Holy Cross July 25, 2013

 

Photo courtesy of K. Farwell

This morning we had something different in our church service. Something I hadn’t seen done in over 20 years. It was a “children’s sermon”—-and instead of being a simple five minute show-and-tell type thing it was a real lesson. Surprisingly,  I was somewhat shocked and dismayed to find myself resenting this intrusion into my “grown up” world. I had, for a few moments in my head anyway, become the old lady who doesn’t like or relate to children.  Then, something happened—–something that should have happened from the very beginning. I found myself thinking, “Okay, self. What does this mean to you personally?”

The lesson was about the good shepherd tending his flock, and it illustrated how the good shepherd leads  and protects his sheep as well as how he goes looking for them when they are lost. So I started answering the question I posed to myself. First, I reminded myself that when I was a child I grew up in cattle country where sheep were not thought of favorably. Quite literally, I have always resented being represented as a sheep in this parable. And, of course, my people would have called the sheep pen a corral. Then I let my intellect delve a bit deeper, and I realized it didn’t matter what represented me in the parable—-the truth that has mattered in my life is that Creator has always been there to protect me in spite of myself and my bad decisions. Creator has indeed been there to protect me from evil—-and found me when I was almost overcome by evil and the consequences of my own choices.

In addition, during the children’s sermon, if I heard correctly, one little girl wanted to know what that white thing was that the good shepherd had wrapped around his neck. This question immediately reminded me of how I have spent a life time wondering why Christ had to die on the cross—–kind of like, why does his body, mind, and soul have to go through that torture and die that painful way just for mankind to believe in him.  In a way, the cross that is so prominent in our faith is like the white sheep wrapped around the good shepherd’s neck.  I realize now that there are times when the “good shepherd” has carried me completely—————otherwise, I would not be here today. Perhaps that smelly old sheep wrapped around Jesus’ neck is symbolic of Christ’s crucifixion on the cross—-there would be no resurrection or an unquestionable belief in eternal life in, of, and with Creator, Christ, and the Holy Spirit.

The rebellious child in me, however, still has moments when it wants to remove that smelly, hot old sheep—-and that painful cross—–so that there is no tremendous sacrifice, pain, or discomfort. While I’m playing God, I’d like all of life to be like that too. Then I have to laugh, because I know it has been pain and perceived suffering in my life that has provided a firm foundation for my relationship with Creator.  I also must admit I believe Christ dying the way he did allowed God to have more empathy for our human condition. Without pain and suffering I am often not willing to let God lead or carry me. My false self thinks it should handle everything independently. I have heard many say “I am a grateful recovering alcoholic.” I am able to say that, and  I have come to realize I am also a grateful survivor of pain and suffering—–because regardless of the form each crisis took, they all made me “Let go and let God.” They all helped me know that God is there for me and is actually all that matters when the going gets rough. Thankfully,  I am making progress, and I am learning to let Creator be there for me, with me, and be the Higher Power that guides my actions when I am not in crisis.

So I want to “shout out” a big “thank you” to our new Rector for presenting this parable in a children’s sermon; it made me take stock of just where that good shepherd had been in my life and all that we have been able to do together working in partnership. God bless and keep you.

 

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