A minister, arriving at a new pastorate, was invited to join a civic club. Introducing him, the speaker facetiously said that they were electing him “chair of the board” for the club. The minister said, “Gentlemen, I appreciate the great honour that you have conferred on me. When I came to this community, I expected to be the shepherd of the flock. Our text from John reminds us that Jesus is not the Chairman of the Board, ‘ but is the Good Shepherd of the flock. I like that because shepherds take care of sheep. The shepherd:
o Leads the sheep,
o Provides food for them,
o Finds them safe lodging,
o Searches for them when they are lost,
o Tends their wounds when they are hurt,
o And protects them from wild animals.
People didn’t think very highly of shepherds in Jesus’ day.
o Shepherds sometimes allowed their sheep to graze on other people’s land.
o Shepherds were here today and gone tomorrow, moving from pasture to pasture. Sometimes they left town without paying their bills.
o Sometimes people found prized possessions missing after a shepherd had moved on.
o Shepherds lived lonely, isolated lives. They seldom developed much in the way of social graces.
o Shepherds were sometimes not allowed to appear as witnesses in court, because people didn’t trust them.
But Jesus called himself not any old shepherd, but “the Good Shepherd” (John 10:11). He was glad to identify with shepherds despite the shepherd’s humble status–or, perhaps, because of their humble status. Jesus had plenty of pride, but none of it was false. He could identify with shepherds because shepherds nurtured and protected their sheep. That is what Jesus came to do.
Jesus said that the shepherd “calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out” (v. 3). Day in and day out, Jesus calls us. A shepherd calls sheep that have wandered away so that they might return to his protection. Fanny Crosby captured the image well in her old gospel song….
Jesus is tenderly calling you home–
Calling today, calling today…
Jesus is pleading, O hear now his voice–
Hear him today, hear him today.
When Jesus calls us, he calls us by name. Our names are important because they identify us personally. A church bulletin board read, “Everybody welcome!” That sounds friendly, but the Good Shepherd doesn’t say, “Everybody welcome!” The Good Shepherd “calls his own sheep by name.” Jesus says, “Sam, follow me! Jack, follow me! Sharon, follow me! Sue, follow me! Carol, follow me!” He knows us personally and calls us by name.
Jesus not only calls us by name but also calls us to live extraordinary lives. Some years ago, a large oil company needed a public relations officer in the Far East. They needed someone familiar with the language and customs; they needed someone who knew the local people. In those days, not many Americans knew the Orient, but the company located an American missionary who seemed perfect. They offered him the job and named a salary several times his missionary pay. He turned them down. They increased the offer, but still, he declined. “What’s wrong?” they asked. “Isn’t the salary big enough?” The missionary thought for a moment, and then responded, “The salary is big enough, but the job isn’t!”
When Christ calls us, he calls us to more than a large salary. He calls us to large lives.
Today, many seminarians are people in their 30s or 40s or even older. Many of them determined that their lives had been too small, so they answered Christ’s call to a larger life. Some have made great sacrifices to do so.
I visited London and worship in the church that had a guest preacher–a man from the congregation who had been recently ordained. Christ had called him to ministry, and he had quit his job to attend seminary. By the time I heard him preach, he had completed his studies and was preparing to take a church. He preached a good sermon and shared his story. The man had been a corporate lawyer , earning a six-figure salary. Six figures is a lot of money. Not many ministers make six figures–and this man had the potential to earn millions as a lawyer. But, at some point, he said, felt the call of God on his life. After much soul-searching, he quit his job and enrolled in seminary. Christ had called him from a generous salary to a great life and he is a blessing to those who benefit from his ministry. Christ doesn’t call all of us, to study for the ministry, but does call all of us, to the ministry of one sort or another. It is not important whether he calls us to things great or small, because God enlarges everything that he touches.
o God called a widow to put her last penny in the collection plate. Jesus pointed her out to his disciples and said that people would remember her for the rest of time.
o Christ called a boy to give five loaves and two fishes. When the boy obeyed, Jesus used the child’s lunch to feed five thousand people.
o Christ called a man to use his gift of hospitality. That man put two extra plates on his table every Sunday and invited two young people from a nearby school to share his Sunday dinner. He did this for many years, and in the process led many young people to Christ. When he died, the funeral home ran out of space, because so many people came to honour the man who had honoured Christ with an extra plate.
o Christ calls each of us to some sort of service. David McKenna, in his book, Love Your Work, tells of a tombstone in a village graveyard. The epitaph read…
Thomas Cobb mended shoes in this village for forty years to the glory of God!
Imagine that! If you needed a pair of shoes mended–or a car repaired–or a house built–or your plumbing unstopped–wouldn’t you like to meet a cobbler–or a mechanic–or a carpenter–or a plumber–whom Christ had called to practice their trade to the glory of God! I have known people like that. It’s a joy to work with them.
o Just think of the many acts of Christian service to which Christ calls people every week in this church. People prepare and serve communion, cook dinners for homeless people, sing in the choir, plant flowers, pay bills, pull weeds, clean toilets, attend meetings, type minutes of meetings, and a perform a host of other duties for the glory of God. (NOTE TO THE PREACHER: Tailor this list to fit your congregation.)
o Each of these small duties might seem inconsequential by itself but, woven together, they become a chorus of praise. Jakob Boehme put it this way. He said:
We are all strings, in the concert of God’s joy.
And so we are. Choir members know how important it is that each voice be precise in pitch and timing. One person’s hesitancy muddies the whole line. Each of us must answer Christ’s call as precisely as possible–to be in perfect harmony with his will. George Eliot wrote a poem about the great violinmaker, Antonio Stradivari. God had called Stradivari to craft fine instruments. Eliot put these words in his mouth……….
If my hand slacked I could rob God – God could not make Antonio Stradivari’s violins – without Antonio.
Jesus says that the shepherd “calls his own sheep by name.” He calls us, each of us, to use who we are and what we have to bring glory to his name. He calls us to obey him–to go where he calls–to follow him faithfully–even foolishly.
What has God called you to do for him? (NOTE: Tailor this list for your congregation.)
o Has he called you to serve as a deacon or an elder?
o Has he called you to serve on the church board?
o Has he called you to cook for a church dinner or for the homeless?
o Has he called you to keep the financial records or to fold the bulletins?
o Has he called you to teach a Sunday school class or to sponsor a youth group?
God calls each of us to some sort of Christian service. But first, he calls us to receive his transforming love into our lives and to love him in return. First, he calls us to let Him be Lord of our lives.
Today, Christ is calling you! He is calling you by name! He is calling you to love him and to serve him. Listen carefully! Listen prayerfully! And answer his call today.
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