I’m a dad!!!
And it’s about time.
It’s about time that “young Father Jones” actually became a dad. Right?
Maria is tiny and pink, and pretty, and she is the cutest baby ever to be born!
Maybe not, but as a first time dad, it’s pretty hard to be objective anymore.
Because, yes, I’ve crossed over. I’ve shepherded other people’s lambs for 12 years now, since I taught my first Sunday school class in 1991. But I’m no longer a shepherd of other people’s sheep only. For, I’ve got my own little lamb now, and, as such, I feel like … I feel like … I feel like I’ve lost my brain.
It’s so hard to keep it together, with a baby, but no brain.
But you know what I mean — whether you’ve got a baby or not.
Whether you’ve got a baby, or buried a friend, or your partner is struggling for his life, or if you’re by yourself a lot, wondering what’s next – it’s hard to keep it all together.
Sometimes I wish I could be swaddled up and carried around in a wicker basket by some kindly giant who seems to know what’s going on in this wild and crazy world.
Sometimes I wish I had a gentle shepherd to take my hand.
Don’t you sometimes wish you had a friendly giant?
Or even just a good shepherd?
I suppose that’s why we’re here today. To be formed, fed and guided by God the friendly giant, and Jesus the Good Shepherd.
This deep yearning to be formed, fed and guided by something bigger than ourselves is innate to our kind – not only physically but spiritually. I believe this is the native yearning for God.
Moses knew this.
Moses formed, fed and guided his sheep according to the wisdom and discernment God gave him.
As Deuteronomy reminds us today, Moses’ were born somewhat testily into an all-new world. They passed through the waters and trials of delivery, and they were strangers in a strange land.
Moses saw in his flock their raw immaturity and unknowing. And like most new shepherds, and even some dads, he panicked. He didn’t want to be their Giant. He wasn’t ready. He couldn’t do it.
But God said, “Look, I’m the Giant – you’re the Shepherd. You work for me, and I will work through you.”
And God passed his wisdom into Moses’ mouth and hands.
Because they were babies, Moses gave them clear boundaries. He protected them from themselves, and from the wilds of the wider world. According to the grace of divine inspiration, Moses put his spiritual babies into a basket — made not out of reeds and cloth, but commandments and laws.
The laws of Moses gave the newborn Israelites everything they needed to survive in a harsh and unkind world, so that they might grow up into the mature people of God, through whom God would one day enlighten the world.
And there’s no doubt about it, if it weren’t for the Moses Basket of law, the tiny children of God wouldn’t have made it a century, let alone 3,600 years. Without the Mosaic wall of commandments and disciplines, the Israelites never would have grown up. They never would have made it to that day when God would choose to become a lamb himself, so that all the world might taste of grace.
You see the Ten Commandments isn’t what it’s all about. The ten, or 19, or 25 or 613 laws of Moses aren’t the point.
The Moses Basket of Law is not the Word, but the Basket into which the Word could be carried in the flesh. The Law is like the manger where Jesus was born.
We mustn’t confuse the baby with the basket, nor the messiah with the manger.
Jesus Christ alone is the Word of life and grace.
And in Him we have been shown how we should be.
This is made plain in the Gospel of Mark.
In Chapter 6, Jesus encounters masses of people, and is touched by their lack of direction. His heart is moved to pity, because they are like sheep without a shepherd. He feeds them by the thousands, becoming for them, their shepherd, and their salvation. The Lamb of God came to be both their shepherd and their giant.
In today’s reading, Jesus has just finished feeding his sheep, when some other shepherds challenge him. They insult Jesus and his flock, calling them “defiled” because they eat with dirty hands. They criticize Jesus for not observing more closely the Mosaic traditions of religious practice and ritual purity.
And, well, Jesus lets them have it.
He points them out as hypocrites and self-promoters. He explains that the heart of true religion is the connection of the human heart to God. He says that the only religious law that matters for the spiritually mature is the graceful loving of God, and neighbor, and self. Jesus implies that the grace of God “planted and growing” in the heart of the humble is what makes a person “holy, righteous, and clean.”
I think there are people like these Pharisees alive and well in America today – and it makes me sad. It makes me sad to see the commandments of God used for political purposes. It makes me sad to see the laws of God flouted by a callous public. It makes me sad to see religions built on law, but without grace.
For the law of Moses was made for man, not man for the law.
Now, in our household, there will be rules and standards by which our little girl will be required to conform.
I’m not sure what those are just yet, — we’ll get to that some other time.
But when my little girl wants to know “who may abide upon God’s holy hill,” I’m going to say, “You.”
I’m going to say, “You may abide on God’s holy hill, not because you’re blameless, but because God is a Giant, and he has sent a Shepherd who will take you to that holy hill just because he loves you.”
“And it won’t matter if your hands are dirty, or you skipped church a lot in college, or even if you broke all Ten of the Commandments.”
I’m going to tell my little girl, “You will always be clean in the eyes of God, as long as you put yourself in the hands of the Shepherd he sent to carry you home.”