Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Good Shepherd and ANZAC Day



Gate Pa – Easter 4 + ANZAC Day 2015
Readings:
Psalm:                                      Psalm 23 
First Reading:                          Acts 4:5-12
Second Reading:                     1 John 3:16-24                
Gospel:                                     John 10:11-18                          

What I want to say:
I want to enter into the world of a shepherd, and see how “David” uses this to describe his trust in God, noting that we need to be careful not to romanticise it. Then to notice how that tradition was used and expanded by the prophetic tradition and finally by Jesus. And then wonder what all this offers us on this centenary anniversary of the landings at Gallipoli

What I want to happen:


The Sermon

      1.      Introduction:

23 psalm – probably best known
us of British descent – part of our cultural fabric really.
wonder what you see and feel as we hear or say that psalm
suspect for many us conjure visions nice idyllic scenes
able to rest for eternity with Jesus
after long troubled road
easy to romanticise
I suspect that these images bears little resemblance to how people Middle East would hear that psalm?
we miss that what described here
            was the hard, sometimes brutal and dangerous reality for all shepherds
what is life shepherd like -

      2.      The Life of a Shepherd

based on book Kenneth Bailey
bible scholar
lived and worked in middle east most life
had men who were family shepherds in his classes
accessed commentaries and translations in both Syriac – one of 3 major languages of early church
                        language of that part world
            Arabic
from his work learnt following
2 kinds of flocks
small flocks most families have – provide wool keep warm
            these with cow and donkey sleep in house with family
                        keep warm in winter
                        keep safe thieves
families get together and choose one son – (nowadays 2 girls) be shepherd
            go around each morning collect up little flocks and take out
larger flocks wealthier families
kept outside in an enclosure – high walls
            thorns on top discourage thieves
            gate – opened from inside
each morning shepherds collect sheep
            larger flocks – shepherd open gate
both cases shepherd then goes before them leading them through the streets village/town – out into country side
shepherd never goes back driving them
always in front
imagine that scene - number flocks going through towns and villages at same time
            all mingling up together
eventually get out narrow streets and shepherds then go separate way
shepherds each have unique tune
            play on little flute
            sing -   sheep recognises
            all use   common huhu tata
                        recognise voice shepherd
each case follow
shepherd then takes them to place
            green grass
            still water       
                        sheep only drink still water – not running water
            once find such place – spend day there until return home at night
easy find spring,
            as summer and autumn roll and then winter harder find
            go further
travel through more dangerous terrain
one such place danger sheep and shepherd narrow valleys
            dark
            walk in single lane
            shepherd at front
            easy for thieves steal lamb or sheep from back
times need stay out overnight
build enclosure rocks
again thorns on tip
light fire near entrance
shepherd sleep across opening  - literally become the door
role shepherd lead sheep food and still water
also defend sheep against –thieves and predators – lions, wolves, bears
shepherd take two aids with him
his staff – looks like bishops crook – used rescue sheep
            comfort sheep
            walking staff
rod – much shorter
            more like club with metal driven into ends
            use beat predators and thieves with
            use place over doorway enclosure at night
            sheep go under one by one to count
            if one not there
go out find it – disaster loose a sheep
rod then weapon protected them
            also means by which their absence noticed
rescue mounted
Bailey offers several accounts all night searches lost sheep
entire village know about – see the lights and hear calls those looking
sheep – once realise lost – hunker down and wait
listen intently for call shepherd
once hear it reply loud as can
search never easy
unlike original journey stick to worn rutted paths
now shepherd forced scramble across rocks, through thorns and bushes
            may take long time
when sheep found shepherd himself scratched, grazed, and worn out extra labour
always price to be paid for rescuing a sheep
always celebration in village if and when lost sheep in found

