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The Shepherd King

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UNDER THE WINGS OF THE ALMIGHTY
Sermons For Pentecost (Last Third) Cycle A First Lesson Texts
There is a wonderful story out of the 16th century about Bishop Hugh Latimer, a great leader of the church. One Sunday morning he entered his pulpit and looked out to see King Henry VIII in the congregation. He knew that what he had to say that day would not go well with King Henry. He thought for a moment and then said to himself, but out loud for all to hear, "Latimer, be careful what you say today; King Henry is here." He thought for a moment longer and again said to himself, but aloud so others could hear, "Latimer, be careful what you say today; the King of kings is here."

Today the King of kings is here and we have come together to celebrate his presence, power, majesty and glory in our world and in our lives. For us Jesus Christ is truly the "King of kings, the Lord of lords, and he shall reign forever and ever. Alleluia!"

Christ our King is here with us today. Can't you feel his presence when you enter this place of worship, when you kneel or pray, or lift your voice in song? Can't you feel the presence of the King? He is here. He is sitting there beside you. Can't you feel it? He is standing here beside me. When we kneel, he kneels with us. I know he is here because he promised, "Lo, I am with you always (Matthew 28:20)." "When two or three are gathered in my name, there I will be also (Matthew 18:20)."

The King of kings is here with us today! He is not way out there somewhere in space ruling from a distant throne. He is not a God who is remote and removed from his people. He is the imminent God, the God with us here and now. He is a God who loves and protects us. He is the great "Shepherd King."

We have a beautiful presentation of the Shepherd King in Ezekiel, chapter 34. God says, "I will be the shepherd of my sheep… I will seek the lost. I will bring back those who have strayed. I will bind up the crippled. I will strengthen the weak (Ezekiel 34:15-16)."

Our King is like a shepherd who has come to love us and to lead us. Think with me for a few moments about what it means for the king, the shepherd, to lead his people. We are called to follow him wherever he goes, wherever the path may lead.

We learn in life that the path of faith is not always an easy one to walk. Years ago a missionary society in South Africa wrote a letter to David Livingstone in which they inquired, "Have you found a good road that leads to where you are? We have some men who wish to join you." Livingstone wrote back, "If the men you want to send will come only if there is a good road, do not send them. I don't want them. I need men who will come even if there is no road at all."

Friends, we are called to follow our Lord Jesus Christ, the great king and shepherd, even if there is no road at all. He came into our world "to lead us by the still waters, to restore our souls, to lead us in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake (Psalm 23)."

We find that it is just as difficult to follow the lead of our King today as it was 2,000 years ago for the first disciples. We, too, are asked to give all that we are -- heart, mind, body, soul and strength -- to him. We are called to follow him regardless of the cost of our discipleship.

In his sermon one Sunday, a pastor was telling his congregation that they needed to give 10 percent of their income to Christ and to the work of his church. Among those in the congregation was a man who fit the description of a yuppie. He was young, bright and successful. He had an excellent job which provided a substantial income. He owned a beautiful new Mercedes. He was touched by the sermon and wanted to take the pastor seriously. Following the service, he went to the pastor and said, "I really want to tithe, I want to give 10 percent of what I have to the church, but if I do I will not be able to make the payment each month on my Mercedes." The pastor replied, "It seems to me that you have only one choice and that is to sell the Mercedes." The young man shook his head and walked slowly away. Two weeks later the pastor saw the young man again and inquired, "John, I was wondering, did you ever make a decision about tithing?" The young man smiled and replied, "Yes, Pastor, I did. I sold the Mercedes." We might think that to give up the Mercedes wasn't much of a sacrifice, but try it! Try it! Try selling something that you treasure and value in order that you may tithe. Try it and then tell me how easy it is to follow wherever the Shepherd leads.

There are times, dear friends, when we are called to sacrifice, to pay some heavy cost in order to follow the King, but we follow because we know the King has walked the hard road before us. He has gone ahead of us. He has already made the sacrifice. He has already experienced the hardships of the journey. He has already suffered the pain of the road for our sake.

Centuries ago, Saint Martin of Tours sat in his prison cell. There was a knock at the door. A mysterious figure stood before him. Saint Martin could not recognize the mysterious figure so he asked, "Tell me, who are you?" The answer came back, "I am your Savior." Saint Martin was not convinced and asked a second question: "Then where are the prints of the nails?" The mysterious visitor vanished. There can be no savior without the prints of the nails. There is no discipleship without cost.

