The Preacher Says....  
  My People Have Been Lost Sheep  

Recently I found myself in the dentist's office and while I was waiting to see the dentist I picked up a magazine to take my mind off the impending unpleasantness. IIt was a copy of Life magazine, and I turned to a picture , a sepia-like photograph. It looked like to be about 300 men and boys all gathered together standing outside the building where they were attending a convention, or something like that. In the background was a scaffold, and on the scaffold was the victim of a lynching. The article was about the development of justice in America. This picture as I recall was in the outskirts of Minneapolis. One doesn't think of that as a lynch scene, nevertheless, there it was. I wondered to myself, who started such a thing? And how could so many men associate themselves indeed, have their picture taken almost as if they were posing for it. And it's easy to go from that kind of thought to what's popularly called ‘the wackos in Waco'. What caused, what drove that crazy man, David Koresh? He apparently swallowed the Bible whole and could quote it from beginning to end and at the end was writing his own interpretation of the seven seals . How is it that there were gathered nearly 100 people in the confines of that fortress where he was , armed with automatic rifles and mortars and grenades. He's our shepherd with weak sheep. Then Jim Jones comes to mind. Do you remember Jim Jones down in British Guiana, So. America where 600 people committed suicide, right on cue. From Jim Jones. In the 19c we're told that people followed a man named Miller who was a Millennialist, who thought Christ was coming back soon went up onto the mountain there to await his return. Incidentally, I looked that up . It seems that's greatly exaggerated people tend to exaggerate things that displease them. Mr Miller apparently prophesied that Jesus was coming back in 1843 but he didn't lead people up on top of mountains. I'm sure you've seen in the paper there have been a number of articles in the last few years about something called Millennial Fever. We're getting near to the year 2,000 and people are perceived to be doing unusual things: going out west building bomb shelters, hoarding gold getting ready for the tribulation that is to presage the coming of Christ and the establishment of the Millennial reign.

Well, you know, people behave in ridiculous ways, and we would never behave that way, would we? But my mind went back to that picture of that lynch mob that I described at first. The interesting thing, as I looked at that picture more carefully, as I say I estimated there were 300 men, all had suits and ties on as was the custom in those days,(earlier part of the 20th century) and all the men and all the boys had hats on. Felt hats, or bowlers, or top hats even the victim on the scaffold had a hat on. Now that we've all learned about the damaging rays of the sun, we know we're potential victims of skin cancer, we ought to be wearing hats. I wonder if any man in this congregation wore a hat to the meeting today. And why don't you wear a hat? You don't wear a hat because your leaders told you it's not stylish to wear a hat. Now they haven't told you in s o many words, and I don't know exactly why men stopped wearing hats, but stop wearing them they did. And I suspect it may have been when John Kennedy became the president and he had that beautiful golden brown hair, and he never wore a hat. And it suddenly became unfashionable to wear a hat. Now I still wear a hat for obvious reasons. When I go to work on a winter morning, I wear a felt hat. And when I walk into my office I can see the young women there sort of snickering , or it seems to me, this ancient old man with a felt hat on. So you see , our leaders affect us in subtle ways. The 60's generation came along during the lifetimes of most of you in this room, and it affected us. I remember the 60's in this meeting, I remember speaking about the fact that some of our youngsters began to look like Old Testament prophets, and some of our female members looked like vestal virgins in long flowing dresses. We're affected by these things. We have leaders unspoken leaders, but leaders nonetheless, that we follow. The dangerous part about the 60's really was that not so much that it became fashionable to have hirsute adornment , but rather that everybody's OK. All human beings are OK. We just need to be given free reign, If only we could be free, if only we'd be less judgmental of our fellows, the world would be a much better place. I remember before the 60's I had a friend, I admired greatly. And to my astonishment I found that he went to the penitentiary for what was then called a crime against nature. One would not speak of such a subject in this meeting fifty years ago but it has become current in the news; it's commonplace and one has to address what one sees. So my friend went to jail for 2 years. Last week, the Senate of the US