eyes when you saw this headline? Or maybe roll your eyes at me when I said I could relate? Or maybe still just roll your eyes at me because I’m so good looking that you want to hate on me?

Life is funny that way, huh? As the saying goes “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence”. We all know what that means because we all can relate. We all have compared ourselves to someone else at one point or another and maybe we slumped our shoulders and sighed. We all have looked at the life of another and felt like we were just dealt a bad hand. We all have peeked over that metaphorical fence and wondered what kind of fertilizer and water our neighbour is using to keep their grass so green.

This has often left us wondering how we could be better. Maybe we had to try harder. We had to buy more of the right products. We had to accept the right kind of worldview and opinion. We had to do whatever it took to be enough.

Enough for society. Enough to fit in. Enough to be loved.

Today is Good Shepherd Sunday, as it is every 4th Sunday of Easter. We are reminded of how Jesus is the Good Shepherd, but we are rarely reminded of what that actually even means. Because really, I don’t know if we can ever really put it into words. Jesus is called a great many things as “good”, but for some reason Good Shepherd really stuck. All of chapter 10 of the gospel according to John is referred to as the “Good Shepherd discourse,” but really it is just a continuing of the conversation Jesus was having with his disciples around the blind man that Jesus just healed.

Talk about a tough life huh? If you think being beautiful is difficult, imagine not even knowing what beautiful looks like. This guy was born blind, never saw a thing in his life, and Jesus’ disciples asked what many of us sometimes ask when we see someone down and out in their luck, “what did this guy do to deserve this?”

Because, it must be something, right? Whenever we’re going through tough times, then that’s different, I mean someone did that stuff to us. But when it’s someone else? Well they probably did something to deserve their hardship. If we’re beautiful, then people are mean to us because they can’t handle our beauty. If someone else is beautiful and they’re treated poorly? It’s not because they’re beautiful but because they’re just annoying and no one likes them.

C’mon admit it, that was your first reaction to that article, right? It’s like lady, it isn’t because you’re pretty, it’s because you’re you.

But Jesus went and healed this blind man, not because of anything he did or didn’t do, but because Jesus just did. And Jesus hung out with people that no one liked for various reasons, not because they changed and became likeable or repented from whatever people were holding against them, but because Jesus decided to hang out with them. And Jesus walked to the cross and lay his life down for his friends, not because his friends were loyal or trustworthy or even understood what Jesus taught them, but because they were his friends, and that was enough.

See this is one of the reasons that Jesus is referred to as the Good Shepherd. There are many reasons, but I’m going to focus on this particular one. While we might be down on ourselves and our luck, while we might blame a number of exterior forces at play trying to sabotage our lives, while we might think that we’re never enough, Jesus lays his life down for us, his friends.

This term used for “lay down his life” isn’t a literal just dying for someone, but it is humbling himself, giving himself up, almost like emptying his soul for sake of the world. Do you think Jesus would do that if he didn’t think that you, each and every single person in this room and in all rooms in all the world, were worth it? Do you think that the Son of the God Most High, the Prince of Peace, the King of Kings would humble himself if he didn’t truly love? Do you think that the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Saviour of the World, Jesus the Christ would wholly and completely lay down his life if he didn’t regard us as his friends?

I sure wouldn’t. I’d be like, “lay your own life down, I’m busy right now.”

But Jesus did. The Son of God did. The Good Shepherd looked at us, all of humanity, full of sin and blemish, full of hurt and brokenness, full of shame and guilt, and was filled with compassion and gave us everything.

Everything we need to feel secure. Everything we need to feel loved. Everything we need to confidently rest in God’s promises of grace, mercy, and peace.

See we needn’t worry about not being good enough, because we are enough. We needn’t worry about whether or not others are good enough, because Jesus specifically says there are others not of this fold, this way of life, this understanding of the gospel even, but they too will be joined with us in his name. We needn’t worry about what it means to be the Good Shepherd, but just that Jesus is and his love and care for us will lead us to those still waters and green pastures.

So all those areas of life that could seem like they suck? Well, they don’t have to. We can let go of how we don’t fit in, or our longing to be someone we’re not, or lamenting the situation that we’re in. Instead, we can embrace the fact that we’re loved, blessed, and regarded as enough in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Peter says in the first reading that Jesus, that rejected cornerstone, is the only name under heaven by which we are saved. At first this sounds very exclusionary and narrow minded. But upon reflecting on it, how liberating it is knowing that Jesus, our Jesus the Good Shepherd, is the name above all names and welcomes all into this fold under one God. We don’t have to look any further. We don’t have to try any more gimmicks or follow any more empty promises. We don’t need to keep up with the Joneses and buy all the latest and greatest products for identity and security. We don’t need to turn to anything other than Jesus to see the value and worth divinely given to us and all people, that while we have our shortcomings, our failings, our places where we might even feel that life sucks, God decides to love us, bring us in and welcome us, and save us all from the things that separate us from God.

All. No matter of how much we don’t deserve it. No matter how beautiful or not beautiful we think we are. No matter how yellow our metaphorical grass could be compared to our neighbour’s. All. This is the promise of God through Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd who lays his life down for his friends.

As we continue in this Easter Season, may we continue to feel the presence of God’s love in our lives, saving us from guilt and shame, elevating us to know our value and worth, and leading us out of our dark valleys into peace. Thanks be to God. Amen.

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