Abundant Life

Sermon: John 10:1-10

Many of us here remember when computers and the internet began – I really don’t remember exactly when I figured out email, but do remember signing up for my email account.  I can even remember thinking and wondering if I would even get an email!And now, email sometimes consumes my time!  I try to set aside time to make sure I have properly answered my email. Email now has a way of sucking up my time!

Also, I can remember when the first cell phones came out. It was so cool! We would get our new phones and spend so much time getting them set up – in-putting our contacts and playing with all the features.  Now, if you go into a restaurant, just about everyone is on their phones – I’m sometimes guilty!  But, phones are not just phones anymore – they are “smart” phones and are little computers.  Everything we can do on a computer, we can now do on our phones – including surfing the web and…  So, not only now do we get phone calls – but we also get our EMAIL!

When we were at Disney World several weeks ago, people were on their phones – in the restaurants, waiting in the lines, and even sitting on the sidelines checking their phones, texting, and checking their email!

And, guess what – I am so ashamed…but, I was one of them!!

Yesterday, we had a Leadership Retreat and had the participants close their eyes and recall the best moments in their life.  Then they were asked that if they could re-live 30 seconds of the most memorable moment of their life – what would it be?  And, we went around the room and shared.

Not a single person mentioned the excitement of getting email or being on their iphone.  As, I have pondered this…and as I think about how often I see people on their phones – you would think this was an awesome experience!

And, so I have a question, if you were to close your eyes right now and think of your fondest memories and had the opportunity to re-live that memory for 30 seconds, what would it be?

My guess, is that it would not be your phone!  But, yet I am willing to guess that we spend hours being on our phones, checking our emails, and texting.

We have jumped back into John’s Gospel and picked back up just after Jesus had healed the blind man by spitting into the mud – making a mud pie, putting the mud on his eyes, and told him to go wash in the pool Siloam.  The blind does and he is no longer blind.

It’s sad because he was a man blind from birth and no one rejoices with him in his healing and the ability to see again…not his neighbors and friends, not his parents, and the Pharisees interrogate him, insult him, and do not believe his story.

Jesus goes to find the once-blind man and reveals himself to him as the Messiah.  The man begins to worship Jesus.  But, the Pharisees hear Jesus talking to this man – and they say:  We are not blind, are we?  We can see!  And, Jesus tells them that because they say that they can see – their sin remains.

And, so there is this danger that when we think we think we have it all figured out and believe that “we” can see – spiritually see…we really don’t “see” at all.

While it does not say for certain, it seems that Jesus is still taking to the Pharisees when he says, “Very Truly, I tell you…Jesus uses the metaphor of the “Gate” and the “Sheep” and the “Shepherd.”  Jesus says, “I am the Gate…and whoever enters in by me will be saved…”

This is difficult for me because I know nothing about herding sheep and I have never been a shepherd…However, I do know that sheep and goats are very different.  Sheep depend on their shepherd to guide them and lead them to safe pastures, while goats are independent and stubborn.  Sheep know their shepherds voice and will follow that voice.  Goats will not and don’t care.

The Shepherd will literally lay down at the opening of a gate and not let the bad animals (like a wolf) get to their sheep.  And, the sheep know this – they have 100% trust in their Shepherd to protect them and keep them safe.

If we were to analyze this parable, here is how it might look:

Jesus is the Shepherd.  Jesus is our Shepherd who laid down his life for us so that we will know we are always safe and secure.  We are the Sheep – Jesus’ Sheep whom He protects and keeps us from danger.  Jesus knows us by our name and calls us to go out into the world to proclaim Christ.  Jesus is the Gate – there will be a judgement day when we all will be judged.  God is and will be the Judge and will be the deciding factor of who will enter and who will not be allowed in.

Howerver…here is where I have gotten hung up –

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

“Abundant Life!”  I’m not sure exactly what that means except that I know that I want it!

Abundant – meaning “overflowing – plentiful – more than adequate – richly supplied –

Jesus says, “So that you may have life and have it abundantly!”

Yes, I do believe that Jesus is saying here that we will have our eternal life – in other words, we have our future safe and secure knowing that our lives will continue even after we have died…

But, this is here and now and Jesus wants us to have this life abundantly!

So, what is Jesus saying:  Well, I think we have a hint:  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.

 Well, for me this begs the question: Who is the THIEF?

It’s those persons or things that try to sneak in the back door and steal your “abundant life!”  Like our cell phones and our email, and texting.  It is those things that get in the way of experiencing this life as God has intended for each of us…

Last year at Synod Assembly we decided at the last minute to just get home and not attend the worship at the end of the assembly.  My guilt increased when I walked by the one who would be preaching.  I knew he was an awesome preacher and had probably worked hard to prepare his sermon.  When I got home and pondered the reasons I didn’t stay – reasons like, our daughter was getting ready to go back to school, so needed to help her.  And, besides, I was tired!

But, what I realized was that “yes” I felt guilty not supporting my colleagues – but, what was worse is – I MISSED OUT!  I missed out on an opportunity to experience Christ.  I missed out on an opportunity to deepen my relationship with Jesus Christ. I missed out on hearing God’s Word in a new and different way.

Don’t you see…it’s like being on your cell phones and missing out on your time with family and friends…

And, I see it every day…instead of enjoying each other during dinner, the family is on their phones.

Instead of enjoying my time with my husband and friends at Disney World, I was too worried about my email and text messages.

Is that Life taking or life giving?

But, it’s not just our phones and emails that steal our abundant life –

What about as parents, we want our children to have all the things that we didn’t have, so we go out of our way to make sure they have those things…

Except that we then put those things before worship and spending time with God, building God’s Church, and deepening relationships with our church family…

Is that Life-Taking or Life-Giving?

 What about all the times we decide that we say we are too tired or need to do our laundry, or clean house instead of worship or attend a Bible Study…

Is that Life-Taking or Life-Giving?

You know what I think?  I think that if we were all to close our eyes and remember the memories that we would want to re-live, it would be those times when we were with our families and friends.

It is those special people in our lives – those relationships that give us a life of abundancy –

Why?  Because we can’t buy it.  We can’t take it back.  Those relationships are not replaceable. Those times when we have “God-Moment” cannot be replaced.  And, where do those memories live?  IN YOUR HEART!

“Abundant Life” is not about how much material things you own – it’s not even about whether you have a roof over your head and food to eat  – because God will provide!

Abundant Life is those relationships you have that bring you complete JOY –

And, whether or not, you have a spouse, children, or best friend…You have Jesus Christ who will never leave you or forsake you –

I have a girl friend who told me the other day that her granddaughter called her and told her how much she misses her.  My girlfriend said, “It was such a gift to hear her tell me that.”  She said, I will always cherish that moment.

ABUNDANT LIFE –

There are all kinds of things in this world that will sneak in the back door and try to enter the gate and want to steal the LIFE that God intended for you –

A Life spent getting to know Jesus Christ and realizing the blessings that you have been given.

A Life building the Kingdom of God – right here in this place.

A Life that in the end when you close your eyes and re-live in your heart all the memories – they are memories of those whom you love so much –

And, so I ask you now to ponder, “What are those things in your life and the life of this congregation that are keeping you from the Life God has intended for you?”

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. (Jesus said) I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

 Amen.

About pastorterrihttps://pastorterri.wordpress.comI serve as the pastor at Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, Augusta, GA.

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