EVERY ONE OF US IS LOVED
JOHN 10: 11-18
April 25, 2021 – EASTER SEASON
Did you ever have a song jump out at you? A song of comfort or one from your history that gets you singing? Or a song that’s all about who you are in the moment or perhaps about what you believe? …. You never know when it will appear ‘ JOY TO THE WORLD THE LORD HAS COME’ … If you pay attention they are all around us if you listen carefully or seek them out.
By the way, I have not forgotten in these moments when THE SEASON is in the rear view mirror of many who have decided to pack things away because after all outdoor activities are now the priority for living; HE IS RISEN <<HE IS RISEN INDEED>> That may not be a melodic song but in those simple words to me a melody of God’s love shines out in worship. A reminder of where every living and breathing human’s first priority should be focused … HE IS RISEN INDEED. Perhaps you even find that special connection in ‘HE LIVES, CHRIST JESUS LIVES TODAY HE WALKS with ME and TALKS with me.’
Music with its amazing array of melodies and rhythms touches our very souls and emotional realities. When we hear a song that we know … there are times when in the lyrics or perhaps in the melodies there is a new meaning to be discovered. Sometimes you need a new interpretation … a new singer or musician revealing something that was an underlying message all along. Of course if you sing to the radio as you drive along there is a good chance that you sing lyrics the song writers never wrote because you think those are the right words … I know I was singing a Fleetwood Mac song yesterday with Dave Delaney lyrics rather than the ones Stevie Nicks wrote and then made millions of dollars from. I wonder if mine would have appealed to the global audience.
Most of you know how music touches me. It inspires me and it calms me. It gets me dancing and energized and sometimes it brings me to tears. My mom had a piano and our family would gather around as she played and we sang. I still have my favorite song book from childhood that mom played from. Classic Americana … Home on the Range
Music has been a universal connector for people ever since the first mother sang a song to calm her baby. The music of the birds and no I am not referring to Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, and Gene Clark … birds singing have always inspired and brought joy. Although I am not going to survey those here in the building today as to what their favorite song is … those of you at home can post in chat what your favorite song is, the one you enjoy each time you hear it or sing it. Frankly, I have too many to name.
Yesterday, we gathered at Colleen’s home to celebrate her 31st birthday … yes, on Tuesday she will be the same age as I am. One of the special moments when the gleam in my grandson’s eyes shone brightly occurred when Colleen played one of those typical songs for young children and my grandson made sure each of us had an instrument to play as the song went through its melody. We had tambourines, a kiddie xylophone, various percussion instruments, and I was thrilled to see a kazoo in the mix. If only someone had recorded the Delaney Lewis Band yesterday as we performed led by that precocious 18 month old. Our version, a million seller perhaps? Such joy … such rhythm … such incredible music that may never be repeated again in human history.
All I know is the music had smiles all around … in fact a peace settled in the midst of the music’s energy.
Friends, we need music … we need to join in the songs of life that matter … we need to realize the value of connection rather than striving to create dissonance because there are so many melodies awaiting voices willing to sing together. The psalmist wrote, “I will sing to the Lord all my life, I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.” It is clear God appreciates music … and frankly it does not have to be the same old song repeated over and over again although the oldies are still goodies. “Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, praise the Lord’s name.” And, for you HEAVY METAL FANS out there … “Praise the Lord with clashing cymbals!”
So, faith and worship don’t require every song to be a sweet quiet melody … God likes praise. God likes new songs and old. God gifted us music and songs out of love.
So, this morning are you singing a song to the Lord? Are you singing God a love song each day? A song carefully crafted by someone like Chris Tomlin or Fanny Crosby or perhaps it is your own song. A song from the heart. Do you know that even silly love songs matter …
“You’d think that people would have had enough of silly love song. But I look around me and I see it isn’t so. Some people wanna fill the world with silly love songs and what’s wrong with that? I’d like to know … “
Paul McCartney and Wings recorded Silly Love Songs in 1976 but as this past week began I heard a jazz version of the song that struck me. John Pizzarelli in his interpretation of the song changed just one little lyric but to me it wove a tapestry right back to the 23rd Psalm. Music can connect us with God you know. Pizzarelli changed an I in the lyric that says “I only know” to “we know” … what love is … and suddenly there was a universal spirit of love resonating in my mind. We do know what love is … and because of that we should understand what loving God is all about because we are loved.
