Scapegoats or Shepherds

I'm working on Sunday's sermon. Week after week I stand in front of the congregation I serve, and share with my thoughts on the Gospel message. Some weeks, it seems pretty clear what the Gospel means for our lives. Other weeks, it is harder to figure out exactly what God is saying to us.

This is been one of those harder weeks.

You know the news. Last night, at the midnight screening of The Dark Night Rises, a gunman opened fire. 12 were killed, dozens were injured.

I’ll be honest with you: I’m not sure what to say about all this. There is no magic word that will make it all better. There is nothing that I can say that will cause this all to make sense – nothing that will make it seem less tragic and awful.

There are questions we could ask today.
How did no one catch this sooner?
Who failed this troubled man?
How does violence in our entertainment create violence in our society?
Are our gun laws too lax or too strict?
We like to look for scapegoats … someone to blame … someone or something to point our finger at. But as much as we ask those questions, they will not give us the comfort we are looking for. They will keep us busy for a while, but they cannot comfort us.

Following the resurrection, Jesus appeared to the Apostle Peter; Peter who had denied Christ and had run away on Good Friday. Peter, who had seen the hopelessness of that tragic and awful day.

And Jesus asked Peter a question.
He asked, “Do you love me?”
“Peter, having seen what you have seen – the hopelessness of Good Friday, and the light of the resurrection, do you love me?”
“Yes Lord, you know that I do” came the reply.
“Then tend my sheep.”
Tend my sheep. Care for them, provide for them. Look after one another, love one another. Whatever else may come, whatever else may happen, remember that: Tend my sheep.

Jesus wasn’t looking for a scapegoat – he surely had that in Peter if he wanted it. So many questions that Jesus could have asked: "Did you run … did you deny me … were you afraid … did you give up hope?" But he didn't.  Instead, Jesus was looking for a shepherd. If comfort is to be found … if Jesus’ flock is to be cared for … then shepherds are needed.

What about you?
Having seen what you have seen –
The pain of Good Friday.
The tragedy of this last night.
The glory of Easter morning – Do you, having seen what you have seen, love him?

Then tend the sheep.

Be the one who provides care and comfort … Be the one who shows the love of Christ to the world … Start close to home … caring for and loving your family both at home and in your community.
Then branch out … reach out to those in need … those who are hurting … those who are lost … 

In dark times such as these, we don’t need more blame, we don’t need scapegoats, we need shepherds. 

There – in the act of tending the sheep, caring for one another – will we find the comfort and the hope that we so desperately need right now. 

Dear friends … Do you love Jesus? Then tend his sheep.

Adapted from a sermon that I preached at St John - Prairie Hill on April 22, 2007, following the tragic shooting on the campus of Virginia Tech. 

Image is from, used with permission. 

Aurora Shooting, Dark Night Rises, Gunman, Colorado, Prayers, Sermon, Movie Theater Shooting