      3.      23rd Psalm

so lets read 23rd psalm in light of that
first thing we note is that this does not describe some idyllic scene
            but harsh life of shepherd
Psalm uses this everyday experience of shepherd
            describe Psalmists experience of God
In the harsh reality of everyday life – God is present
Bailey uses tradition to suggest that David is Psalmist
            David was flawed person
                        adulterer
                        had faithful servant killed take servants wife
                        poorly managed own family
                                    ended up in civil war son
                                    killed
            lot not to like about David
Despite all that - Lord was still his shepherd
God – the shepherd is trustworthy even when he,
            David, was far from trustworthy.
Not only did God lead David each day
            (this is a daily journey remember
                        not a stop and stay scenario)
but when we went astray
            when his life seemed in peril
vs 3 “You re'vive my ' spirit:
and guide me in right pathways '_
for your ' name's ' sake.
God sought him out”
Hebrew word translated as “revive” is “shuv”
more commonly translated at seek out and restore
clear illusion to David being lost sheep
            Kenneth Bailey says – bad sheep not listen and follow shepherds tune
God has come in person
God rescues
            has willingly searched and rescued psalmist
            paid price of that search
and then led him again on right paths
he does this
not because of anything David has done
            David is bad sheep
but because that is the nature of God
verse 5
shepherd imagery is lost
celebration at recovery of lost sheep (David)
interesting about this is feminine imagery implied here
completely miss
women prepare food
women cook
women spread tables
never men
not even slave men
When God is addressed in the 2nd person
“you”
addressed God using image of woman
not just some crazy modern feminist reading of this
Bailey quotes 11th and 12th writers in Syriac – write out same cultural context David lived
draw attention to this
importance of this
here God is described in feminine terms
God is beyond gender
last verse
Surely your goodness and mercy will follow me
Hebrew word there much better translated as pursue
We are pursued by God’s goodness and mercy
no matter what we do
–> God’s goodness and mercy is hunting us down
till the end of our lives
we cannot escape it
what an image
finishes with “and I will dwell” – again that word “shuv”
I will be sought out, returned, restored, to the house of God forever.
not about idyllic place we end up
psalm is about life’s journey
on that journey
God’s nature is to lead us
and when we do not heed the voice of God
God’s nature is to pursue us
to restore us
no matter what we do

      4.      The beginning of a tradition

more than nice psalm
important psalm
starting point of significant tradition within scripture
tradition of good shepherd
tradition that Jesus deliberately uses and builds on
psalm establishes number themes that developed, and added to over next 1000 or so years

      5.      The Tradition

Psalm 23 reinterpreted to new situations
expanding psalms one sheep
to flock – representing all people God
before fall Jerusalem for first time – Jeremiah 23 –
after total destruction Jerusalem after second uprising – Ezekiel 34
after restoration and new peril – Zechariah
Tradition – good shepherd attached hopes for coming Messiah
When God acts with compassion
seeks out and restores (shuv) people God
Tradition Jesus then picks up
Luke 10 – stories lost sheep, lost coin, lost sons
Matthew 18 – lost sheep
Mark 6
finally here John 10: 1-18
each reinterpretation intensifies tradition
real sense reaches climax with reading this morning
Jesus does some really interesting things in Johns account
first call shepherd good
            implied all other parts tradition
here is it explicit
good cf bad shepherds lead sheep wrong path
            attacked sheep own gain
            devoured sheep
            deserted sheep when in peril
ð  good shepherd does none of those things
Here Jesus takes tradition – God good shephers
            applies it to himself
            I am the good shepherd
implied in other gospels
            here explicitly stated.
all hopes part good shepherd tradition
hopes that God will come
God will seek out, rescues, restore good sheep
hopes bad shepherd destroyed
hopes new age
those hopes are being realised right now
in Jesus
finally first clearly state price to be paid
more what shepherd pay when scramble seeking lost sheep
price is life laid down
not taken
no room blame anyone
see it as defeat
freely laid down
and taken up again
final and greatest enemy of sheep
death
is defeated
all is restored
God has come
God is acting
here before you
powerful statement of fulfilment of hopes go back at least 600 years
but reinterpreted
reconfigured
Jeusw is saying that all hopes held 23rd psalm are being lived out
            before their eyes
            before our eyes