THE LORD is OUR SHEPHERD WE SHALL NOT WANT… Friends, the 23rd Psalm is a Psalm or a rather song about God’s love for our lives as we live our lives it is not for our deaths because once we die it is too late to sing the song.
And, this morning as perhaps you have songs going round and round in your minds it is time to consider that EVERY ONE OF US IS LOVED by God in amazing ways. Perhaps we need the focus of the fact that HE IS RISEN <<HE IS RISEN INDEED>> because we do get energized declaring that reality.
But truthfully the challenge we face is whether we want to run and rush to the loving embrace and assurance that God offers to us. Just like every love story it really does take two to tango … not any different with the Holy because the fact that God loves us and never stops loving us does not complete the love story until we participate actively by expressing our love … showing our love … living our connection … worshiping God and yes, singing love songs back to the Creator of the Universe whether they are silly songs we write or those famously written by people we will never know.
And, the perfect location as we choose to leave Easter behind is perhaps in the most famous song written by David …. We call it a Psalm. The Twenty Third Psalm.
I was happy to hear voices reciting it with Steve because historically church teachers tried to get folks to memorize David’s words. Knowing that these words of reassurance are reflective of the God who brought His Son Jesus Christ into the world to teach us about living. Friends, what matters is how we live … we can’t control how we die but we can choose how we live. Do we celebrate the evil and criminal realities of the world or do we embrace God and do justice? Do we love our neighbors or do we sort out those we fell comfortable rejecting and dismissing? I can not stop emphasizing what the prophet Micah taught us about what the Lord God requires of us … TO DO JUSTICE, EMBRACE FAITHFUL LOVE for ALL and WALK HUMBLY with GOD. Can’t be in love with God if we reject God’s requirements can we?
Jesus in today’s Gospel reading provides insight into His Easter Week moments when He taught the disciples, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own sheep and they know me.”
And, there is the connection …. God’s sheep; Jesus sheep know Jesus. They, we, should be … as Jesus put it “They will listen to my voice and there will be one flock with ONE SHEPHERD.” God’s requirements Jesus voice. Jesus talks about giving up his life “for the sheep” but that there are other sheep that don’t belong to His pen but He still tries to lead them. His voice and God’s truths are still out there in love.
That IS LOVE … GOD’s LOVE …. EVERY ONE OF US IS LOVED by God even if we have chosen to not be in the flock listening to God and to Jesus. Jesus said, “I must lead them too” but sadly we know from Scriptures that many will reject God but today we need to consider how we return the love … we still know HE IS RISEN <<HE IS RISEN INDEED>>
THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD …. I SHALL NOT WANT. Friends, are you wanting? Are you trying to fit into the world? Are you joining in voices rejecting justice and love for all neighbors; is that the voice others hear from you?
God’s love calls us to reassess who we are. So, today as I have you considering the songs of your life … as you consider whether you connect with Jesus Christ and God or whether you want to join those outside the flock that follows Jesus … I want you to hear a different reading of the 23rd Psalm.
First, I do need to tell you that in the Bible’s I use regularly I have inserted the King James’ poetic version of the 23rd Psalm because I treasure how those Shakespearean era translators put the Hebrew words into English. But for your consideration this morning here is the work of Christian author Eugene Peterson from THE MESSAGE paraphrase of God’s Word. Listen to this revised version of the one you know by heart and consider and sense God’s love … God wants us to be in connection with God each day so listen …
“GOD, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing. You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from. True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction.
Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I’m not afraid when you walk at my side. Your trusty shepherd’s crook makes me feel secure. You serve me a six-course dinner right in front of my enemies. You revive my drooping head; my cup brims with blessing. Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. I’m back home in the house of GOD for the rest of my life.”
Are you ready to accept the SHEPHERD’s love? Are you ready to give love back to God and to Jesus completing the circle of love. Do you have a love song to sing to the Lord? Are you ready to sing HE LIVES this morning with energy and love for God?
Can you join in that song of the Seventies, “I’d like to see the world for once all standing hand in hand. And hear them echo through the hills for peace throughout the land. I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony.” That is God’s call for us to go into the world and share the Gospel message of love … to do justice … to love God and to love all of our neighbors … making disciples in every corner of the world so we can sing He LIVES CHRIST JESUS LIVES TODAY with every neighbor regardless of nationality, race, or even of political party … focused on God’s call not the world’s call. SING FRIENDS … SING!!! AMEN