He Leads Us to Green Pastures
“He Leads Us to Green Pastures”
Archbishop Loren Thomas Hines
Fourth Sunday of Easter
April 17, 2016
Readings: Acts 13:15-15, 26-33; Psalm 100
This fourth Sunday of Easter reminds us of all that belongs to us in Christ so that we will be filled with thanksgiving for the greatness of God’s love. We just sang “Heal Our Land”. This should be the goal of Christianity – the healing of everything that has gone wrong in the world. One man can’t do it; certainly not a politician who promises to deliver us from the darkness in our society. Only God can do it. He made us; we are not our own. We are His people, the sheep of His hand.
We are bound to the physical world and everything tangible, instead of living spiritually. I asked my wife if she can invent a device that can serve as air conditioning, something tiny that can be attached to our clothes too cool our bodies during these warm days. I believe this can be done by God’s inspiration. Many billionaires started with nothing, except for the passion and drive to succeed. They believed that they can do or produce something that can help mankind. This is what God wants us to understand in Easter. The solution to our problems and needs can’t be found on the “outside” but on the “inside” of us. If only Eve realized this, or stopped to think of what God had already given her and Adam, she would not have succumbed to the deception of the devil.
Everything beautiful is in what God has given us. He is who He created us to be. He put in us the image of Himself. He gives us hope. His lovingkindness is everlasting, His faithfulness to all generations. Sadly, we forget the virtue of faithfulness. We’ve become self-centered. We’ve lost sight of who made us. All things are possible! Man finds ways to solve the world’s problems thru inventions and creative solutions because God’s creative nature is in us.
Revelation 7:9 talks of “a great multitude which no one can count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb”. Picture it; see this scene in your mind’s eye. In the midst of this innumerable people is the Lord, “their shepherd who will guide them to the springs of the water of life; and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (verse 17). We don’t have to wait for this to happen when we get to heaven. Our Lord will do this to us today – be our Shepherd, guiding us to the springs of the water of life – if only we will allow Him.
The Gospel in John 10 took place in winter. In the Philippines, we have no experience of winter. We’ve been to Moscow in the winter and the temperature was 25 degrees below zero. I grew up in a cold place. We only had two seasons: winter and August. It was so cold you couldn’t get warm no matter how many clothes you put on.
The Gospel took place on the Feast of the Dedication. In the history of Israel, this feast came to be celebrated at a time when they were disobedient to God and so the Lord allowed them to be held captive by other nations. They were held captive by Antiochus of the Seleucid Empire which at that time controlled Judea. Antiochus appointed Menelaus as high priest, who led a reign of terror and set out to Hellenize the Jews. Many pious Jews resisted Menelaus’ measures, some by martyrdom, others by escaping to the wilderness, and still others by active revolt. Judas Maccabeus proved to be the most able among the rebels and formed an army from the Jewish rebels. The rebels captured Jerusalem. When the Maccabean army defeated the Seleucid army, a fast was called to thank God for the victory. The Temple was rededicated and the eight-day holiday of the Feast of the Dedication was created. It started with the lighting of the first candle, and they only had enough oil to last the first candle. Everyday, they lit another candle till the eighth day when all eight candles were lit and they saw it as a miracle from God that the oil lasted for eight days. They called a feast to celebrate the miracle and called it Feast of the Dedication. Today, it is celebrated among the Jews as Hanukkah.
In the Gospel, the Lord was in Jerusalem for the Feast of the Dedication. The Jews gathered around Him and pressed Him to tell them plainly if He is the Christ. The Lord answered them, I told you and you do not believe Me; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me. But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep….” (John 10:25). The Lord was talking about the miracles He performed before them. These Jews didn’t really want Him to tell them who He was. They were only looking for an opportunity to hear Him say something that will allow them to arrest Him. It was winter time. St. John used this as a symbol to tell us that it was also a time when the Lord’s popularity among the Jews was so low that they were only waiting to arrest Him. If you saw a dead person being carried to the grave and Christ brings the person back to life and gives him back to his mother, wouldn’t you know for certain that He is God?
Our lack of believing blinds us to realities and truths. How many times has God snatched us out of trouble, yet we still don’t believe? We are encouraged to allow God to speak to us. We must hear the Word of God; if we will only listen for it and not shut it out. God leads us; He is our Shepherd who leads us to green pastures, beside still waters. He restores us. Do we believe this and allow it to guide our life, or do we focus on the worries of the world? If we can just be at peace and trust God, He will lead us to green pastures. This may involve work on our part; we just have to yield to God’s direction. Do we hear Him? Do we know His voice? We should always be aware of His voice. We are His sheep; He created us. Our wisdom and abilities come from Him, and they flourish when we’re walking with Him; submitting to His will.
The Lord said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life….” (John 6:54).
Eternal life is more than just length of life but the quality of life. Christ gives us the God-kind of life.
Leviticus 17:11 “For the life of the flesh is in the blood….” This is why in Israel, whenever there are terrorist attacks, they gather the blood of the people who are killed because they believe that life is in the blood. “Only you shall not eat the flesh with its life, that is, its blood….whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed….” (Genesis 9:4-6). We are instructed not to eat flesh with blood in it because this means partaking of the life of the flesh that we eat. God gives us life, and life is in the blood; therefore, we are not to eat the blood of animals. When we eat the blood of pigs (in dinuguan), won’t we, in doing so, get into our system the life of pigs? It’s wrong to take the life of a person because God’s life is in that person’s life. If we read the Bible, it would solve our problems! John 10:38 “….though you do not believe Me, believe the works so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me and I in the Father.” God expects us to do His work. We did this yesterday in a medical-dental clinic where we ministered to the needs of the poor. This speaks louder than preaching.
God has given us the blood of Christ. It cleansed all the works of the devil, and when we partake of His body and blood, we become like Him. Our life is hidden in Christ. He said, “I and the Father are one”. If He is with us and we are one with Him, then we are also one with the Father. Easter is a proclamation of the life of God in us. We are His people, the sheep of His pasture. If we listen to our Shepherd, He will speak to us. Because we are one with the Father, we should know His voice. Easter brings us this assurance. We are blessed to be a witness to the rest. We should be walking on the abilities and provision of God – on mountaintops, like eagles. Let’s begin to use everything that God has given us.