Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Market Price of Sheep

Copy of a sermon delivered on September 12, 2010

“The Market Price of Sheep”

By Fr. Paul Bresnahan

Sunday, September 12, 2010

According to the September issue of The Sheep Industry News, The East Coast carcass market was up 2 percent in January to $222.80/cwt. but wholesale cut values were down. The average weight of a full grown sheep is between 150-200 lbs. The margin between profit and loss in the competitive sheep market is such that the loss of one sheep can spell the difference between a good and a bad year.

Jesus had to speak in terms that his listeners could understand. (Today’s Gospel lesson Luke 15:5-15). This they could get; the price of sheep. How much more then, does God regard the value of his sheep. Then as now it was the market value of things that counted for more. For God the value of life runs much deeper.

The Golden Calf of the United States of America is the Almighty Dollar. Elsewhere, it is the Euro, the Yen, the Shekel, and for our friends in China, it is the Chinese yuan. For most of the world, this is our God: the GDP, the sum and total of all goods and services produced. This is our bottom line and it is what we truly believe in.

Our faith has been shaken by the current recession. Bank failures, and under-capitalized investment instruments have failed us. Mortgages have failed, and too many are unemployed. The future is uncertain. More of our goods are produced in China.

Yet even there the volume and up tick in economic activity has failed to hold its amazing forward and upward push.

God was full of wrath when the people turned away and forgot that it was God who brought them out of the land of slavery into the Promised Land. (Exodus 37:7-14) God’s anger burned hotly against them. God wanted to consume them and start all over and make a great nation of Moses alone.

So Moses reminded God about his honor. What will the nations think if Egypt says that God brought them forth with evil intent? Remember your promise to Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, how you promised to make their descendents as numerous as the stars in the sky or as the grains of sand along the seashore.

Thus God’s wrath abated, and on the journey went, a wandering tribe of Arameans in a hot and arid land, a wilderness full of danger, and lacking in the barest of necessities. Thus, eventually they remembered to put their trust in God.

What is important to you in your life? Can you list the ten most important things to you? What might they be? Your parents, your spouse, your children each by name, your career, your home, your life savings, your investments, your dearest friends, fond memories of life when you were younger? What would your list be comprised of? Did you forget anything?

Lets say I have ten days, (ten months, ten years) to live and I have to give up something I love each day until I come to the end? Did I forget to put Jesus on my list? Or God?

Perhaps when I come to my last day, and all I have left and give up God, I have then not given up anything but won back all I lost and more beside.

Poor Paul; formerly a blasphemer, a man who persecuted the church of God and yes, even a man of violence we’re told. (I Timothy 12-17) He acted in ignorance, (Luke 15:1-10) and in disbelief, but Jesus knocked him of his high horse. Blinded was he by the brilliance of the Light of Christ, he regained his sight, as he came to understand the surpassing worth of knowing the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Paul knew what it was like to be a sinner, what it was like to be forgiven, to be lost and to be found.

And Jesus, how he loved those sinners; tax collectors and prostitutes, he wined and dined them and was the scandal of all the towns and villages he went about to visit. How he loved the ones who had been pushed aside from the Temple. Whatever race, ethnicity, class, gender, or orientation, to him they were one people.

And that’s what got him in trouble. That’s what earned him a place on the cross. It was his love for us, his pure unconditional love for the sinner, the outcast. Funny thing, how it is always the Pharisees and Sadducees who have difficulty with Jesus, or those who follow Jesus.

The ones who claim to follow, still don’t particularly care for the sinner. But it is the sinner that Jesus loves. It is the lost sheep to whom the shepherd is drawn. The lonely, lonesome, lost and wandering one, tired and panicked by utter despair, this is the one Jesus picks up and places on his shoulders, and carries home rejoicing to his flock, all the which the super-religious shaking their heads, aghast at the extravagance of the saviour’s love.

So what the do you want to do for the savior, given what he has done for you? Today, tomorrow and every day, what are you ready to do.

The Golden Calf is no God. There is but one God, Jesus Christ the Righteous, and he is the perfect offering for our sins and not for ours only but for the sins of the whole world. (I John 2:1,2)

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