Traditional Sermon Easter 4
Today is Good Shepherd Sunday where we read scripture that point to God’s shepherding nature in our world. We especially raise the goodness of the ultimate Shepherd, Jesus. The idea of Jesus as the good shepherd is one of the earliest depictions of the Christ in our Christian art and architecture. Long before Michelangelo sculpted the Pieta, Leonardo painted the Last Supper, or Salvador Dali painted the crucifixion… images pointed to the one Good Shepherd who came to save, love and guide.
And who could not love the image of the good shepherd as Jesus speaks about being the gate, and the sheep knowing him. But I got to be honest. I know diddly squat about being a shepherd…I know a wee little more about sheep.
But who doesn’t long for a shepherd to guide as we read in Psalm 23? Being guided, following a path to pastures, valleys and vistas. I don’t know much about shepherding, but I do know something about pastures, valley and vistas through hiking!
There are some key aspects of hiking that speak to Good Shepherd Sunday. With hikes you need a guide. A guide, like a shepherd, is key. Someone who can guide you through trails, to offer guidance about safe paths and good seasons to embark on adventure. Someone to show you the way. And when that someone is not with you in the flesh, then you need the guide they have created for you.
We in our faith life call it the Bible.
Hikers call it a map.
In the summer of 2010, Erik and I had a mission. Climb Mt. Washington.
Mount Washington reaching up to the heights of 6,289 feet (but who’s counting) towers over all mountains in the Northeast. During the winter months skiers flock to the wintry trails and during the summer hikers take a walk into the woods to climb its diamond like precipices that earned its name the White Mountains. And in the summer of 2010, the mountain seem to call to us.
Our mission: climb Mt. Washington.
We feel personal missions throughout our life. And we are part of larger missions.
The great missions come from God.
Throughout biblical history, God has determined a number of missions.
In Genesis God gave the mission:
Be fruitful and multiply
From the apple trees, to the creatures in air and sea, to humanity itself, be fruitful and multiply. With that came the intent for humanity to be stewards of the creation God gifted.
In Exodus God gave a second mission to a servant named Moses. God gives Moses his marching orders:
Go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people out of Egypt.
This mission would bring the people to the Promised Land to be free to serve the Lord and to be representatives of God to all nations.
The next mission from God was to King David. God makes a covenant with this leader and gives this mission:
“Go and shepherd my people Israel.”
2 Samuel 5:2
Even Jesus himself was given a mission. As we hear in the Gospel of Matthew his mission:
The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many
These biblical missions were broad and brief. Like our mission that summer of 2010. Go and climb Mt. Washington. That was our goal. Simple, right?
Oh…did I mention that Mt. Washington is not only the highest peak in the northeast of the United States, but also home to the worst weather in the world? There are signs on the trail that morbidly remind anyone hiking that they are entering some of the world’s worst weather.
Which may bring you to ask,
Why in the world do you want to accomplish this mission?!
Why? Because of our values.
Our values drove us to that mission.
Our love for creation and God’s joy seen in nature.
Our love for family who blessed us to take this hike and gave resources to see to the mission.
Our passion for the adventure. The adventure of the hike and the trail.
We too at St. Peter’s have values. Values on which we stand.
Values that urge us onto a mission from God.
Values that drive you fro your home to gather here this morning.
Values that speak to your priorities and passions and deep-seeded need.
And in 2010 with our hiking values in check, we laid out our mission.
Go and climb Mt. Washington.
So simple. As simple as the mission Jesus gave his church.
The mission that we call the Great Commission.
Go, make disciples.
We know we’re supposed to be doing it.
In us there is a call to follow the mission…like the call of call of the wild spirit to drive us to mission.
Like my 2010 mission. Go take a hike!
Ask any hiker and their mission is simple. Go and hike to the destination.
The mission may sound different depending on if you are in the White Mountains, on the Appalachian Trail, in the Colorado Rockies or in Death Valley. Whether the detail is the granite white of Mt. Washington or the heated depth of Death Valley, our mission is go take a hike!
Jesus’ mission for the church is that simple.
Go take a hike! And raise disciples. Teach them what I taught you. Baptize them into the faith.
This mission may look different whether you’re located in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Colorado, California, Tanzania, Germany or beyond.
But still, Jesus’ mission to us is broad, brief and simple.
Back to that hike. Erik and I had our mission, but the vision was something entirely different.
When Erik and I were planning that hike, the vision transported us from a lake house in the middle of the woods on Lake Winnipesaukee to the apex of Mt. Washington.
The vision enabled us to see the clouds below us, to smell the alpine air and scrub pine.
It raised our eyes beyond the towering trees of below to the places above tree line.
Our vision made our stomachs grumble for trail mix and thirsts for mountain water.
And made our eyes tear for the vista one can only behold from the top of the world.
The church’s mission is broad, it’s simple.
But the vision is what draws us to our knees to worship our Lord almighty.
It’s what raised us out of our seats as we sing of God’s power.
The vision of what God intends and can use us as his servants to accomplish.
Imagine our ministry as a light shining, as a city on a hill for all to see.
A place where disciples of all ages may be raised.
Imagine a place where all may not only feel welcomed, but know in their hearts that God is there and present in the people.
Imagine the laughter and joy, imagine the stories shared of God’s work in one’s life.
Imagine a young one clothed and finding dignity through our work.
Imagine an elder one visited with the presence of God through a friend.
Imagine a place where one is filled with the goodness of God and sent out to the world again.
Imagine God’s great desire for you being revealed and lived.
Imagine what God with us–Emmanuel–can truly be.
I believe the Good shepherd gives us the mission.
I also believe our shepherd gives us the vision, too.
The eyes, the ears, the heart to see, to hear and live the places he will lead us.
God be with us as we discover the Lord’s mission and vision at St. Peter’s and let’s go and take that hike for the Lord.