Laying Down on the Job

April 22, 2018 Speaker: Rev. Jack Meehan Series: Lectionary

Topic: Biblical Verse: John 10:11–10:18

The Fourth Sunday of Easter (Good Shepherd Sunday)

April 21-22, 2018

John 10:11-18

 “Laying Down on the Job”

For anyone who has spent long hours in front of a computer screen, you know the strain this can put on your back as well as your eyes. Even with ergonomic workstation chairs, all of this sitting has a way of catching up with you over time. For $5900, you can now get a chair that lets you lay down on the job – literally! “The brainchild of engineer Che Voigt, who has worked with multiple aerospace engineering companies, Altwork [the company providing the chair] has released a $5,900 chair ($3,900 preorder) that is equipped with full desk and monitor mount while allowing the user to work in a range of positions from standing to fully reclining. ‘Movement throughout the day is the best thing you can do,’ said Voigt, co-founder and CEO of Altwork. ‘People say sitting is the new smoking, but reports now say that standing might not be the best thing you can do either…’ The result is the current model, which takes up about 18 square feet, significantly less than a traditional setup in an office cubicle containing a chair, desk and monitors. The desk, which moves with the user, floats the monitor, keyboard and desktop as they recline, holding everything in place with magnets. The mouse pad is magnetized only along a steel ring along the outer edge, leaving the middle as an easy space to move the mouse back and forth while avoiding strain on the shoulder muscles. Voigt says the $5,900 price tag is comparable to a common office setup that would account for a monitor, monitor mount, sit-stand desk and chair a setup that can total up to thousands of dollars without the convenience of Altwork's all-in-one workstation” I(https://www.cnbc.com/2015/11/20/the-5900-chair-that-lets-you-lay-down-on-the-job.html). On this Fourth Sunday of Easter, Jesus our Good Shepherd speaks to us in the Gospel lesson about laying down on the job. His job – the work of accomplishing our salvation – was won only through his blood, sweat, and tears as Jesus laid down his life on the cross for us, his sheep. The theme for preaching this day is “Laying Down on the Job.” May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.

The Fourth Sunday of Easter is all about sheep and shepherding. The Scripture lessons, the music, the prayers, the message – all point us to this beloved image of our risen Savior Jesus Christ who is our Good Shepherd. It’s kind of strange that this image still resonates with us today because sheep and shepherding are far removed from our everyday life. When is the last time you even saw a shepherd and his sheep? And yet, in spite of this, there is something enormously comforting to us about Jesus our Good Shepherd, who guards and protects his flock, who “makes me lie down in green pastures… [who] leads me besides still waters… [who] restores my soul… [who] leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Psalm 23:2-3). With our Shepherd Guardian beside us, “I will fear no evil, for you are with me,” even when “I walk through the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4). That psalm of the Good Shepherd, Psalm 23, speaks to our hearts deeply. This is why it is chosen so often for funerals and memorial services. In the face of death, we need to be reminded that death is not the final word. We have a Good Shepherd who has laid down his life for us, and he has overcome death and the grave. In him, even when we die, yet shall we live (John 11:25).

Repeatedly, Jesus tells us in the Gospel lesson about laying down his life: “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 11:11b); “I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 11:15b); “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again” (John 11:17-18a). Jesus makes clear that his suffering and death on the cross, his laying down his life, was not just some terrible miscarriage of justice due to political intrigue; some accident at the hands of an angry mob. No, all of this happened “according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23b). Jesus was not a helpless victim whose life was snuffed out because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Jesus our Good Shepherd willingly laid down his life for his sheep. Those sheep for whom Jesus shed his blood and gave his life went far beyond the boundaries of God’s chosen people, Israel. In fact, many in Israel found it hard to imagine that anyone outside Israel could be saved, or even should be saved. But Jesus makes clear: “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd” (John 11:16). Jesus was speaking of the Gentiles, to whom the Gospel message would be preached. They, too, would come to know the saving love and amazing grace of the Good Shepherd. Do we today make the same mistake that Israel of old did? Do we find it hard to imagine that “those people” could ever be saved, and so do we put boundaries and limitations on God’s grace and mercy? How can we who, by God’s grace and mercy, have been included in the family of faith now exclude others from this same blessing? The grace and mercy of our Good Shepherd, who has laid down his life for us and loved us even unto death, now calls us to action. The apostle John, in that opening verse in today’s Epistle lesson, tells us: “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s good and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children let us not love in word or talk, but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:16-18).

In my little hometown of Marcus, Iowa, there is the “new church” in town (built more than sixty years ago) where my family and I worshiped. But outside of town in the country, there is the “old church” (built nearly 100 years ago). The “new church” grew out of the “old church,” as often happens  as the mother church birthed a daughter church. That mother church is the congregation where my great-grandfather was a founding member in 1879, and over the front doors of this beautiful country church is a stained glass window of the Good Shepherd. At the bottom of this window are Jesus’ own words: “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me” (John 10:14b). I think of all the people who have entered into worship under this window for so many years, bearing the cares and worries of this life, weighed down with griefs and burdens, but then exiting out under that same window, refreshed and strengthened in faith through Word and Sacrament in the Good Shepherd. How many people throughout the years have been blessed to know tremendous peace, comfort, and joy in knowing that they were in the care and keeping of our Good Shepherd.  

May each one of us gathered here today also be blessed to know that we, too, are in the care and keeping of our Good Shepherd, who has laid down his life for us all. May we go forth to love one another as our Good Shepherd has loved us; not in word or talk, but in deed and in truth. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen.  

 

 

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