A Shepherd Is Born!!
A SHEPHERD IS BORN!
In the recent movie A Star is Born, Bradley Cooper plays Jackson Maine, a famous country singer who struggles with alcohol and drug addiction. Jackson meets, Ally, played by Lady Gaga, a waitress and aspiring singer songwriter. They fall in love and Jackson helps her launch her career in music. The movie chronicles the ups and downs of their relationship, the fall of Jackson’s career, and the rise of Ally’s career. The movie chronicles how a music star is born. The movie is a remake of a 1937 film starring Fredric March and Janet Gaynor. The original film was one of the first technicolor films to be produced by Hollywood. There was even a version with Barbara Streisand in it I am told.
We as human beings are interested in origin stories, especially of famous people, whom we often call stars. We want to know how ordinary people like us achieved a level of celebrity, power, and fame, that many of us can’t imagine. In reading and watching origin stories we get to experience the glory of these stars. We get to live vicariously through these stars.
Today, is the Christian Holy Day of Epiphany, the Sunday we celebrate the revealing of Christ to a group of astrologers and sorcerers. They have traveled from the east, because of the birth of a miraculous star. They are apparently aware of the Hebrew scriptures. Scriptures like Isaiah 60, which predicts gifts of gold and incense, Micah 5:8, which predicts that a king will come out of Bethlehem, and 2 Samuel 5, where David, a young shepherd boy, becomes King over all of Israel. But they confused the glory of God’s creation with God himself. They thought that the stars determined their fates instead of the hand of an invisible and loving God. But God used a miraculous sign in the sky to lead the Magi away from their ideas of what a worldly King should be. The King of the Jews was not to be found in Herod’s Palace with Herod’s armies. Instead, the King of the Jews, and of the whole world, was to be found in the little town of Bethlehem. The world wants to know how stars are born. But I believe that today the Lord wants us to know how Shepherds are born.
The Good News: When we embrace the heart of our Good Shepherd God will make us lights in the world.
From the moment of his birth Jesus is identified as a Shepherd King. And if we want to face the challenges of our lives like Jesus we need to know what it means to be a shepherd . In the book The Way of the Shepherd, Dr. Kevin Leman and Bill Pentak apply Biblical lessons on shepherding to the cooperate world by telling a story. We are told from the beginning of his birth, Jesus’ reign was defined as being a shepherd. The book tells us the story of Theodore McBride, the CEO of the successful company General Technologies, and how he learned the seven management principles that helped him succeed from shepherding actual sheep.I can’t get into all the principles. I don’t have the time. But the last principle, the heart of the shepherd, I think is the most important.
Having the heart of a shepherd means being willing to pay the price to shepherd your flock. To Quote The Way Of The Shepherd, “Someone has to pay; it’s just a matter of who will pay. The thing is it is not the sheep that get to decide. That decision is made by the one who tends the flock. So every day when you go to work at General Technologies, you get to decide who’s going to pay for your leadership that day- you or your people.” Good Shepherds are willing to pay the price. Bad shepherds feel the price is too high. The price that we are willing to pay, according to economic theory, is correlated to the value we assign to something. Professor Jack comments about a bad shepherd who let his flock suffer by saying this, “ That man refused to pay the price, not because he thought the price was too high but because the value he put on his sheep was too low.” (Leman and Pentank, pg 101). He didn’t put enough value on his sheep.
Today we have welcomed new Elders who have promised to shepherd our church flock. We have welcomed new members who desire to follow Jesus as their good shepherd. We have made promises to one another. Promises that we have every intention of fulfilling. But we have all broken our promises and we have all been on the receiving end of broken promises. We have all sung love songs that we meant in the moment that failed to fulfill those promises in the end. How do we find this year the strength to fulfill those promises? I think we have to depend not on stars being born but on the shepherd’s heart being born within us. I think we have to depend not on the love songs of man, which are but for a moment, but on the love songs of God which are for eternity. The Apostle Paul, in the book of Philippians, wrote a love song to the church at Phillipi, which I believe is a love song for us today and for every generation.
“ So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but he emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefor God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:1-11).
Lord, at the beginning of this new year we need an Epiphany, we need a new understanding, a new revelation of who you are. Wise men seek you, but you cannot be found through human wisdom. Good people with good intentions make promises to you but good intentions are not enough to fulfill those promises. We need to sense your Sovereign hand, which put the stars in the sky, and knit us together in our mother’s womb, the weight of your glory, that we may tremble at your love and power, that we may work out our salvation with fear and trembling for it is you who works in us, both to will and to work your good pleasure. Silence among us grumbling and quarrelling and make us of one mind that we may be blameless and innocent children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom we may shine as lights in the world. For your light shines not because a star is born. Your light shines because a shepherd is born. Birth in us this day the heart of our good shepherd that we may be willing to pay the price for our leadership, that we may be willing to pay the price to take care of our sheep in our care. That we may be lights in the world.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.