Fourth Week of Easter: Following

shepherd-sheep-12I have a love/hate relationships with church signs. But since we have a little different relationship with churches now, I find them even more intriguing. I drive by at least 6 churches with signs every single day. As they change, I am alway curious as to what they are hoping to communicate with their signs. I always think, what is this church all about?

A few summers ago there was a church I drove by whose sign said, “We love as Jesus would.” Because this is the kind of person I am, this sign bothered me for a few days. Then I figured out why.

That is a great slogan. But it means nothing on a sign. It is the kind of slogan that needs to be backed up. If faith is just a bunch of beliefs we have to assent to, then this slogan works well. But if it’s not, our lives and actions need to actually reflect how Jesus loves and why he matters. A clever church sign cannot do this. Love in actions does this.

(Side note, I know nothing about this Church, so I am sure they do their best. Although their next sign was during a 110 degree week and said: Think it’s hot out there? Keep ignoring me. – God.)

Think about all the things that came out of the Boston tragedy. In the midst of horrible tragedy, I saw some incredible stories of people doing amazingly compassionate and loving things. They weren’t the ones offering their opinions on the tragedy or what to do with the perpetrators once we caught them. They just loved.

This is what Jesus says this week. Do you want to know if I am the Messiah? Do you want to know what God looks like? Look at what I do. I do what God does.

We are given the same call. We are to follow in the paths of Jesus like a sheep follows a shepherd. We should be able to look at people in all situations and say:

Do you want to know what God looks like? Look at what I do. Because I am following Jesus. I do what he does.

Keep this in mind as your reflect on the passages this week. As you reflect on them, keep in mind that this is a difficult way of living. Notice the comfort God offers throughout the readings.

Grace and peace be yours this week, as you follow the Shepherd.

John 10:22-30

It was now winter, and Jesus was in Jerusalem at the time of Hanukkah, the Festival of Dedication. He was in the Temple, walking through the section known as Solomon’s Colonnade. The people surrounded him and asked, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

Jesus replied, “I have already told you, and you don’t believe me. The proof is the work I do in my Father’s name. But you don’t believe me because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”

Acts 9:36-43

There was a believer in Joppa named Tabitha (which in Greek is Dorcas). She was always doing kind things for others and helping the poor. About this time she became ill and died. Her body was washed for burial and laid in an upstairs room.  But the believers had heard that Peter was nearby at Lydda, so they sent two men to beg him, “Please come as soon as possible!”

So Peter returned with them; and as soon as he arrived, they took him to the upstairs room. The room was filled with widows who were weeping and showing him the coats and other clothes Dorcas had made for them.  But Peter asked them all to leave the room; then he knelt and prayed. Turning to the body he said, “Get up, Tabitha.” And she opened her eyes! When she saw Peter, she sat up! He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then he called in the widows and all the believers, and he presented her to them alive.

The news spread through the whole town, and many believed in the Lord. And Peter stayed a long time in Joppa, living with Simon, a tanner of hides.

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd;
    I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
    he leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
    bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
    for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
    protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
    My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
    all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
    forever.

Revelation 7:9-17

After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands.  And they were shouting with a great roar,

“Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne
    and from the Lamb!”

And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living beings. And they fell before the throne with their faces to the ground and worshiped God. They sang,

“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom
    and thanksgiving and honor
and power and strength belong to our God
    forever and ever! Amen.”

Then one of the twenty-four elders asked me, “Who are these who are clothed in white? Where did they come from?”

And I said to him, “Sir, you are the one who knows.”

Then he said to me, “These are the ones who died in the great tribulation. They have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb and made them white.

 “That is why they stand in front of God’s throne
    and serve him day and night in his Temple.
And he who sits on the throne
    will give them shelter.
They will never again be hungry or thirsty;
    they will never be scorched by the heat of the sun.
For the Lamb on the throne
    will be their Shepherd.
He will lead them to springs of life-giving water.
    And God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”

Prayer

God, whose Son Jesus shows us what you look like:
Teach us to follow you.
Help us to recognize your voice and hear you call our name.
When the path is easy give us the grace to see those in need around us.
When the path is treacherous, teach us to trust.
Help us to love in the radical ways you love us. Help us love those who are need, help us to love those who are close to us. Grant us the grace to love our enemies.
In all our actions this week, may our lives reflect the beauty of your love this week.
Amen.

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