Do you depend on Jesus and can Jesus depend on you?
Yesterday I returned to the Powell United Methodist Church for worship and this is the question I encountered. I went by myself to worship. Tom and John took off early for an all-day paintball game. Jackie was doing things around the house. So I was on my own.
This time I attended the traditional service at 9:30, the middle service. Because it was the first Sunday of the month, I knew there would be communion. The Senior Pastor, Rev. Larry Brown, was on vacation. Rev. Dave Woodyard, a retired elder and the Pastor of Visitation, consecrated the elements. The Associate Pastor, Katya Brodbeck, led the rest of the service and preached.
The 9:30 service was a wonderful service. About 250 people attended the service. The Children’s Choir opened the service with “Who Did Swallow Jonah?” The adult choir sang a beautiful a cappella anthem titled “My Shepherd Will Supply My Need.” Of course, as I listened to this anthem, I kept thinking of the amazing sheep-herding video I saw on YouTube last week.
The sermon was the best part of the service. Katya preached on John 10:2-4, “The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.”
This is a very familiar passage and one that I preached on many times, but Katya gave me some new things to think about. She started by talking about her own experiences in Russia. When she visited her grandmother, she would try to pet the fluffy white sheep. But the sheep either ran away or bit her and she consequently decided she hated sheep. When she started reading all the Bible passages about sheep, she had difficulty identifying herself as one of Christ’s sheep.
The two main points of her sermon involve living as sheep of the Shepherd. First, as sheep we learn to depend on Jesus. The Shepherd tells us where to go and promises to lead us. Jesus called Katya out of Russia to New York and then to the Methodist Theological School of Ohio. Big steps, but he led her every step of the way. Where is he asking you to go? What new adventure lies ahead of you? He promises he will lead anywhere he calls.
Second, in depending on Jesus, we learn to recognize his voice. And in recognizing his voice we become depend-able. Jesus is able to depend on us to do what he tells us to do. This is an important step in our relationship with the Shepherd. Can he depend on us not to wander off whenever his back is turned? Will we do what he asks us to do when he asks us to do it? Are we dependable?
I love sermons that give me something new to think about. As I left the service yesterday, I told Katya how much I enjoyed the sermon. Later in the day, I shared my enjoyment of the service with John, Jackie, and Tom. But even though the service is over, I continue as one of the Shepherd’s sheep: depending on him and being dependable in return.