“Autumn Brings…Protection” (Part Six)
2 Sam 22: 1-7 & Jn 10:22-30
Rev. G. Scott Turnbrook ~ Northwood United ~ October 28, 2018
Every once in a while, we sit down and ponder deep questions of faith. One such question we might ask is ‘what truly makes a person good’? What makes my neighbor good? What makes a stranger good? What are the makings of a good father or mother? Or any other family member for that matter. What makes them good? What makes a person of faith good? A good Christian? I would like to suggest that this morning’s two texts offer us one foundational dimension to that question’s answer. One of things that makes for the goodness of a person is where they ground their sense of identity, where they find their depth and grounding of meaning. One of the things that makes for the goodness of a person is where they gain their sense of protection and nurture. In the season of autumn, we marvel at the changing colours of the leaves and their descent to the ground. And as much as the falling leaves to the ground offer a layer of protection for the coming winter, people of faith understand God’s presence as one that offers protection for the journey ahead.
In the first text, we are brought back into the world of King David. He was a good King. He was so good that prophets later saw Jesus as being born under his star; Matthew tells of Jesus’ lineage as being in David’s line. And what made David such a good King was that he placed his hope in God; he found his strength in God; he found protection in God’s guiding arms. And for a King to bow before God was truly a unique, and beautiful, thing in David’s day ~ it is a beautiful thing in any day…really. It was unique because Kings were revered as gods themselves. Yet in our opening reading this morning, we are given a window into what made David a truly great man ~ a great King whose devotion and reverence was directed towards God. To read through the second book of Samuel is to read through much of the early history of Israel. While we will not take a historical analysis in our time this morning, it is important to note the structuring of this prophet’s second book. It opens and closes with two songs of devotion to God ~ and everything in the middle flows from this depth of devotion. The opening song of devotion, which was not read, is often called “the Song of Hannah”. Hannah gives thanks to God for the birth of her son ~ the one who becomes the prophet Samuel. The concluding portion of the book is another song ~ “the Song of David”. And in these verses King David bows down and gives thanks to God for God’s protection and deliverance through the storms they faced. The entire song is a devotion of God who is a source of strength and protection. God is a “rock” and a “fortress” and a “deliverer”. A “shield” and a “horn of salvation”. A “stronghold” and a “refuge”. A “savior”. And at the end of this section of the song, what truly makes David great is that in this time of fear…in this time of need, he has the wisdom to know who God is and cry out to God for protection. Indeed, David is a good King for David knew where to found his need for protection. He founded it upon God. Just like the falling leaves offering protection to the land below, David founded his life upon God whose way offered protection.
Some centuries later, the question of where to found one’s source for protection continues. The second text has an interesting setting in the religious calendar for the Jewish community as it occurs in what we today call Hanukkah. This Jewish festival where candles are lit and the protection of Jerusalem by the Maccabees back in 165 BC continues to be celebrated even to this day. The deep irony in the passage is that while the setting calls for joy ~ with the light of God right there among them in their midst ~ they remained confused where their protection would come from. There was Jesus walking in the portico of Solomon, ready to shine God’s pure light among them ~ yet a confusion of who would offer life and protection persisted. And to their uncertainty, Jesus ~ yet again ~ uses the image of the protective shepherd to describe the way of God that His Way embodied. And isn’t that the way of faith? One can’t truly describe it or explain it, but rather it must be experienced to understand what it feels like to truly be in the protective embrace of God’s grace and care.
Jesuit author, Anthony DeMello once wrote a parable called “The Explorer” that might illustrate this best. An explorer leaves her home village and explores the faraway and exotic Amazon. When she returns to her home village, the villagers are captivated as the explorer tries to describe her many experiences: the incredible beauty of the place, its thundering waterfalls, lush foliage, and extraordinary wildlife. How can she put into words, though, the feelings that flooded into her heart when she heard the night sounds of the forest or sensed the dangers of the rapids? So after describing her trip, she tells them that they simply must go to the Amazon themselves. To help them with their journey, she drew up a map. Immediately the villagers pounced on the idea. They copied the map, so that everyone can have their own copy. They framed the map for their town hall and individual homes. They studied the map and discussed it often, until the villagers consider themselves experts on the Amazon – for do they not know the location of every waterfall and rapid, every turn and bend? Yet … there was a problem. No one ever went to the Amazon and experienced it.
I think that is reason Jesus, time and time again, uses this analogy of the shepherd and the sheep throughout John’s Gospel. For in order to truly experience the nature of this God whose love for us is so deep and profound, we must place our lives completely in God’s protective care. We must allow for God to care and provide for us. We must experience God’s protection. Knowing God can never be an intellectual enterprise. It is one of experiencing the full emotions in this challenging life. And at other times, as those who follow God’s way, we must allow God’s way of protection to flow through our works. We must be agents of God’s care and protection where others experience this form of God’s grace ~ God’s protective nature.
And so, with that said, I would like to hand over the closing portion of this reflection to Linda H, a member of the Refugee Committee to tell a the story of this nature God alive and at work in our community. God’s way of protection, after a long wait, finally occurred on Monday afternoon with the arrival of the Hammoud family who the Northwood / Colebrook United Church sponsored to come to Canada. And I will invite Linda to tell us the story of this wonderful example of God’s protection...