Revised Common Lectionary Reflection, Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year B
April 22, 2018
Lessons: Acts 4:5-12; Psalm 23; 1 John 3:16-24; John 10:11-18
Theme: God’s faithful and generous people realize that sometimes we need to “chew” on words and images in scripture, stewarding this good news like seeds sown in our hearts and lives that, if well-tended, will grow and flourish.
Key Scripture: “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me. John 10:14
“Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.” 1 John 3:18
This coming Sunday is both Good Shepherd Sunday and Earth Day (or Creation Care Sunday). Preachers and teachers have a wealth of possibilities to explore and share; one really can’t go wrong. What do you sense are your community’s needs and concerns this week? Are they more focused on needing guidance and feeling supported by the one true shepherd? Does the community need to hear a convicting word about the power of love in community and deepening relationships and networks of support, of caring for neighbor and stranger alike? Or is creation care a timely topic that needs to be lifted up in your context?
Perhaps there’s a sense of life being overwhelming, of chaos and uncertainty in the world that has folks worried and distracted. After all, there’s a whole lot going on in our world and in our nation. It’s likely that the dis-ease in the world is reflected in the lives and homes of many people who will be drawn to worship this week.
With all of the pain, suffering, need, war, greed, hunger, and want in the world, it can be tough to find a lot about which to be hopeful. Maybe, just maybe, the lessons this week offer an opportunity to sow a few words into the fertile soil of hearts broken open by life’s hard edges and sharp corners.
There are many worthy words and themes in the lessons, but three words stand out to me, words that I have been pondering in my heart: LOVE, GOOD, and JESUS. These three words pack a lot punch. You just can’t go wrong with this trio.
You see, LOVE covers a multitude of sins. Love makes the world go round—at least according to an old pop song. Love is the hallmark of how folks will know us as Christ followers. And you can’t have too much agape love. You just can’t. This kind of love is contagious and multiplies like leaven and flour work together to form bread.
As John writes in his letter, “We know love by this, that Jesus laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another,” and, “Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.”
Yes, love is a word with legs and hands and heart. It’s a word that requires an investment. But the return is better than any bank or stock dividend will ever pay out. The yield on this word is eternal.
I did not say, however, that this is an easy word to live out. In fact, I don’t believe that we are even truly capable of love aside from God’s love working in us and through us in the most surprising and amazing ways.
The second word is GOOD, a word that resonates with both Good Shepherd Sunday and Earth Day. That’s a double dose of good because Jesus is our real and true shepherd and God created everything good—all of creation.
And my friends, don’t we need a double dose of good right now? When we see our creation groaning and weeping under humankind’s misuse and abuse, when we find out that people, many of them little children, are dying from chemical attacks and retaliatory weapons of war, when we know that people are going to bed hungry and cold right here in the land of plenty, we need good—and not just good words. We need a good shepherd to guide us and rescue us and lead us through the valley of shadows.
We need the reassurance that Psalm 23 offers us. We need that image that John offers of Jesus as our one true, and right and good shepherd. We need to savor that good word and know that even when the way seems weird and we are oh so weary, it’s all good because of the third word … JESUS.
You see, that word, that name above all names enfolds the other two words, love and good, in the perfect expression of all that was, is, and is to come. Jesus loves me, this I know with my heart, in my bones, and in the beautiful, broken, and blessed Body of Christ that gathers.
Three simple words, LOVE, GOOD, and JESUS, are woven into our lessons today, and my prayer for you as you preach and teach is that you will weave them in ways that take root in those who hear them. May they be water for thirsty souls, bread for the hungry heart, and wine for the wounded spirit. Lord, give us the grace to savor and ponder these three words and trust in your abundance: your LOVE, your GOOD, and above all your son, JESUS. Amen.
Building on the theme of “a few words,” choose one hymn for each of the three words (love, good, and Jesus) for your worship this week. Give each person three blank post cards, each with one of the three words printed on them, preferably in decorative script with some graphic elements. Invite worshipers to take these three cards home and at some point during the week write a brief note of encouragement to someone they think would benefit from the power of these words.
Consider with your youth how the Psalm 23 is a good selection for Earth Day. What elements are present that remind you of creation care? What do we need to have green valleys, clean water, and food? How does earth care make life more secure? Why should Christians be involved in creation care?
If your congregation hasn’t completed a “green audit” consider doing so. Here’s a comprehensive resource to get you started. Be sure to begin with some “low-hanging fruit” and realize that becoming a green church may take time and a lot of effort, along with some resources.
Consider having a blessing of soil, water, and seeds today. Bring each child a small pot, some vegetable seeds, and have on hand a large watering can and some potting mix. Offer a simple prayer of blessing over these elements, and talk with the children about how the water, seeds, and soil are interdependent. You can’t grow a tomato plant without seeds. You can’t grow a tomato plant without soil or water. And we need the sun to help give the growth. The same is true for us as Christ’s body. We need one another to be complete and to flourish. And we need Jesus, the Son, to shine his love, mercy, and grace into our lives so that we will grow in faith.
If your time is short in worship, invite the children to stay afterward to plant their seeds and personalize their pots. Invite the children to have adults in their lives take pictures of the plant’s growth and post these to your church’s Facebook page.
Weekly Stewardship Bulletin Insert
God created the earth and proclaimed everything good. We call Jesus our good shepherd. Life in the beloved community of the church is proclaimed good because we strive to live in unity and love God and neighbor. This week ponder the word “good” and be a good steward of all that God has named good.
Stewardship at Home
This week ponder what it means to be a faithful steward of God’s good creation. Sunday is Earth Day, so this is a wonderful time to take stock of how you are caring for the planet in your daily life. Do you recycle? Do you compost your food and yard waste? Do you strive to reduce the amount of plastic and packaging in the products you buy? Are you able to grow at least some of your own food? If not, do you strive to buy from local producers whenever possible? Have you measured your carbon footprint and considered ways to make you home more energy efficient? Do you use water carefully and with thankfulness? Every small step we take helps us be better stewards of God’s good gift of creation. Be sure to give thanks to God for clean water and air, healthy soil, and fresh food.
Here’s a look back at our 2012 Lectionary Reflection: http://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2012/04/whats-the-catch/
Here’s a look back at our 2015 Lectionary Reflection: http://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2015/04/rambling-in-the-ruts-of-righteousness/
Photos: Jeff Djevdet, Akio Takimoto, and Richard Wagoner, Creative Commons usage license. Thanks!
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