Pastor Sherry’s message from November 22, 2020
Scriptures: Eze 34:11-16, 20-24; Ps 100; Eph 1:15-23; Matt 25:31-46
I love funny signs, don’t you? I found some this week that made me laugh out loud:
Signs on property fence lines:
1. No hunting; No fishing; No nothing! Go home!
2. No trespassing! Violator will be shot; survivors will be shot again!
3. No trespassing! We’re tired of hiding the bodies.
Signs of warning:
1. High voltage. Do not touch. Not only will this kill you, It will hurt the whole time you are dying.
2. Warning. If the help desk thinks your question is stupid, we will set you on fire!
3. Unattended children will be given an energy drink and a free puppy.
4. No dumping cats! $750 fine and/or 90 days in jail.
5. My personal favorite: Warning! If you think you can run across this pasture in 10 seconds, Don’t! The bull can do it in 9.
As we approach Thanksgiving this week, I think one thing we can all be thankful for is humor. We began our service today with an opportunity for each of us to express our gratitude to God. As you may have noticed as they were read, today’s Scripture passages all focus on reasons we can and should be grateful to God.
Additionally, our Bible passages today all relate to the Kingship of Jesus Christ.
In the Ezekiel passage (34:11-16, 20-24), God is essentially firing the religious leaders of Israel. He is fed up with their ineptitude, their failures to protect His sheep, and their outright abuse of them. Instead, He shares His resolve to send a new, improved, better shepherd to watch over, teach, and guide His people: Jesus.
So, among the many things we have to be grateful for, we can thank God for sending Jesus to be our perfect Shepherd. He has redeemed us from our bondage to sin and death; and He saved us from the penalty for our sins. We can also thank God that Jesus, as Christ the King, is coming again. When He does return, He will dispense true justice. He will also establish lasting peace on the earth. And He will gather to Himself those who love Him.
Psalm 100 is a song of praise to Christ as King. During my time at seminary, I worked my way through by directing a college counseling center. The college was “Reformed Presbyterian,” which meant, among other things, that they did not use musical instruments in church or chapel. Instead, they sang the psalms only, with no accompaniment, but in 4-5 part harmony. This psalm they called “Ole 100.” Hearing it sung in 5 parts, acapella, was both spectacular and very moving.
Verse 3 tells us that the LORD is God. He is our Creator, our Redeemer; and He is the Shepherd of Israel and of the Church. V.4 reveals what J. Vernon McGee3 calls “the password to worship: Thanksgiving! [We] Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. This is how we worship God in spirit and in truth. We express our thanks to Him. We praise Him for His goodness, grace, and loving-kindness towards us. After you have memorized Psalm 23 as well as Psalm 51, you may want to put Ole 100 to memory too, as it’s a beaut!
In our Ephesians passage (1:15-23), Paul expresses thanks to God for the faith and love he sees demonstrated by this church.
When I was ordained, my Bishop gave me a devotional that takes a person through the Bible in two years. It’s meant for a pastor’s quiet time daily with the LORD. The Bishop signed it for me, inscribing it with these verses. It was as though he was saying, “I will be praying for you just as Paul was praying for those Corinthians.” Paul was delighted that they loved Jesus, loved Paul, their pastor, and loved God’s Word. He tells them they are on his prayer list. He doesn’t pray for material blessings for them, but rather for spiritual blessings:
1. He wants them to have wisdom and discernment, especially as they meditate on Scripture. He wants the Holy Spirit to continue to lead and guide them. In 1 Corinthians 2:9-10, he wrote, No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him; but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit.
2. He wants them to be people of hope.
3. He wants them to be aware of the endless energy and the boundless strength of Christ that can and will be used for their good. Jesus runs the universe; He also rules the Church. He is no pasty-faced, skinny, 98 pound weakling, but He is both robust and powerful enough to resurrect and to ascend to Heaven. When Scripture asks if anything is impossible for the LORD, the answer is no because He holds the power to do and to act.
In our Gospel (Matt. 25:31-46), Jesus reminds us that, at His 2nd Coming, He will separate out sheep from goats. The sheep– true believers–will be set on His right side. These are those of us with faith in Jesus. Our faith will be evident in the way we lived our lives. Our charitable works on the behalf on others don’t earn us salvation; only our faith in Christ does. But because we love Jesus, we try to love others by serving them in loving ways. Our charitable works come from a generous heart, a trusting spirit. And we try to be humble…Lord, when did we….Our reward will be to hear Jesus say to us, Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you….
The goats—unbelievers—will be sent to His left. These are the ones who have discounted Christ, blown Him off, refused to believe in Him during their life time. They will be condemned. They will hear Jesus tell them, Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. The goats will be shocked and horrified. They will react with self-righteousness…When did we not….
What’s so alarming about this teaching is its permanence. Jesus is warning us—like some of those goofy signs I shared earlier—(v.46) [the wicked] will go away to eternal punishment, but be grateful for Jesus, our Shepherd King the righteous to eternal life. He is serious. The results of our choice—with or without Christ—is forever, changeless and without end. What’s so wonderful, however, is that we are free to make the choice. I don’t know about you, but I am so grateful that loving Jesus sets me up to be awarded an eternal place among only righteous persons. I’m so grateful that by loving Jesus, I avoid being consigned to that place where only evil-doers will dwell. I have often thought it would be horrible to be in prison, not just due to your lack of freedom. But consider who your neighbors are there. You would be confined to the company of murderers, thugs, rapists, and robbers. How would one be able to sleep at night? Hell will be so much worse!
So let’s think—as we approach Thanksgiving day—of what all of us has to be thankful or grateful for:
1. Jesus, our Good Shepherd, came to save us.
2. Jesus, our Great Shepherd King, will come again to establish justice and bring us to Himself.
3. That gratitude/thanksgiving is our password into God’s gates; the threshold into true worship.
4. Paul and other intercessors pray for us by name.
5. That Jesus calls us to give ourselves away—using our gifts and talents—in love and service to others.
6. And aren’t we just so grateful, too, for a little humor while we await our heavenly reward?
C 2020 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams