A church not far from here was blessed with a godly minister for over thirty-five years. He was loved by the church and the community. After he retired, he was succeeded by a younger pastor. It was his first pastorate and he wanted to do his very best. He had only been at the church a few weeks when he began to perceive that the people were upset with him about something. He was troubled. Eventually he spoke to one of the leaders, “I don’t know what I may have done wrong, but I have a feeling that the congregation are not happy with me.” The man said, “Well, I hate to say it, but it’s the way you do the Communion service.” “The way I do the Communion service? What do you mean?” “Well, it’s not so much what you do as what you leave out.” “I don’t think I leave out anything from the Communion service.” “Oh yes, you do. Just before our previous rector administered the chalice and wine to the people, he’d always go over and touch the radiator. And, then, he would–” “Touch the radiator? I never heard of that liturgical tradition.” So the younger man called the former pastor for advice. He said, “I haven’t even been here a month, and I’m in trouble.” “In trouble? Why?” “Well, it’s something to do with touching the radiator. Could that be possible? Did you do that?” “Oh yes, I did… Always before I administered the chalice to the people, I touched the radiator to discharge the static electricity from the carpet so I wouldn’t shock them.”
How far back can you trace your family? Genealogy is undoubtedly very popular today. Amazingly, the BBC is currently running a 13th series of “Who do you think you are?” this autumn, helping well known personalities trace their roots. Given the popularity of websites such as Genes Reunited, Genealogy.com and ancestry.co.uk or software programmes like Family Tree Maker, most people believe genealogies are important – at least their own. If I were to read in the newspaper that a wealthy man named Sizer had died, with no known heir to his fortune, I could get very interested in genealogy. Apparently, “progonoplexia” describes those obsessed with ancestry. The earliest member of my family tree, I can find, is one Matthew Sizer born in 1750 in Orby, in Lincolnshire. But I know for certain that my roots actually go all the way back to Abraham. This evening we are going to answer the question “who do you think you are?” Please turn with me to Hebrews 11. We are going to discover that if Jesus is your Lord and Saviour, this chapter lists your family tree. This is one of the most familiar chapters of the Bible.
The Pilgrim Way is one of my favourite places to walk. It follows one of the ancient footpaths from Winchester to Canterbury across the North Downs. Now there are many public footpaths in England but this one is unique. As the name suggests, for hundreds of years it has been used by pilgrims. For some it was a way to do penance and earn merit with God. For others it was a special time to deepen their spiritual walk. The trail ends at Canterbury Cathedral where pilgrims kneel at the spot where Thomas Becket was killed by the knights of Henry II. There is a simple memorial which marks the place of Becket’s martyrdom. For nearly a thousand years, Christians have knelt there to ask God that they, like Becket, might live courageously for him in spite of the powers of the world. When the position of Archbishop of Canterbury fell vacant, Henry appointed his friend Thomas Becket in the position thinking he would do his bidding. But something happened to Becket after he was appointed as spiritual leader of England. He stopped being complacent about his faith. He put politics and luxury behind him. He gave up his former wealth and life style. And he began to challenge the king over differences between the church and government. He paid the ultimate sacrifice. But Becket’s martyrdom did not earn him a place in heaven. And neither does a pilgrimage to Canterbury. There is only one way to find forgiveness for the past and peace of mind for the future.
What will bring on the feeling of nausea most quickly for you? Is it the debris left on pavements by people who have drunk excessive amounts of alcohol the night before? Or maybe it’s those little presents left for you to step in by anti-social dog walkers who don’t clean up afterwards? Displays of wobbling body tissue resulting from a diet rich in carbohydrates is high on my list. But what is most likely to cause you to faint? For me it is the sight of blood in the wrong place, especially my own. What is it about blood that makes us queasy, nauseous or likely to faint? Perhaps it is because deep down in our subconscious we equate blood with life. There are seven essential biological functions of blood that keep us alive.
- Red blood cells transport oxygen from the lungs to every cell in our body.
- White blood cells defend the body against invading microorganisms.
- Blood transports nutrients from the digestive system and when needed, from our storage reserves to every cell of the body. So fat is beautiful. Well some…
- Blood transports hormones from our endocrine glands to target tissues in need.
- Blood removes metabolic wastes from every cell to organs that excrete them.
- Blood helps maintain fluid balance in the whole body.
- Blood helps distribute metabolic heat within the body to maintain a healthy body temperature.
