21 July 2024

The House of God and the Good Shepherd – these are the two ideas that combine to challenge and inspire us in this week’s Lectionary. In a world where so many of us seek to domesticate God to our own agendas, the Scriptures reveal a God who will not be tamed, and who calls us into a diverse, inclusive community in which people are cared for, protected and filled with God’s Spirit in order to live in the world as caring shepherds to all.

May our worship draw us into God’s household and form us together into a temple of God’s Spirit so that the world may know the grace and compassion of the Good Shepherd who has called us and who loves us with an eternal, unquenchable love.

2 Samuel 7:1-14a: David decides that he wants to build a temple (house) for God, but God, through the prophet Nathan, refuses him, and tells him that he is not the one to build a temple, and that God has never needed a temple. But, God promises David that his dynasty (house) will be established forever and that God will raise up a descendant of David to sit on his throne.
OR Jeremiah 23:1-6: A prophecy of judgment on the wicked shepherds of Israel, and a promise that God will gather his remaining flock together and care for them placing over them a caring shepherd, a descendant of David who will be just and righteous.

Psalm 89:20-37: God has called and anointed David to be God’s chosen king, and God has promised him a dynasty that will last forever. If David’s descendants abandon God’s ways, God will discipline them, but never withdraw God’s love, ensuring that David’s dynasty is established forever.
OR Psalm 23: David sings of the God who is his Shepherd and who leads him beside still waters, restores his soul, protects him in the valley of the shadow of death, prepares a table for him before his enemies, and provides a place for him in God’s house forever.

Ephesians 2:11-22: Jews and Gentiles together have been reconciled to God in Christ and brought into one community in which the lines of division have been removed by God through Christ’s cross. Now both are part of God’s household, and are built into a temple for God’s Spirit.

Mark 6:30-34, 53-56: When the disciples return from their mission, they tell Jesus about all they have done, and he calls them to rest. But, as they try to withdraw to a quiet place, the crowds follow them and Jesus has compassion on them because they are like sheep without a shepherd. Then, wherever he goes, the people bring the sick to him for healing.

Two words stand out in this week’s readings: “Shepherd” and “House”. In both David and Jesus both of these words come together in a remarkable and exciting way. In the Old Testament continuous reading, there is a play on the word “house” (The Hebrew bayit means both “house” and “dynasty”). David seeks to build a temple (house) for God, but God refuses, declaring instead that God will build a dynasty (house) for David. It is God who builds the house and who Shepherds God’s people. But, God uses human agency to do God’s work, as is revealed by the Jeremiah reading, in which wicked human shepherds are condemned and in which God promises a shepherd like David who will gather and care for God’s scattered people. The Psalms each reflect one part of this grand theme. Psalm 89 celebrates the human shepherd, David, who has been established to rule over and care for God’s people, and Psalm 23 has this human king praising God as the Great Shepherd who alone can truly protect, provide for, and build a house (or a place in God’s house) for God’s people. In Mark’s Gospel Jesus fulfils both aspects of this divine dream. As the human descendant of David, and the divine incarnation of God, Jesus has compassion on God’s people who are like scattered sheep, and he heals, cares for, and provides for them as a truly good Shepherd. Finally, Paul takes the picture one step further as the people of God, both Jew and Gentile, find a place together in God’s household of grace, but also become, together, a house (temple) for God’s Spirit. In David, then, we receive the promise of God’s divine house, ruled over by God’s good shepherd, in which God’s people will be cared for and protected. In Jesus, this promise is fulfilled, as the promised Good Shepherd creates God’s divine house from both Jew and Gentile who receive his grace and submit to his reign. Finally, those who find their home in God’s household are called to be a house for God’s Spirit and a welcoming community in which all people can find a home, a place to belong and a connection with God through the Spirit. It’s a message of divine grace, sovereignty and care, and of human reconciliation, inclusivity and service – two things which always go together in the Reign of God!

Global Application:
Like David, it is easy to fall into the trap of trying to domesticate God, to co-opt God to our own agendas and causes. But, as with David, God will always refuse to be domesticated. We cannot build a house for God, and thereby claim God as our own. We cannot sanctify our agendas and causes by seeking to get God to “inhabit” them for us. Rather, it is God who builds the house for us and for all people. God’s Reign seeks to remove all that divides us and to bring all people together in an inclusive community in which God’s Spirit can move and work. On a global scale this radical inclusivity has challenging implications. We do not get to recruit God to our national, economic, or corporate agendas. Rather, we are called to bring ourselves and our dreams under submission to God’s mission, allowing ourselves to become human agents of God’s compassion, justice, and peace. We are called to be shepherds under instruction of the great Good Shepherd. This means that in global decision making,we need to work for smaller, poorer nations to be given a place at the table, rather than be relegated to the status of mere observers. In the global economy, we are called to work for new, collaborative ways of doing business to include and consider both developing and developed nations, both multi-national corporations and local, entrepreneurial micro-enterprises, so that all people can share in the wealth of the world. In political and international power structures, we are called to work to care for the least and ensure that the mighty do not get to bully their way to achieving their goals, but are forced to consider and care for the weaker nations and peoples of the world. It’s a tough, idealistic call, but the vision of God’s Reign – a reconciled community in which all can belong and be cared for by the Good Shepherd – demands both the faith and the courage to work toward this ideal in order to continue moving the world into a more just, inclusive, and peaceful reality.

Local Application:
The vision that Paul describes, of a diverse, inclusive community in which all people are cared for and through which God works in the world, is what we are all called to as Church, and in our families and neighbourhoods. Unfortunately, we too often use God’s name to justify lives and attitudes that are far removed from this vision. Husbands try to justify their bullying of wives and children in God’s name. Pastors try to justify manipulating and controlling their congregations in God’s name. Parents try to justify bullying and controlling their children in God’s name. And Christians try to justify their rejection and abuse of those of other faiths or no faith, of those of different theological perspectives or sexual orientations, and even of those who are different in race, language, or gender, in God’s name. Rather than celebrate the house of God in which all can find a home, we have tried to become door-keepers and draw dividing lines. Rather than fulfil our role as shepherds to those for whom we are responsible, or those with whom we live and worship, we have chosen legalism, pointing fingers, and self-righteousness too often. The call of this week’s Lectionary is to learn to see God’s Spirit within each person, and in our community as a whole, and to embrace the diversity of the community of faith. Then, as a community, we are called to care for and protect the least and the most vulnerable in our families and neighbourhoods. As we seek to follow the Good Shepherd, we are called to live as good shepherds for all we meet and in so doing allow God to build us into a house – a community – of grace and love in which God’s Spirit “lives” and moves.

The Ones We Long For
Finding God Together
God, You Are Enough (A Paraphrase of Psalm 23)
Good Shepherd
Where Are The Leaders?

Hymn Suggestions:
Saviour, Like A Shepherd Lead Us
The King Of Love My Shepherd Is
I Shall Not Want (Link to YouTube video)
Mighty To Save (Link to YouTube video)
God Of The Moon And Stars (Link to YouTube video)

A Liturgy for the Breaking of Bread

Video Suggestions:
One Cross, One Body
Psalm 23
White Man