Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Gift of Life

Chuck welcomed us this morning and then invited Pam to give an update on current activities.
Brooke was our worship chair so that her role had been left unfilled when the Shannons left two weeks ago. The council selected Cheryl Borndal to fill that position. The interim pastor search has been moving along in a positive manner while the pastoral search committee is forming to find a permanent replacement for the Pastor Brad. July 24 there will be a congregational meeting after the service.

Chuck asked that we take a little time for silent prayer for the lives unnecessarily lost this past week in the Twin Cities, Dallas and elsewhere. He read a letter requesting that our church strive to be salt and light in the midst of all this darkness. Chuck then read Psalm 90, which includes this memorable line, "From everlasting to everlasting You are God." The psalm expresses God's eternal strength and man's frailty.

We shared a number of prayer requests and had a time of prayer before taking the offering. Zach Crosby was then introduced to deliver the message.

The Gift of Life

Zach began by reading John 10:1-10, the text for today's sermon. But first, before preaching, he briefly shared about his health, the heart condition that he's dealt with for 25 years which has been a lifetime struggle, including a heart transplant about 2 years ago. He currently lives in Superior where he is working on developing a marina at one of the former ore docks. As it turned out his personal story was significantly integrated into the message.

The passage in John begins by mentioning a sheepfold, a metaphor that is foreign to us because none of us have ever had a sheepfold. In Jesus' day sheep were an important part of the economy. Essentially, sheep would be taken out of the sheepfold by day so they could graze, but then would be brought back to where it was safe at night.

Jesus used the metaphor to teach us some things about life. Anyone who doesn't come in through the gate is a thief or bandit. Zach said he always had a problem with Jesus comparing us to sheep because they tend to be dumb. Since this a metaphor, what are our bandits? What is it that steals our security and joy? Health issues? Money, or lack of it? Broken relationships?

At this point he shared in his own story in greater detail. While in seminary, near graduation with four children and a beautiful wife, he came home from a pastor's conference and unexpectedly passed out while picking up a toy from the floor. The process of figuring out what the cause was took years, and caused a lot of inner turmoil. He shared that he has been legally dead seven times. It steals your peace and your sense of security.

It also makes an impact on your finances. His heart transplant cost a million and a half dollars. Wouldn't it be nice to have a million and a half dollars?

His heart got so enlarged he couldn't live a normal life. He ultimately had to go to Mayo Clinic where he spent 68 days in intensive care, and experience that separates you from friends and family, and from your dignity.

These are the thieves and bandits that steal our security and hope.

But then there is the Good Shepherd who leads his sheep out to pasture and back to the safe place. Because the sheep know his voice they are calm.

Zach shared that when people are waiting for a heart they sooner or later end up depressed, and when that happens they often become ill the next day. When they get ill they can't go through surgery so it is a major problem. Zach said he prayed for God to help him minister to others there while he was in the ICU.

Another passage about sheep is Psalm 23. If you follow Christ He will lead you to peace and security. "Yea, though I walk through the shadow of death I will fear no evil."

God can take the most miserable situation and turn it into the best ministry of your life.

In verse six the writer points out that the disciples didn't understand the metaphor. Jesus gives additional insight. In verse seven Jesus goes further. "I am the gate," He says.

The thief comes to kill, steal and destroy. Jesus came that we might have life, and have it abundantly.

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