February 9, 2019
Brothers and Sisters
The sermon I am preaching today is part of the beginning of a series of sermons I will be preaching this year. The title of my sermon today comes Jesus words to Peter in John 21, after the Resurrection. You will remember that before the crucifixion, Peter had denied Jesus three times. And after the Resurrection, Jesus asked Peter three times in a row, Peter do you love Me? And three times Peter said, in effect, yes Lord, you know that I love You. And three times Jesus said to him, Peter, feed my lambs, take care of my sheep, feed my sheep.
This afternoon I am not going further into the context.Rather, I am looking at this whole mandate of Jesus, not only to Peter, but to all pastors. Feed my sheep.
And today’s sermon, more than anything, is just a short reflection on this task. It is on my part, a bit of self-reflection, on myself, and on all pastors, asking, what is Jesus asking of us, how well are we really equipped to do this, and, how well are we doing this? And also, I suppose a reflection on the whole of the church, worldwide, as well as us locally, and asking the question, what does it mean for us, as sheep, to be fed? It is a reflection on the task, and I suppose I am asking all of us, lets reflect on this together for a moment.
Let me illustrate what I am trying to get at.
Jesus tells me to Feed His Sheep. And so today, I am coming to you, with a three-point sermon. First, I am going to talk about potatoes.Secondly about carrots. And thirdly, about green beans.
First of all, this potato, I would like you to know, was locally grown, by Tony Galati, probably grown at Myalup, and purchased at the SpudShed. Potatoes are one of the most widely eaten vegetables in the world. And as long as you don’t bake it in too much fat, or soak it in too much oil, it is really good for you, low in calories, and a great source of vitamins C and B6 as well as other good things. So, Potatoes are a really good part of a balanced diet.
Secondly this Carrot. I can’t vouch for where it came from.It was bought at Coles, and grown in the Eastern States. Nevertheless, they are really good to eat. It is true that they are good for your eyesight. They are a valuable source of Vitamin K and A. But, be warned boys and girls , eat too many and your skin might turn a bit orange.
And thirdly, I want to talk to you about Green Beans. On the packet it says, packed in Australia from local and imported ingredients. It was probably grown in Vietnam. Might want to watch that. But on the whole, very healthy food, low in fat, low in cholesterol, and a good source of riboflavin,thiamine, niacin and iron.
So, my conclusion, put these together, with a good steak,and you will eat well. And I would finish off saying, enjoy your meal. Amen.
But as I walk off, I can see the Lord taking me by the scruff of the neck, and putting me back in the pulpit, and saying again, Feed My Sheep.
And I say, Lord, I just did.
And He will say, no you didn’t. I didn’t tell you to tell them all these neat facts about the food groups. I told you to feed them.
How do I do that?
Well – how about just giving them something to eat?
Let me share with you one of the hardest things I found in being in full time ministry. It is something about the way that churches have evolved through the years, in our circles anyway, so that the minister, as a paid employee of the church, becomes the full-time church worker. I can say this now, because I am not being paid. But as a minister you can sometimes get so busy, that your sermon work sort of becomes just another thing to fit into an already busy week. Sometimes you are so busy with pastoral work and meeting after meeting and catechism and management issues, that your sermon preparation is sort of pressed into the time that is left. I really admire ministers who need to prepare two sermons every week,together with all the other thing they do. But why I don’t like this model of ministry, is because for a minister to be a true minister of the Word, the food that he prepares for the congregation, first needs to be digested in his own soul. You know, if you are a bit skilled with words, it’s not that hard to knock up a quick sermon outline based exegetically fair and square upon the text, and then to add a few appropriate applications. But so often such a sermon skims over the surface of people’s soul, because it has skimmed over the surface of the minister’s soul. For how can I feed you, if I have not distilled the food for the soul out of the text first. The food we pass on, has often not been digested in our own soul, so that it has first become for the minister, real spiritual food and drink, upon which he has feasted his own soul. But of course, this feeding of the soul on the Word, takes time. Quality time. Time a minister often doesn’t have.
I hope this makes sense to you. I am meditating on what it means, to obey Jesus command, feed my sheep, and how we do that.
