One of my mom’s favorite stories about me involved me getting dirty. Evidently I was playing around another adult and she wasn’t right there with me. I was, evidently, getting fairly dirty with some reckless abandon. The adult chastised me and suggested that my mom was going to be upset with me because I was getting so dirty. She used to tell me what that parent said to her. She said, “She came to me and said that she told you that your mom was going to be upset that you were getting so dirty and you replied, “That’s OK. She won’t be mad. My mom uses Tide and it gets out the dirt that kids get into.” My mom let me get dirty and didn’t fuss at me for it, except for maybe two times. One time I was at a friend’s house to play and at a certain time, my mom was to pick me up and take me to cherub choir practice. I was probably 6 or so. That was the day that Jay and I decided to transverse a swamp to get to a junkyard. First of all I loved the 70’s, but as an adult in 2022, wow. As we were going through the woods, I stepped on what looked like solid ground trickle of water and went down to above knee in stinking suck-hole mud almost losing my shoe. Thankfully we turned back. As an adult I have gone by where he used to live and realized what brave, independent and adventurous kids we were. Brave yes, but never actually brave enough to tell my mom why we were in the swamp. The other time, I was college age and this time, by no fault of my own, I had a cast on my leg and had a job at the unair-conditioned pipe organ shop doing woodwork and organ repair stuff in the summer. My mom would come by and pick me up and we would go to lunch at a curb service place. One day she struggled to eat and told me she loved me but our next lunch would have to wait until I got the cast off. To say there was an odor issue is a huge understatement as the doctor that cut it off cut it with a saw and told me that after he left the room would have to take it off. So getting dirty is something that I do well. I was good at it as a kid, but over the years, I‘ve perfected it. Pipe organ chambers are some of the dirtiest rooms on the planet, and I also dealt with grease, spraying paint and lacquer, woodworking, and stain. I was bi-vocational, so it made kind of an odd pastor, lots of cuts on my hands, stains and perpetual grimey hands that despite the gojo weren’t perfectly clean. I think my mom knew something very important about me and about life. Dirt is temporary. That was a mother’s love to me. The enjoyment in my life came from, and I directly quote myself as a kid, “trying to dig a hole to China” in the vacant lot next to Jay’s house and my mom knew that the folks at Procter and Gamble had a fairly ingenious solution to the dirt on me and my clothes. Dirt wasn’t a forever thing. My mom sent me to the shower or the tub and I sent a lot of dirty water down the drain, sometimes having to go back a second time. I mean how did I get that much dirt behind my ears? And she put my clothes in the wash. Afterward I was a new kid. Mom’s can be cool like that. Motherly love that can be exercised by anyone is renewing. It wipes away dirt, stains, blood, tears, disappointment, apathy, and heartbreak to name a few. It throws an arm out across your chest from the driver’s seat at a sudden stop, even when you’re in your twenties. Much like the duck and her ducklings in our apartment breezeway. We walked up and they stopped what they were doing and huddled tightly together and she stepped forward offering herself. So today we honor those who have shared this type of motherly skills, love and sacrifice with us. Jesus spoke of gathering God’s children within his arms like a hen gathers her brood or I would expect like that duck did. We like to call this particular Sunday “Good Shepherd Sunday” and it’s kind of neat that it tends to fall on Mother’s Day. There are a lot of great comparable traits between being a good shepherd and providing motherly love, like guiding, protecting, feeding and tending, but I don’t want to focus so much today on shepherding but more on that renewing aspect. There’s a good reason, and it has to do with location, location, location. It’s so easy to read past some of what we think to be unimportant details in our present day. Jesus was on Solomon’s porch at the time of dedication. That can fall by the wayside if we have no idea what it means. Here’s the deal. Now this is kind of funny. For Jesus, in this narrative, it’s Hanukkah. That’s the Jewish festival that take place while we are in our season of advent or Christmas. So it only stands to reason that it would fall in the Easter season. The Gospel writers usually don’t include meaningless details, so I thought I should check it out. So what was Jesus celebrating at the Temple in the festival of Hanukkah and what does the Gospel writer want us to understand here? In 175 BCE Antiochus IV Epiphanes invaded Judea at the request of a Jewish faction and it became part of the Seleucid Empire who put an end to Jewish worship and sacrifice in the temple. The Seleucids went so far as to sacrifice pigs to their god on the temple altar in order to profane it. It was looted and an altar to Zeus was erected and Judaism outlawed, that is until a Jewish priest named Matthias and his five sons led a revolt. When Matthais died, his son Judah took his place and was known by the coolest biblical era name of all time, Yehuda HaMaccabi, or in English, Judah the Hammer. You may remember the Maccabean revolt from history. By 164 the revolt was successful and they had retaken the temple. They wanted to rededicate or renew the temple but there was only one undefiled pot of oil was to be found. The miracle of Hanukkah or the Festival of Lights was that that oil lasted for eight days or the amount of time that it took to have new oil ready. Once again the conflict is around the temple building and that Jesus is alluding to his body, much like “tear down this temple and I will raise it up in three days. Those that are there questioning him are expecting some Judah the Hammer type stuff concerning their oppression, this time from Rome. Jesus is there, at that time, to point to a bigger eternal renewal. The altar had been defamed and defiled in one of the worst ways imaginable. They didn’t have the resources for renewal so God intervened and the oil lasted. We do not have the resources to achieve our own salvation and here is Christ, Emmanuel, God with us affecting renewal once again. Motherly love. Powerful, unconditional, agape, sacrificial love, the one who did not wield the Hammer but won victory by having it wielded upon him. Here, where God cleansed and renewed God’s altar Jesus was pointing to the cleansing and renewal of God’s people. Jesus was like, “Don’t worry about my father, Grace gets out the dirt that his kids get into.” In baptism it’s washed away. Every Sunday I pour the waters of baptism. I haven’t worshiped with dry feet and pants since, I think, Lent a year ago. I started to think about that. When I proclaim God’s forgiveness, when I break bread, when I proclaim God’s word and when I do everything from the beginning of the service to the end, I am standing in, with, and on the waters of Baptism. Grace at the very foundation, Forgiveness at the very foundation, Renewal at the very foundation. I love pouring that water. It fulfills Luther’s dream of having me remember my baptism and God’s grace and as I wrote this I realized that I should not be selfish with the experience. If you so desire you can pour the water, or you can come and stand in what has come to be known affectionately as”The Splash Zone”. Having the worst week? It can make a profound impact. Always feel free to touch the water and remember that through God’s grace you are a renewed and clean child of God. Not worrying about getting dirty was very freeing. As an adult it enabled me to really throw myself into my work and focus on it, not what I was getting on my shirt. That was what Luther was saying when he said, “Sin Boldly, that Grace may abound.” You are an new creation, therefore share that grace with others in word and deed that they too may know the love of Christ and his motherly love and renewing power.
Jesus responds to questions about his identity with the remarkable claim that he and the Father are one. Those who understand this are his sheep; they hear his voice, follow, and will never be snatched from his hand. John 10 At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”
O God of peace, you brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ, the great shepherd of the sheep. By the blood of your eternal covenant, make us complete in everything good that we may do your will, and work among us all that is well-pleasing in your sight, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.