The Shepherd’s Shepherds
 — Rev. Phil Hobson

April 26, 2015

1 John 3:16-24
John 10:11-18

Grace and Peace to you this morning. Grace and Peace.

There are many definitions of love out there. There has been a piece that has gone around many times, where they ask children what love is. The answers are priceless.

“When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That’s love.” Rebecca – age 8

“When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You know that your name is safe in their mouth.” Billy – age 4

“Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.” Karl – age 5

“Love is what makes you smile when you’re tired.” Terri – age 4

“Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen,” Bobby – age 7 (Wow!)

In Christianity, we have many examples of love, but the defining moment is that Jesus loved us so much he was willing to lay down his life for us. Even if we do not know him. Even if we do not love him. Even if we do not care about him, yet he was willing to do so.

In the first letter of John, this example is then taken to be how we ought to love one another. We ought to be willing to lay down our lives for one another.

How does God’s love abide in
anyone who has the world’s
goods and sees a brother or sister
in need and yet refuses help?

Here is the condemnation of all the selfish individualism, all the rampant consumerism, all the prosperity Gospel, all the strange Christian nationalism that gets trumpeted around election time.

How does God’s love abide in
anyone who has the world’s
goods and sees a brother or sister
in need and yet refuses help?

So laying down our lives for one another is not just about our deaths, but also how we live our lives in ways that make a difference in the lives of those around us.

Many of you have heard me use the expression, “The lifeguard is not allowed to drown.” It is my reminder that those in helping professions, those who are care-givers, must take care of themselves if they are to do the work to which they are called. It is a phrase that Pastor Tom often echoes back to me for the same reason. It is easier to deal with your stuff than it is my own. It is easier for me to spot my mistakes when you make them than when I do.

Laying down our lives is not throwing them away, or being a doormat. Before Jesus set his face towards Jerusalem, how many times did he go off by himself to pray? How often did he gather with his friends, far from the needy crowds? Jesus took care of himself so that he could do what it was he was called to do.

So what does it mean to lay down our lives for those around us, without being a doormat, without being a drowning lifeguard?

When it came time for Patrick’s visitation, when so many of you were so kind and so gentle with us (and we thank you), Mary and I looked up and here was a family we knew from Indianapolis. Dad, mom and son, who had recently lost their daughter and younger sister tragically and suddenly. But they were there for us in our grief, even though the grief they carried was still so heavy.

And then came two friends from Columbus, Ohio. The wife, who is my age, is going through treatments for a rare and terminal form of cancer, and has to use a walker or a scooter to get around. Yet in their grief, they were here for us, too.

I think of the women who put on the funeral luncheons, many of whom still have losses still fresh in their hearts and minds.

I think of the number of times Stan Moore goes and sits with people at the Dialysis Center, even as he faces so many medical difficulties of his own.

I think of the number of you who step up to help out at a moment’s notice, even if you have all the world on your plate.

I recently heard a story from Diane Sowle about Myron Pray. He was retired from the funeral home, letting Joe and Joey take care of things. But he would look out the upper window of the funeral home and would see Diane out walking. She had her two older ones, and was pregnant with the twins, and the doctor had told her to walk. So she would be out walking, one child in the wagon, the other on her bike, riding up and down the sidewalk in front.

Myron would see this and come down and every evening he greeted her at the corner with a cookie for each child and a glass of lemonade for Diane. Then one day, she was not there and he called to find out what had happened. Well, she was at the hospital delivering.

Author and lecturer Leo Buscaglia once talked about a contest he was asked to judge. The purpose of the contest was to find the most caring child. The winner was a four year old child whose next door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife. Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman’s yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there. When his mother asked him what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy said, “Nothing, I just helped him cry.”

Little children, let us love, not in word or speech,
but in truth and action.

For we are the shepherds of the Shepherd. Let us go forth and care for his lambs and his sheep.

Thanks be to God. Amen.