Sermon Series: Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places
Title: Look for the Shepherd
1 Samuel 1:7, 11-13
March 31, 2019
Rev. Sandy Johnson
Today is the fourth of seven Sundays of Lent. Well, actually it’s five Sundays, Palm Sunday, Holy Week and then Easter but who’s counting? In this Lenten journey we have been looking for love, haven’t we? We’ve been learning about all the places we’ve looked and were left wanting more. Love is a basic human need. There is evidence that without love we would die.
Dr Ines Varela-Silva, a human biologist who has researched orphanages and a child’s response to what could be described as a lack of love. Her research led her to a study completed in the 1940’s by psychoanalyst Rene Spitz who documented high infant death rates in orphanages. One in three babies died. “These deaths weren’t caused by starvation or disease. They were due to severe emotional and sensorial deprivation – in other words, a lack of love. These babies were fed and medically treated, but they were absolutely deprived of important stimulation, especially touch and affection.”
“When children grow older and emotional depravation and lack of love occur, physical growth slows down or stops. The body enters a survival mode where vital, basic physiological functions are preserved at the cost of physical, mental, and social development. The longer the child is in survival mode, the more permanent and negative the effects will be.”
We are created for love – to give love and to receive love and without love we risk death or severe “cognitive, behavioral and psychological disfunction.” God wired us for love and sent Jesus to remind us how much we are loved, how much we mean to God our creator and his willingness to give his all for our salvation.
Sometimes when we go looking for love we have an idea in our head what it looks like, but we are way off base. Our bible story of Samuel looking for a king, is an excellent example. The Prophet Samuel was sent by God to Bethlehem, to the home of Jesse. God told Samuel that he was to appoint a king, one of Jesse’s sons. God would tell Samuel which one.
So, what do you imagine Samuel was looking for? Perhaps someone who was “calm and centered, someone decisive and full of integrity; someone hardworking, energetic, well spoken, and able to protect and maintain order.” I imagine Samuel was looking for someone with some life experience, and who was a fully-grown man.
So, when Jesse began to parade his adult son’s past him, Samuel and Jesse were both shocked to find that although God had told Samuel he would find a king in Jesse’s family, none of his grown sons were discerned. You see, the Lord had told him to look on their heart, not on the outward appearances. God knows what was inside Jesse’s sons’ hearts and he knows what’s in ours as well.
Seven sons are brought before Samuel and none are chosen. Samuel may have begun to question himself, to question God, or to wonder why he was here in the first place. However, trusting God, he knew that he was in the right place. He just needed to ask the right question. “Are all of your sons here?”
Jesse couldn’t imagine that this Prophet of God would be interested in his youngest. Yet, he sent for David who was tending the sheep. As soon as David entered the room, the Lord said to Samuel, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.”
Love discovered in the most unlikely places. This image of the shepherd rising to importance is carried over to the New Testament first when it was shepherds who were invited to visit the newborn baby, Jesus. And later in his ministry Jesus identifies himself as the good shepherd, sent to lead his flock. In John, chapter 10 Jesus says,
10 “Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”
Jesus says, 14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.” 
Now, I know nothing about sheep. The closest I’ve ever gotten to a flock of sheep was driving along the highway in Oregon and passing a pasture that was spotted with white, fluffy cloud-looking animals we call sheep.
Without knowing too much about them, I didn’t fully understand the analogies Jesus makes over and over again about how he was the shepherd and we were his sheep. I am thankful yet again for the wealth of information that is available to us via the world wide web. The Internet (and it’s all true!).
First of all, I always thought sheep weren’t very bright, that’s why they herd and follow their shepherd. In fact, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. “Sheep will run from what frightens them and band together in large groups for protection. This is the only protection they have from predators. There is safety in numbers. It is harder for a predator to pick a sheep out of a group than to go after a few strays. It is this strong flocking instinct that allows one person to look after so many sheep. ”
Jesus knows that we, his sheep are safest when we flock together, when we worship together, and when we live together in loving community. When we stick together it is harder for one of us to be led astray. We hold one another accountable and provide loving guidance and feedback to one another because we love each other, just as Christ loves us.
Sheep will also follow their leader. Jesus says that as the gatekeeper he opens the gate for us, he did that when he was resurrected. He opens the gate for our salvation. He calls our name and we respond. Before we were saved by Grace, God was calling for us to repent and come home. Most of us may have heard the voice but ignored it until that point in time when we knew that to move forward in our lives, we needed to stop looking for love in the wrong places and accept the love offered by our God of Grace.
The sheep hear the shepherds’ voice and follow, Jesus says he knows us by name and leads us. Whenever we may feel like we don’t know what path to take, it is up to us to quiet ourselves down and listen for the shepherd’s voice. What is it that Jesus is calling us to do? Who needs to be cared for? What resources do we have that we can share with our community, making it stronger and safer for all?
I learned this week that “when one sheep moves, the rest will follow, even if it does not seem to be a good idea. The flocking and following instinct of sheep is so strong that it caused the death of 400 sheep in 2006 in eastern Turkey. The sheep plunged to their death after one of the sheep tried to cross a 15-meter deep ravine, and the rest of the flock followed.” Thankfully we can trust our shepherd to lead us away from danger, the Good Shepherd is leading us toward peace, reconciliation, toward abundant life, and eternity with God.
admit to ourselves, that we are all looking for love and that we find it with
Jesus Christ, we become sheep who stay close together, who listen and hear the
shepherd’s voice. We are protected, we
are loved, we are led. Finding love in
our Good Shepherd frees us from fear and anxiety, from straying into the dark
places of our world. Sisters and
brothers look for the shepherd and find love.
 1 Samuel 16:11
 1 Samuel 16:12
 John 10:1-5, 14-15