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Jul 16 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

The Shepherd and the Star Pt. 1 07/16/2023



Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Welcome to RefleXion!     The Lord is with you!

A couple of weeks ago I shared a little story with my Lectio Divina group, and I referenced a book where I thought I had read it.  I went back to look for it this week, and it wasn’t in the book I thought, so I’m not sure where I heard this tale.

It’s like this…There was a young woman who lived in a comfortable stone cottage, one she had built herself and loved.  One day she found herself wanting to cross the stream that she could see from her door.  As she reached its banks, it seemed too wide for her.  She asked Jesus to help her; he brought her a stone to step on, and she took her next step.  The next time she was in the stream, the gap still seemed too big, so she asked Jesus for help again; he immediately brought her another stone to step on.  She made progress, but day after day it still seemed so far, so wide, so dangerous; and Jesus always brought stepping stones.  But one day, Jesus was late, so she turned around to look for him, in the direction of her comfy stone cottage.  To her astonishment, the cottage was being deconstructed stone by stone.  The stones she was stepping on were taken from her comfortable little place, and now she could never go back.

If you’re like me, you can look back and see the structures you had, comfortable, familiar, safe; but perhaps they  no longer a fit for your journey.  Scripture says, “all things work together for good.”  Nothing is wasted.  There’s always a bit of deconstruction going on.  Cells in our body break down and get rebuilt regularly.  In philosophy, deconstruction is the literary criticism that questions traditional assumptions about certainty, identity, and truth. 

Many of our beliefs and ways of looking at things have changed, haven’t they? John Dewy, an American scholar in the early 20th century, said, “All learning begins when our comfortable ideas turn out to be inadequate.”

I’ve heard people say, “Don’t look back, that’s not the way you’re going!”  But, like the young woman in the story, you can look back…and be astonished! Things are being deconstructed, but nothing is lost.  It has all had its way with you.  To deconstruct is not to destroy.  Scripture says, “all things work together for good for those who love God.” Let’s welcome the Spirit working a forward-facing work in us and take each step as it’s made possible.

Let’s pray:

O Jesus, what a marvelous, wonderful author and finisher of our faith You are. Let us not side-step our calling, but follow You, willingly and whole-heartedly.   Keep astonishing us.  Turn Your Face toward us this morning, we pray; as we turn ours toward You, in gratefulness that You are leading us in Glory .  Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr. 

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” John 21:15-17

Intro: Last week, God’s question to Elijah was, “What are you doing here?”

We’ll start with that question: “What are you doing here?”
– isn’t one reason that your here is because you came to hear what I have to say?
• Okay, I feel uncomfortable when I think that or say that
◦ not only because it’s like I have to give an oral report every week
(and feel like I’ll be graded on it),
◦ but because I can’t take myself that seriously
• I’m a mediocre guy who makes more mistakes than gets things right
– However, I do take God seriously and the work he’s given me
• and I take you very seriously – so I don’t want to waste your time
• but I’m like a court jester; the silliness of what I do and who I am, causes others to think

If what I do is part of the reason you’re here, then perhaps I should explain why I’m here
– so that’s what I’m going to talk about for the next two weeks

This idea came to me Wednesday night in our Lexio Divina
(Jim refers to our Lexio Divina meetings as a “workshop on learning to listen.” We listen for the Spirit to speak to us through the Scriptures, in silence, and through each other)

The reading was in Matthew 2, and was about the birth of Jesus and the visit of the magi
– one of the women in our group said that what spoke to her was,
“The shepherd and the star” – both images are were references to Jesus
• that had an immediate effect on me
◦ and the more I thought about it, the more it spoke to me
• a few days later, it was my inspiration for these talks
– so today we’re going to ease our way into it

John tells us how Jesus reconciled with Peter after his resurrection

It’s a beautiful and complex story, but we won’t go into those details
– we watch Jesus approach Peter and patch their relationship
• Peter needed the Lord to do this for him
• after reconciling with Peter, Jesus gave him his assignment
◦ he said it three times, in three words, and mixing it up each time
Feed my lambsTend my sheepFeed my sheep
– the biblical tradition of the shepherd-leader has a long history
• Moses spent forty years as a shepherd before spending another forty leading Israel through the wilderness…
• God removed King Saul and replaced him with David, whose primary qualification was he had been a shepherd
“Thus says the LORD of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel” (2 Sam. 7:8)
[The LORD] chose David his servant
and took him from the sheepfolds;
from following the nursing ewes he brought him
to shepherd Jacob his people,
Israel his inheritance.
With upright heart he shepherded them
and guided them with his skillful hand (Ps. 78:70-72)
– Israel’s poets and prophets perceived God in role of shepherd
• the most famous psalm, Psalm 23, begins with, “The LORD is my shepherd”
◦ God leads, feeds, waters, and give rest and protection to every believer
• then we hear the prophet Isaiah announce:
He will feed his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young (Isa. 40:11)

