Sermonette for Friendship Sunday, May 3, 2015
St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas
Sermonette Texts: Psalm 23, 2 Corinthians 5:17, and John 10:10
Sermonette Theme: “Wearing His Brand”
(Sources: Emphasis Commentaries; Emphasis Illustrations; original ideas; Weatherby’s SCV; Sermons4Kids.com; Wild West Cowboy Facts online; Cattle Brands Online; buildingonthe word.org, the Difference between Sheep and Cows; Campfire Cowboy Ministries Online)
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
A sheep rancher decided to try something different. He tried playing music for his sheep to soothe their nerves, make their spirits more tranquil, and put them in a mood for growing better wool and having more babies. He got out his old Hi-Fi and a bunch of vinyl records and set it all up in the barn where the sheep gathered.
He was shocked to see his ram charge out of the shed, repeatedly ramming his head against a very solid corner fence post, — apparently intent on committing suicide. Frantically trying to calm the animal and save its life, he finally paused long enough to listen to the music coming out of the barn.
The needle on the old-fashioned stereo record player had stuck in the groove, repeating at least 100 times Frank Sinatra’s immortal phrase, “There’ll never be another ewe.”
No doubt turning off the stereo saved the ram’s life.
In a church named for the Good Shepherd in northern California, there is a window placed high above the altar. It is much admired by the congregation for its depiction of Jesus as the Good Shepherd of the sheep, a much loved metaphor for their lives as Christians. When visitors come to the church, they are deeply moved by the sense of protectiveness and peace the stained glass window gives.
Looking at the scene on the window and seeing the crystal blue water serenely flowing over smooth rocks in the winding, glimmering stream along the hillside of soothing green grass gave the viewer, member and visitor alike, this wonderful sense of protectiveness and peace.
But what also caught your attention was the one gray-colored lamb who was drifting away from the other sheep, with a backward glance at the shepherd. Many viewers see themselves in that gray sheep about to stray.
A parishioner named Bob told his pastor one day that he never really understood the good shepherd passage until he learned something about sheep. Then he was able to apply the passage directly to his own life.
He learned that it seems to be the nature of sheep to be dependent, needy, hungry, and foolish creatures. They are easy prey to danger. Bob, prior to being baptized at age 39, saw these same characteristics in himself.
“Pastor,” he said, “I was ashamed of myself. I had lived a sinful life and been exposed to all sorts of danger. Once, during a drug bust, I was shot and almost killed. I had done so many foolish, stupid things. I had lost my wife and children, the only things that ever really mattered to me. Finally, in desperation, I got down on my knees and said, ‘Lord, I’ve made a mess of my life. I’m turning it over to you and if you have a purpose for me, use me as you will.’
“And you know what? He did! I’m now a counselor at a home for wayward boys, helping them to make something of their lives. I’ve turned my life over to the Lord now. He’s my shepherd, my leader, my guide. I just follow wherever he leads me.”
Since today is “Cowboy Church Sunday,” let’s look at all this through a cowboy’s eyes.
If a rancher had a hundred calves and one of them got lost, do you think he would go looking for him? You bet he would! Every single one of his calves is important to him.
In the early days, ranches didn’t have fences to keep the cattle from wandering off, and so they got lost. That is why the rancher put his brand on every one of his calves. Most of you have seen a branding iron, I’m sure, and a few of you may have used one. The rancher puts the branding iron into a fire and when it is red hot, he burns his brand into the calf, usually on the left hip. Then, if the calf gets lost, the rancher can go looking for him and he can easily identify his calf.
The brand, or unique mark, on the animal meant that the cow could then graze freely among other cattle on the free range of the American West. If the cow strayed, it could be found and identified by the brand on its hip.
Just like the rancher worries about a stray calf, God worries about one of His children when they stray away. The Bible tells us that if one of God’s children strays, He will search for him until He finds him and brings him back home. And when God does bring the wayward one home, the Bible says there is great rejoicing in heaven.
The Bible even tells us that God puts His brand on His children. It says in 2 Corinthians 1:22, that God has “put His ‘seal’ of ownership on us, and has put His Spirit in our hearts.” I am God’s child because I have put my faith and trust in Jesus. I may stray at times, but I have His brand on me and I belong to Him. When I stray, He always finds me and brings me back home again. If you belong to Him, He will do the same for you.
As the SCV says, “The Lord is my wagon boss, I don’t have to worry ‘bout nothin’.”
In fact, God’s power is so great, we can say, as Paul does in the SCV version, “I’m plum certain that neither livin’ nor dyin’, neither the angels from heaven nor the boogers from the brush, neither the right now’s, nor the will be’s, nor any force, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.