Monday, April 22, 2024

The Lord is My GPS


John 10:11-18

Easter 4 / Year B

It may surprise you to know, at least according to one website, there are ninety-nine different titles or names in the bible given to Jesus, each of which describes a particular aspect of who he is or the work he does.  Of this small sample, which one do you most identify with:

·    Advocate: Jesus as your lawyer

·    Judge: enforces laws and metes out punishment.

·    Mediator: intervenes to settle disputes.

·    Bridegroom: probably not at the top of your list.

·    Cornerstone: only if you are a mason by trade.

·    Rock: similar to cornerstone, stable but unhewn.

·    Doorway or Gate: a way to pass from one place to another.

·    If only they had elevators back in Palestine… Jesus takes me higher and higher!

Now, if you put some thought into it, or if, by some miracle, I preached an illuminating sermon on any one of these, you might sense at a deeper spiritual connection to how Jesus is your rock, advocate, or your bridegroom. 

If we took those ninety-nine names and ranked them in order from nearest and dearest to the most obscure and inaccessible, here is one I expect would be close to the top of each of our lists – the Good Shepherd.  It matters not none of us has ever met a shepherd or even tended sheep, we get the imagery and we get the meaning.  It describes how many of us experience Jesus in our lives. 

What does it say to you that, with only the prompting “the Lord is my shepherd”, most gatherings can join in “I shall not want…”?  Beyond the beauty of the 23rd Psalm, we identify with the notion a Holy Source offers us rest and peace, assures our vital necessities, and guides us through troubling times.  We sense we are similar to the sheep young David tends.  They are utterly defenseless and totally dependent upon him.  They are subject to danger and must always be under the watchful eye of a protector as they graze.  Rushing water cascading down the valleys from sudden, heavy rainfalls can sweep them away.  Robbers may steal them.  Animals of prey – wolves, lions, and bears – pose a constant, deadly threat.  

The shepherding image speaks to an important aspect of how we experience God’s presence in our midst.  It suggests God knows us intimately and cares for us deeply.  It reminds us God watches over us, directs our movements, and rises to our side in times of danger or need. 

So, to answer the question you all came here with this morning, yes, I had a nice vacation at the beach.  It was restful and quiet and gave me an opportunity to read about such deep things as the golden age of pirates.  Imagine my surprise as I turned page after to page only to learn I was about two miles away from where Blackbeard’s Queen Anne’s Revenge ran aground and was abandoned by the hygiene-challenged marauder! 

Well, the beginning of my time off was not without its moments.  I set off with the vague idea I needed to head south on US 17 until I saw a sign directing me to Morehead City.  My final destination was somewhere around the north end of Atlantic Beach, NC.  How difficult could it be to find? 

Well, somewhere around Williamston I lost what might be called “operational awareness” and drifted to the right when – apparently – I should have drifted to the left.  Blissfully unaware I was heading west on Rt. 64 I passed an exit to Greenville.  About 10 minutes later I approached greater Tarboro.  Now, I am not a geographical scholar on eastern North Carolina, and little about this triggered concern.  Farther on I entered the metropolitan outskirts of Rocky Mount, which even I know is on I95 and not in any way on the way to the beach.  What mile maker am I at, I wondered.  492.  It was then I deduced my beach week was on a road destined to take me to Tennessee.

That is the exact moment the skies parted, the sun shone down on me, and I had a conversion experience.  I got off at the next exit, pulled over, got out my phone, and, using Google Maps, determined exactly where I was, which was nowhere near where I wanted to be!  Then and there I gave myself over completely to GPS, which I decided is an acronym for “God, Please be my Shepherd”! 

Well, my new-found techno-shepherd took me through parts of eastern North Carolina I am confident neither their governor nor the most dedicated basketball recruiter has ever visited.  I kept saying to myself, “the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.”  I told myself, if I made it to my destination without a hitch I would tell you my crazy story.  I and promised myself whenever I find myself in real need I will remember this brief episode and trust in a GPS system which has guided the faithful for centuries.

Never forget the Lord is your shepherd… when you are lost, when you are in need, when you don’t know what to do or where to turn, when you are afraid, when you are discouraged, and even when you are in Rocky Mount when you want to be at the beach.