      6.      Anzac and Gate Pa

we hear Jesus make these bold statements
having yesterday remembered those who fought all wars New Zealanders fought in
particularly remembering Gallipoli
we prepare remember own battle
            New Zealanders fought preserve freedom, way life, land
                        from invading British forces
wonder what we are to make of this good shepherd
where are we in this story?
lost sheep?
bad sheep
good sheep
shepherd = good or bad
danger of romanticising these events just like romanticise 23rd Psalm
forget true nature of both wars
            battles fought
easy to forget cost paid by those who went
            those stayed
            those objected to this war
easy to romanticise those whose decisions led to this conflict
            decisions made after this conflict
how might we describe them?
good shepherd
bad shepherds
confused shepherds
In face of these tragic events
cost people of this land so dearly
what does it mean for us to say
the lord is my shepherd
we shall not want

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Remembering well.



Alleluia, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, alleluia.
As I have said a few times, we are in the middle of Easter, which lasts for 50 days. Last week I talked about how the events of Good Friday and Easter Sunday invite us to reflect on those attitudes, behaviours, hopes and beliefs that lead us from living life to the fullest; from loving the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and mind by loving our neighbour as ourselves. This season invites us to leave all these at the cross to die with Christ so that Easter Sunday might dawn with new hope, new attitudes, new behaviours and beliefs that lead us and all to life.
This Thursday we remembered St. George. George was born into a Christian family of Greek decent in Palestine in about 280. Tradition teaches us that he followed his father to be a tribune in the Emperor’s body guard. In 303 the Emperor Diocletian ordered all soldiers to sacrifice to him as a god, and if they refused for them to be put to death. George refused the order, and went to the Emperor to tell him that the order was wrong. He was tortured and put to death. His grave is in Israel and he is remembered today as the patron saint of all Palestinians. A Muslim saying about St. George states that the righteous act is to say what is just in the face of a tyrant. George challenged the Emperor’s attitudes and beliefs that deprived so many others of life. And he willingly paid the price.
In the coming week we remember the centenary of the landings at Gallipoli, and the Battle of Gate Pa. Both occasions offer us a chance to remember the New Zealanders who died on Gallipoli and the Western Front fighting for the British Empire; and those New Zealanders who died here defending their land, and the British invaders. There is no doubting the courage and fortitude of all those who fought, especially at Gallipoli and the Western Front. These people were put in an impossible situation. There had never been this kind of war before and the generals were at a loss at how to do fight it. And the ordinary soldiers paid the price. We remember them.
This week’s readings are about the Good shepherd. We hear that old favourite, Psalm 23, which establishes the idea of the Good Shepherd in Scripture. The temptation is to romanticise this psalm, to turn it into something it is not. It takes the hard reality of life as both sheep and shepherd to describe God’s presence in the life of the Psalmist. It is still a hard life. This psalm is reinterpreted a number of times by Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah, Matthew, Mark and John to expand on the themes the write of Psalm 23 introduces, and introduce some new themes depending on the people who were the first hearers. We hear part of John’s reinterpretation in John 10, which like the other gospel writers elevates Jesus to Good Shepherd. It is set in a moment of deep conflict with the Pharisees. Jesus is described as going before us through the agony and death of the cross, and we are invited to follow his tune. Let us not romanticise this reading either.
We also need to be careful we do not romanticise what WWI was all about and to do that in a way that still honours those who fought and the values they fought for and the reasons they went.  It is Easter and these commemorations offer us a chance to reflect on the attitudes, hopes and beliefs that led to both the New Zealand Land Wars and WWI. With St. George, a soldier himself, are we able to ask what beliefs so easily lead us to violence, and in the light of the resurrection to look for attitudes, beliefs and ways of behaving that lead to justice, peace and hope for all. We must remember all those who fought and died, on every side, and work with the Good Shepherd in their name to ensure that no more suffer the same fate.
Alleluia, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, alleluia.