We are called to follow where our Shepherd King leads. We follow where he leads but we follow with joy in our hearts. Though the way may be hard and painful for us, we follow with joy in our hearts because we travel with the King. The King is with us; we cannot be defeated. The King is with us; we cannot be overcome. The King is with us; we cannot be lost. Wherever we go, regardless of the hardships of the journey, as followers of the King we go with joy in our hearts. A seminary professor was teaching a class of preachers. He was telling them how important it is for one's facial expression to be consistent with the substance of the message. He said, "When you are speaking of heaven, let your face light up. Let your face radiate a heavenly gleam. Let your eyes shine with reflected glory. Of course, when you are speaking about hell your ordinary face will do."

My friends, the ordinary face will not do for Christian people. Our faces must reflect the glory of the kingdom of God and the joy that has come to us. The victory has been won! We have been saved! Our sins are forgiven! We look to the future with hope and promise.

Christian people need to reflect in their lives and worship the true victorious nature of faith. Too often we come to worship, offer our prayers, sing magnificent hymns and hear the saving word of God with a look on our faces as if our nearest and dearest died just yesterday. Christian people need to lighten up! Christ is the Victor! We celebrate with our King as members of his royal family. We do not grieve as if we have been banished from his kingdom. Let there be joy in our hearts! Our King is with us!

Teresa Bloomingdale is an author who has a talent for finding something good in everything. In 1975, she and her family went into the cellar for protection against an approaching tornado. The tornado swept across the land and literally blew their house away leaving nothing but the cellar. Fortunately, no one was injured. When Teresa Bloomingdale looked at the scene of devastation she didn't grieve and cry about the terrible loss. Instead, she viewed the twisted rubble for a moment and observed, "We were planning to move in a few weeks, now I don't have to pack all those things." She found the strength for joy even in a tragic moment.

The way of the Christian life is that we don't walk around morbidly with sour, somber faces. We walk the road, even though it is difficult, with joy in our hearts and on our faces. The Shepherd King leads us.

I want to let you in on a truly remarkable discovery. The Shepherd King not only leads us, he needs us. Can you imagine that? God needs you! The Almighty God, who created the universe and put the stars in their places, needs you. There are so many of his children who are hungry, lost, lonely, thirsty and in need. God turns to you for a hand that will reach out, a voice that will encourage and a heart that will care.

Psychologist James Lynch wrote a book about loneliness in which he makes the startling observation that loneliness kills. He says it is our nature, our biological nature, to need human relationships that matter. He suggested that if our need for relationships is not met, our health is literally in peril. He concludes that either we love one another or we die.

Jesus understood our need for someone to care and he said, "Love one another as I have loved you (John 13:34)." In Matthew 25 we find a marvelous passage where the Shepherd King says to the sheep at his right hand, "Come, O blessed of my father, enter into the kingdom that has been prepared for you from the foundation of the world. I was hungry and you fed me. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you clothed me. I was sick and you visited me. I was in prison and you came to me. And the righteous asked the Lord, ‘When did we see you hungry or thirsty or sick or in prison?' And he answered, ‘As you have done it to the least of these my brothers and sisters, you have done it to me' (Matthew 25:34-40)." God needs us to be his hands, his voice, his heart.

One night as a man was walking down the street he was suddenly attacked by a group of thugs. He was beaten, dragged into an alley and left for dead. As he was lying bleeding on the ground, he looked up into the dim amber light in the alley and saw the face of another looking at him. He felt the touch of someone's hands lifting his shoulder. At that moment, he lost consciousness. In the hospital, when he regained consciousness, he remembered the face in the alley and asked, "Is the one who helped me here? I want to speak to him." "Yes," the nurse answered, "He is here and has been waiting to see you." When the man walked into the room, the one who was injured said, "I want to thank you for helping me in the alley this evening and I want to tell you something. When I looked up into that dim light and saw your face, I thought you were Jesus." The man smiled and said, "When I heard your voice calling for help, I thought you were Jesus."

Jesus is in us all. He is in those who need help and those who give it.

There is a wonderful hymn about the Shepherd King. The first stanza reads:

"The King of Love my Shepherd is
whose goodness never faileth.
I nothing lack if I am his
and he is mine forever."


Our King is not a king distant and removed. He is a king here with us today; and we lack nothing if we are his and he is ours forever. To our Shepherd King be all honor and glory, now and forever. Amen.
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