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Be Ye Doers of the Word and Not Hearers Only

Easter 4 – Year B

AI am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own
As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father… John 10.14-15
God knows those who trust in him. Nahum 1.7
But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him. I Cor 8.3
The Lord knows those who are His. 2 Tim 2.19

The word pastor comes from Latin and it means herdsman. Pastoral theology or shepherd theology is what you take in Seminary when you begin to learn what you=re supposed to do as a priest and pastor.

When I first began to appreciate who Jesus was and what Scripture says about him as an adult, I was living in Honduras, working at a cathedral school called El Buen Pastor the Good Shepherd.

As the chaplain of El Buen Pastor, I had the chance to put together the school prayer book and hymnal. So I decided to make the school song that venerable hymn, AThe King of Love My Shepherd Is.

I chose the ancient tune of St. Columba, because I grew up at St. Columbas Episcopal Church in Washington, where we sang that hymn alot.

El Buen Pastor Cathedral used to be open air building C it had no glass windows. So you could see and hear everything going on outside. There were many mornings when I would be lead my 340 children in prayers and songs, and I could see young men passing in front of the cathedral doors with their herd animals.

It was a powerful parallel for me to see the young herdsmen leading their hoofed charges outside, while I was pastoring to children inside the cathedral of the Good Shepherd.

You see a pastor of children as well as grown ups can learn a thing or two from real-life herdsman.

I=ve identified four:

A good pastor should learn to spend a great deal of time alone;

he should mumble and whistle to himself, because the sheep can=t understand him anyway; but occasionally he should bark out pointed commands while waving his hands in the air;

he should pay no mind to attire or cleanliness, because the sheep don=t care that much;

and lastly, when the sheep get out of line, the pastor should give them a good whack with a long, hooked stick.

Let me know what you think of these points on the next parish survey.

Speaking of the parish survey, I looked at the results the other day, and I learned a couple of things.

In all seriousness, I’m impressed and I learned a lot.

It’s clear to me that the people of St. James=s love their community, they love their Church, and they really want the best for it. And I think it’s evident from the survey and especially from daily life in this place, that a lot of folks are willing to give generously of themselves in a spirit of common heart and soul.

What a blessing to have so many people who feel they share a common life with one another.

Sounds a little like Acts 4.32: ANow the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul …

It=s a good sign to me, that in this late day and age, we can still carry the spirit of that early church of the apostles. Lets pray we may keep our eyes on their inspirational model in Scripture and in the ancient traditions of the Church: sharing the one bread and one cup on Sunday; sharing our time and talent in parish and community ministries; sharing our voices in song; sharing our hearts and minds in prayer; sharing our lives and overcoming our individual foibles and interests.

I learned something else from the survey C which came through loud and clear people at St. James=s want pastoral care. How about that. We want a pastor. We want care. We want C can I say it C to be comforted? …

We want our church community to be many things:

we want it to seek justice and mercy in the world of pain,

we want it to feed the hungry and clothe the naked,

we want it to sing with happy voices the praises of God Almighty,

we want it to lift us up with a foretaste of heaven,

And, when times are tough, we want our church to give us a little comfort.

Don’t we?

I remember in psychology 101 we read a study about infant chimpanzees and their need for physical touch and comfort. Orphaned baby monkeys were much more stressed out and anxious C as you might expect. But when even something as pitiful as a wire-and-terry-cloth monkey doll was placed in the cage, the little chimp would snuggle up against it, and relax.

It=s like Linus and his security blanket, I guess, … but that=s … the way… we are. We need security. We need comfort. We need to be loved. We need to be known. And, thankfully, God knows this.

That=s why God says in Isaiah, a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you;

It=s why Acts Nine promises us the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

Yes we need that comfort of God, which is like a mother who comforts her child. We need the promise which Jesus makes today: in Him we are secure; we are known; we are loved.

Now this is true shepherd theology. We fellow priests in the Body of Christ –you and I – need not emulate herdsmen or sheepdogs. Because we can ground everything we do in the promise that the Resurrected Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd. He offers the comfort we need through the grace of the Holy Spirit. And Jesus tells us, in Mark and Luke, that God, Alike a mother hen, seeks to gather her chicks under her wings.

This Grace is the heart and soul of our common life together.

Following that early church model we read about in Acts, we are called to be for one another the living face of that motherly comfort which is poured into our common hearts by the power of God.

There is no place in scripture that says any of us is the be-all and end-all of pastoral care. There is only the common refrain that we must love one another as Christ loved us.

As Marguerite Ellet told a group of vestry last month, Awe must not expect one or two ordained people to be the kind of pastor that only Christ himself is.@ Indeed, we are all baptized into His body. As such, we all have his arms with which to hug, his ears with which to listen, his hands with which to touch, and his heart with which to make friends with one another.

On this Mother=s Day, as we recall Christ the Good Shepherd, let us admit that we all need pastoral care here at St. James=s. We all need some of that heart-felt spiritual comfort, that godly mothering, that only the Risen Lord can provide C which is why he calls each of his children to be a channel of grace by which that mothering can come.

But unlike the animal herdsmen I’ve seen, let’s vow not to hit one another with sticks, yell, or wave our arms at one another, as we work together to build up this assembly of men, women and children we call our church.

And let=s be extra careful not to leave open the gate – that shadowy gate in our hearts by which the pack wolves of pride and self-interest enter in and devour the happy flock of Christ.

And we clergy, hired hands though we are, promise to know you, love you, pray for you, and be there when you need somebody to listen to you with the ears of love and Spirit. Amen.

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