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Protect Them

John 10:11-18

The Rev. Jon Roberts

25 April

2021

Calvary Episcopal Church

Indian Rocks Beach, FL

11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hireling and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, 15 as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again; this charge I have received from my Father.”

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Ralph Wolf & Sam Sheepdog, Looney Tunes, 1953

Don’t think for a minute you are going to steal my sheep.[1]

In the tenth chapter of John this morning, the fourth Sunday in Easter, we present the theme of Jesus as The Good Shepherd. Within the text we will discover his attributes around the importance of being a protector. Of all the images to which we could relate to Jesus and his parable, we could hardly find a better one than that out of American culture, specifically a childhood cartoon. If Jesus is the Good Shepherd and the devil is the thief trying to steal the sheep, then let’s compare to the 1953 Loony Tune cartoon series of Ralph Wolf and Sam Sheepdog. How many of you remember that series? It was most popular on TV, running all the way through the early part of the 80’s. Ralph Wolf resembles the other popular character Willie Coyote, who we remember tried to catch the Roadrunner. The series is built around the satiric idea that both Ralph and Sam are blue collar workers who are just doing their jobs. Most of the cartoons begin at the beginning of the workday, in which they both arrive with lunch pails at a sheep-grazing meadow, exchange pleasant chitchat, and punch into the same time clock. Work having officially begun with the morning whistle at 8AM. Ralph, often turning to his own Amazon account within the ACME Co., repeatedly tries very hard to abduct the helpless sheep and invariably fails, either through his own ineptitude or the minimal but well-planned efforts of Sam (he is frequently seen sleeping), who always brutally punishes Ralph for the attempt.[2] He is showing by his strength how determined he was to protect the sheep. They go through this exchange until the end. At the end-of-the-day whistle and Sam punch out their time cards, where we hear them say, "Farewell Ralph. Farewell Sam. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Jesus is the one who is trying to save the sheep and we know there is one who out to devour them. There is an eternal war being fought between two familiar foes, representing good and evil, where the Satan lurks around like a devilish wolf to devour the flock, grazing in God’s kingdom. Only Jesus is the one who stands in the way. The relationship of the Good Shepherd, found in Jesus encourages us to do what he did. We are to lay down our lives for someone who we love. This is our choice. Will you listen to his voice?[3]

Did you know God has called you to be a shepherd to a flock given to you? If you were a nurse, your patients were your flock. If you were a teacher, your students were your flock. If you were a parent or grandparent, your kids are your flock and God calls you to protect. Although sheep want to be beside still waters, take naps and eat in green pastures, we also have the tendency to run off. This is what Jesus warns us about. If we do not have the strength to be the shepherd, we may be the wayward sheep. One form of running away from the safety of the flock comes from the life of an addiction. Addictions have a way to steal us away from God and they condemn us. We are enticed by them, thinking the more we have of it, the more it feeds us, but this is a deception that leads us away from the love of Christ.[4] It comes like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Looking further into the psychology of the mind of the sheep, we are lured into pride, lust, envy, gluttony and coveting what is beyond our grasp.

This is the time when we come to ask for God’s protection and mercy to assist us in Word and Sacrament. It is so good that we come to church to inwardly digest his love in order to be restored. In our weakness we are made whole. When we cry out to him, he answers and when you spend enough time with him on those verdant hills, he teaches you how to protect the least and the loss. Are you able to voluntarily lay down your life for another? Parents and grandparents would not think twice, but please be cautious because the adversary will come, as soon as the whistle blows. He will show up for work, but God is with you. He leads you through the valley of the shadow of death and he gives you the strength. He gives you the strength to look the devil in the eyes, and with rod and staff to comfort thee, you tell him, “Don’t even think about coming in here and think you can steal my sheep.”

[1] The Rev. Jon Roberts
[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ralph_Wolf_and_Sam_Sheepdog
[3] John 10:11-18
[4] 1 John 3:16-24

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