When Jesus came, he saw people through the eyes of a shepherd
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd (Mt. 9:36)
– Jesus chose the shepherd as one of the images he used to describe himself
I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd (Jn. 10:14-16)
– and now here, at the end of John’s gospel, Jesus enlists Peter to continue his shepherding work
• later on, Paul regarded all church leaders as shepherds
Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God (Acts 20:28)

The thought of being in pastoral ministry terrifies me

One of the most famous preachers of the 19th century, Charles H. Spurgeon, said,
“If you can do anything else, do it. If you can stay out of the ministry, stay out of the ministry.”
– the writer of Hebrews said pastoral leaders:
are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account (Heb. 13:17)
• James wrote,
Not many of you should become teachers . . . for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness (Jas. 3:10)
• I’ve run into people around town who attended Capo Beach Church when I was there
◦ more than once I’ve been greeted with, “Hi, Pastor Chuck!” And I’ve answered “I’m not a pastor any more”
◦ one woman replied, “But you will always be my pastor” – that creeps me out
– there are too many ways that I can fail you
• I’ll give you one example

Suppose I assist you in deepening your life in God, but that part of your life is activated only on Sundays or only seems real when we meet together–when we pray, and enter the Scriptures–and the rest of the time and everywhere else we’re preoccupied with other things? What if every other day of the week we live like earthlings, unaware of God, and caught up in all the things of the world? What if on the weekdays we are worried about our bodies while neglecting our spirits? The the point I want to make is that I am a “supplement”! What I do is not your nutrition, your source of energy or healthy growth.

What happens when we’re here is reinforcement, a remembering, a refreshing, and refueling. Reflexion is a rest stop in this long journey and a break from the everyday pressures. We leave here and return to the road. A benefit of being here together, is that it supports our lives and gives us stamina in the trenches. Our real life in God is what we nurture and practice every day.

Abraham Maslow, a twentieth century psychologist and humanist,
– was convinced that humans have a “transcendent nature” that needs to be nurtured
• he believed there was a human need to experience transcendence
• he argued that church on Sunday could get in the way of that rather than provide it
Maslow, “The experiences of the holy . . . the divine, . . . of surrender, of mystery . . . gratitude, self-dedication, if they happen at all, tend to be confined to a single day of the week, to happen under one roof only . . . . ‘Religionizing’ only one part of life secularizes the rest of it.”
– Maslow refers to this kind of rupture between one day of the week and the other days as “dichotomizing” (dichotomy is a division of one thing into two parts)
• he argues that dichotomizing results in psychological disorders
Maslow, “Isolating two interrelated parts of a whole from each other, parts that need each other, parts that are truly ‘parts’ and not wholes, distorts them both, sickens and contaminates them.”
• St. James made a similar observation 2,000 years ago
People who are double-minded are unstable in all their ways” (Jas. 1:8)
◦ we can break this down further and make it easier to digest
Brenning Manning, “Christianity has designated certain places more sacred than others, some days holier than others, and some actions more religious than others, giving the impression that contact with God happens primarily, if not exclusively, on the first day of the week in a building called church. Confining God’s presence to certain predictable times and places is restrictive and leads to the unspoken assumption that the rest of the week is irreligious.”
My dad used to say, “Some people have enough of the Lord in them to be unhappy in the world and enough of the world in them to be unhappy in the Lord.”

If we correct the division between sacred and secular, what is possible?

Being here together will enrich our daily experience of God
– but the reverse is also possible
• our daily experience of God will enhance our being together
– let’s say we have a day that is unusually distressing
• we pray and we call or text to share our need with a Christian friend
◦ we breathe, turn our awareness to God, and receive peace
◦ the answer may not have arrived–yet–but it’s on the way
• then we meet together here and share our hardships and successes
◦ this is what the Psalms describe when the poet says,
“I will thank you in the great congregation;
in the mighty throng I will praise you” (Ps. 35:18)

Conclusion: Sometime ago, a friend of mine lost his wife after a prolonged illness

When I called him to see how he was doing, he told me that a minister involved in his wife’s memorial service told him to write out his eulogy; that way he wouldn’t risk losing a thought or rambling. Also, if he were to be flooded with emotion and unable to keep reading, his daughter could finish reading the eulogy for him.
The problem was that my friend did not consider himself a writer or capable of putting together something worth reading at her memorial. He was struggling with it and getting nowhere. So I asked him if he was busy, or if I could come over to his house, interview him briefly, and write the eulogy for him. He said he didn’t want to put that on me, but I told him, “This is easy for me. It’s what I do; it’s who I am.”

There are two specific places passages in the Scriptures where Jesus spoke to me and gave me my assignment like he did with Peter.
Years passed between these two events,
but on each occasion, Jesus said, “This is what you do. This is who you are”
Next week and the week after,
I am going to share those two words with you

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