Let me ask a question. How many of us have been taught what it is to actually Feed on the Word? Yes, we know how to read a passage, and understand it, and all of that, which is really important.But how well have we been taught, to just sit, and nibble on the Word, and digest it into our souls, and to fill our souls with the power and the glory of the Word?
Feeding our souls on God’s Word is an art. It is something which needs to be learned.
It is of course more than that. To meditate upon the Word day and night, is the mark of the righteous man, in Psalm 1.
But how well have we learned, to do this? To be a people, who do, meditate on the Word day and night?
Jesus says in John 6, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood, has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.”
In Ezekiel 47, which I will talk more about next week, there is a picture of the river of life, flowing down from God’s temple, and wherever the river goes, it brings life.
And the person who meditates on the Word day and night, they have the roots of their life deep in the river of life. The life of God flows from the Throne down into our soul. The channel is open. Next week I will talk more about the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Being filled with the Holy Spirit involves a deep drinking in of the life which flows from God. The channel is open.
And this matter of feeding on God’s Word day and night, is an art, it is a practice which needs to be learned,taught by the Holy Spirit, and it is at the same time, the life gate of the flow of life, which flows from God to us.
And the more we as it were, stand in the river of life, to drink in the water of life, of the Gospel, as Jesus says in John 7.38, the more the streams of living water will flow from our lives.
Later in the year I am going to be looking at the book of Colossians. It is a wonderful little book. And in this book, Paul shows that the life which flows down to live in us, is none other than the resurrection life of Jesus Christ. And so, Paul talks in this book about being empowered with all power, about being energised with the energy of God. And the source of all this power, this Spiritual energy, this life force of the Holy Spirit, is our union with Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. And the more we are realising the depth of our union with Christ, the more the Gospel power will flow through our lives.
And this feeding on God’s Word is not about simply harnessing the power of God, like Simon Magus, who thought the power of God was for sale. But it is all about being united with Christ, so closely, so nearly, so fully, so integrated in Him, that we are the extended members of His Body, with the same Spirit flowing through both the Head and the Body.
And Paul’s whole ambition in the book of Colossians, is simply this, to bring all those who belong to Christ, into the fullness of union with Christ, so that Christ Himself, lives through them.
And I think you can see, this really is the stuff of powerful Christianity.
But it brings us back to our original question. How well have we, ministers and people alike, been taught to be Feeders on the Word?
And this is really important stuff,because no Reformation will ever happen, unless we are actually, feeding on the Word, and drinking it, deep into our souls.
And that is the art that we as Christians need to learn, all over again. We as Pastors need to know what it is to feed to the flock, not just give them the bones of a text, but we need to learn how to feed the milk of the Word into the human soul. And we as Christians, we need to know what it is to feed our souls on His Word. Just like carrots and potatoes and beans are real food for our bodies, so His Word is real food for our souls.
And what I am talking about, is like the tree, feeding the roots of our lives with Gospel truth. Feeding the roots.Taking food in, which shapes us and changes us. It is not a brief 20 minute encounter with the Word on a Sunday morning. But it is a life long drinking in,a reshaping of our whole lives, the way we look at things, the way we think, by meditating on the Word day and night, so that the Word, rather than our own thoughts, becomes the agenda of our lives.
As I said this morning, each text is not a picture on a wall. Each text, is a living window, a portal, a door into the Kingdom.
And our meditation on Scripture is meant to bring us, through the door into the Kingdom. And as we more and more discover our lives, in the glorious land beyond the veil, we will find its treasures to be of greater treasure than all the treasures in the world. The Word of God will become our greatest delight.
I have one aim this year. It is to say to us all, hey, lets slow down. Let’s take time to savour Scripture, to mull over it, to chew it over, to enjoy it, to delight in it. Let’s slow down, until we know what Jesus is talking about, when He says, my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.
Let us all pray this year, that the Holy Spirit, may teach us, what it is, to feed on His Word. Pray that I may have the grace to do what I have been tasked to do, when Jesus said, Peter, feed my sheep.
Give them something to eat.