Sermon: April 22nd 2018 Rev. Deacon Tanis Kolisnyk St Philip’s Anglican Church
10:11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
10:12 The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away–and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.
10:13 The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep.
10:14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,
10:15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.
10:16 I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.
10:17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.
10:18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”
May the words of my mouth and meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our strength, our rock, our redeemer. AMEN.
Today’s Gospel message and Psalm 23rd are all focused on the Lord being our Shepherd. I know that many of you here today will have heard of the tragedy that happened two weeks ago with the Hockey Team from Humbolt Saskatchewan, where they collided with a Semi Truck. 16 members of that Bus died, with some of them in hospital as we speak today.
There was a message that I heard about the Chaplain of the team, who was driving in another vehicle behind the bus. He was one of the first ones on the scene….. the horrific scene. That scene has been dubbed “the valley of the shadow of death”
Team Pastor Sean Brandow, shared with a watching nation the sovereignty of Jesus Christ. As a Chaplain, he knew these young people, coaches and other professionals who supported the team well. Now, he was there, in the midst of chaos, pain, loss, shock and grief. The head coach was a Christian and he used his position to mentor the boys on his team to be men with character . . . and to know Jesus.
The reason I am bringing this up is because he talked about not being able to find words of comfort – Chaplain Sean Brandow refers to Psalm 23 at that given time. It was the beginning of this Psalm that kept coming to him in this time of need.
He also said – The Bible tells us that God knew each of them before they were born. He gave them breath. (Psalm 139:13–16).
Into this shadow of death, Pastor Brandow offered the light of Christ’s resurrection. In the gospel today, Jesus did not stay dead. . . . He says to his disciples who are listening to him in John 10:11, ‘I am the good shepherd,’ and the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. Today is Shepherding Sunday.
So how do we know that God is with us in our suffering? Because Jesus was here, Jesus went through every bit of suffering before we ever did. We have someone that has gone ahead of us and before us into the heavenly realms and who now sits and intercedes on our behalf — we talk to Jesus, we commune with Jesus, we cry out to Jesus. And it’s in this time that we need a shepherd who has walked through this valley before, who can guide us.
Through tears Chaplain Sean went on to comfort a broken team, a broken town, a broken country, with the sovereignty of God. His words were disarmingly honest. He did not try to explain what he did not know, but he pointed to God for hope going forward. We can take this to heart too….. Where-ever we are with struggles that are small and struggles that are large. God is our hope.
He told the attenders of the vigil in Humbolt that he did not want to be there, but it was good to be together. What he is referring to here is a sense of community. When something in life derails us, it is important to know that we have each other and Jesus. At St. Philip’s we have community, we have each other, we have Jesus. For this I give thanks.
He told more of the story of that night: His cell phone was out of juice so he was not receiving texts: At the hospital he walked around hearing and seeing nothing but darkness. For 15 hours the only part of Psalm 23 that was in his head was: Even though I walk through the valley of darkness. That’s all he heard. That’s all that went through his head. This is the valley of death, this is the valley of darkness. He said he had nothing. Nothing. “ I’m a pastor, I’m supposed to have something”.
It was at that time that the community was sending his those texts:
- ‘we’re praying of you,’
- ‘we’re thinking of you,’
- be strong.’
- People sent passages of scripture That support of people – saying I love you, that people care, that people are praying, that you’re supported,
- Those are important things in the midst of a very dark time.
- Someone reminded him that there’s more to that Psalm than ‘we walk through the valley of the shadow of death.’ You need to finish the statement, someone said to him – FOUR IMPORTANT WORDS
- ‘I will fear no evil because you are with me.’ ‘The Lord is my shepherd.’ The pastor said, “ It took 15 hours of darkness to really understand that I had a shepherd that was walking with me. I don’t know if that made it any softer, but it made it better.”
Psalm 23 says: The Lord is my shepherd – he’s mine. ‘I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul. He guides me along the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake and even though I do walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil because you are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.’ The rest of the Psalm continues on and it says we can dwell with the Lord forever.
You can read his sermon on macleans.ca http://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/humboldt-pastors-anguished-speech-where-was-god/ I encourage you to do so. He addresses important questions which he had no answers for. Honest, heartfelt questions. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted. It is true that Jesus is our Shepherd and today the gospel and Psalm is a great time to be reminded that Jesus went before us, now sits and intercedes on our behalf. We can talk to him, cry out to him. He is our Shepherd and he has walked through this valley before. He can guide us always. He’s alive my friends, For this we give thanks today. Amen.