Water is pretty amazing stuff isn’t it? In its natural state we take it for granted. But when its cooled to 0 degrees centigrade it can bring an entire country to a stand still. When heated to boiling point water changes from a liquid to a gas. That is when water takes on a whole new dimension and becomes very, very powerful. Thomas Savery, the British military engineer, was the first to patent a steam engine in 1679. James Watt refined the engine and gave his name to the unit of power generated by the steam engine. A watt is apparently 1/746th of a horse power. For much of the 20th century, our entire rail transportation system was powered by steam. As a young boy I used to collect the names of the different steam trains that ran between Lowestoft and Liverpool Street, delivering fresh fish to Billingsgate Market and bringing Londoners to the sandy beaches of the Suffolk coast. Steam is still used to catapult jet aircraft from aircraft carriers. The steam catapult with pistons the length of a football pitch, can hurl a 45,000-pound plane from 0 to 165 miles per hour in two seconds.
Great power is realized when water is heated to high temperatures. But even greater power is released when Christians are on fire for Jesus. In our concluding study of the seven letters to the Churches of Revelation, the church in Laodicea has the unenviable distinction of being the only one about of which Jesus had nothing good to say. This is the sternest of the seven letters. Unlike the other churches, there is much censure and no praise.
This is the story of Shaun the sheep. Shaun is a short-sighted sheep. He is always wandering off and getting lost. He lives with his friends and is a happy sheep. His master loves him and cares for him and provides everything he needs. But Shaun is always wandering off and get lost. His master calls him, searches for him and eventually finds him. He brings him home rejoicing.
Shaun loves to play in the garden on the swings and slide. He loves climbing trees. But Shaun is a short-sighted sheep. He is always wandering off and getting lost. His master calls him and searches for him. He eventually finds Shaun and brings him home rejoicing.
Shaun loves to help out in the church. In the office and the kitchen. Making tea and coffee and washing up. He loves making music and playing with computers and distracting the staff.
But Shaun is a short-sighted sheep. He is always wandering off and getting lost. His master calls him and searches for him. He eventually finds Shaun and brings him home rejoicing.
Shaun’s favourite place is the Sunday Clubs. He loves playing in the crèche with the toys and reading Bible stories. But Shaun is a short-sighted sheep. He is always wandering off and getting lost. His master calls him and searches for him. He eventually finds Shaun and brings him home rejoicing.
Shaun loves to be in the Church and help with the flowers and straighten the chairs. But Shaun is a short-sighted sheep. He is always wandering off and getting lost. Then one day Shaun gets really lost and is put in the lost property box. Oh dear. His master calls him and searches for him but cannot find him. His master is very, very sad. So his master leaves his other 99 sheep and goes in search of Shaun. He searches very high and very low.
Eventually he finds Shaun, sitting in a charity shop window. He looks very sad and lonely. His master goes into the shop and gladly pays the price to buy Shaun back. His master is so happy to find Shaun. He brings him home rejoicing. And that’s the story of Shaun the sheep.
Shaun the short sighted sheep. He was lost and found. He was redeemed. His master paid to get him back. That is what ‘redeem’ means – to pay for something you really want back. The Bible says we are like Shaun the sheep. Sooner or later we all get lost and lose our way because we are short-sighted.
The Bible says, “we all like sheep have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6). God says, “It’s your sins that have cut you off from God” (Isaiah 59:2). We are all like lost sheep. Like King David, we need to admit, “I have strayed like a lost sheep” (Psalm 119:176). But we don’t have to stay lost for ever. The good news is Jesus came to rescue us.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:27-28)
If we listen to Jesus voice and follow him, we will never be lost again. Instead we will be able to say like King David, “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.” (Psalm 23:1)
Jesus speaks to us as we read the Bible and we respond to his leading in prayer. He wants us to stay close to him, so that we will never get lost again. Can you say “The Lord is my shepherd”?
To remind you of this story, I have a book mark to help you memorise these verses and make them your own so you can help others who may be lost find a place in Jesus flock.
Let’s say a prayer to thank Jesus for being our Good Shepherd.
Thank you Lord Jesus for loving us and being our Good Shepherd. Thank you for coming to find us and rescue us because we were lost. Thank you for giving your life to redeem us, and buy us back. Help us to stay close to you in your flock. Help us to listen to you as we read the Bible. Please make us eager to follow you and do what is good and right. In Jesus name.
View the photos of the story here
Revd Alan Hulme, Diocesan Director for Parish Development, preaching at Christ Church, Virginia Water on Acts 2:42-47.