confirmed a woman named Roberta Achtenberg to be the Undersecretary of HUD of the US, who euphemistically follows an alternative sexual preference. As a matter of fact, when she was a city council woman in San Francisco she tried to have a law passed to require the local Boy Scout chapters to permit homosexual troop leaders for Boy Scout troops. Well, our leaders tell us, that's the way it ought to be, and a lot of the sheep follow. Has any of this affected you, has any of this stuff affected you? I mean, think about this business about alternative sexual preference. Psychologists and psychiatrists have all pronounced that that people can't help it. And a Dr out on the west coast who has, incidentally, an alternate sexual preference, has said he's proved In the laboratory that there are genetic differences. And so, have you ever been tempted to say to yourself, these people are experts. Maybe they know something I don't know. I mean can you get to the point, instead of saying to yourself, hate the sin, but love the sinner. You know there are some shepherds now that lead some sheep in something called the anti- cult movement. Ant-cult shepherds. And as we get closer to 2,000 we're going to have more and more "cults". Are you a member of a cult? Are you viewed as such? Does it make you nervous, or do you feel foolish? Or can you stand up in the midst of your inquisitors and say as Paul did, "God hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom He hath ordained, concerning which he hath given assurance to all men in that He hath raised him from the dead," People mocked Paul when he said that. I think it might be all right if you view that prospect by being nervous. It's natural to be fearful. But beware of feeling foolish. I mean, don't feel like you're going to feel something that you're ashamed of. But this kind of constant barrage on our minds can give us an indirect kind of mindset. Let me just give you this bit of information, to buttress, if you will, the fact that you're not the member of a cult. I'm overstating the case nobody's ever told me I was a member of a cult, but consider mainstream Christianity. Let me read you just a little bit about the godmother of the church at Rome. In the first few centuries of the Christian era the Jews continued to believe they were going to be re-gathered to their homeland, and the Messiah was going to return. And most Christians for the first four centuries especially agreed with this. The difference being, of course, that the Jews rejected Jesus as the Messiah. The first early Christians, the Christians of the first four centuries, interpreted from the prophetic scriptures that a significant number of Jews would return to Palestine before the return of Jesus Christ. From their New Testament scriptures they added that Christ would then reign for a thousand years (from Rev 20 and 1Corinthians 15) which became later known by the Latin term pre-millennian. It signifies Jesus return before the thousand years of his reign on earth. Augustine St Augustine and Jerome are credited with changing the church's eschatology, that is to say, the study of future things, beginning in the early 5th century. Augustine interpreted Biblical prophecy allegorically. He understood the future revived Israel in the scriptures to be a metaphor for the Gentile church. Augustine was influenced in the formation of the eschatological beliefs by the tremendous success of the Catholic Church. As did many others, he reckoned the church to be already in the millennial age, that Christ now reigned through the Catholic Church. Augustine taught when the literal thousand years were completed Jesus Christ would return to the earth. This is called pos-millennianism. And it became the predominate catholic belief. Pre-millennianism was afterwards regarded as heresy. When Jesus did not return in 1,000 AD, Catholic scholars were forced to alter their eschatology. They interpreted the 1,000 year reign of Christ as non-literal, regarding it as a period of indeterminate length. This view was called amillennianism. (Latin for one thousand). Nevertheless, they left intact their teaching that the future Israel of the prophetic teachings was symbolic of the Gentile church . Thus there would be no future literal Israel. So that's Catholic teaching with respect to the millennium and the events leading up to it. In other words, Matthew 24, Zechariah 12 – 14, Ezekiel 38, Joel 3 and Daniel 2 none of them is literal, all of them allegory. I don't want to call just the Roman Catholics a cult, or said differently, a group having a false shepherd, and weak sheep, because here's what John Calvin had to say on the subject: I'll read a whole paragraph: Most Christian commentators dismiss altogether a literal interpretation of Isaiah 11 that's why I read Isaiah 11 this morning. You may wish to go back and read it again and see if you agree it's all allegorical. This is typical of non- pre-millennariums who usually interpret allegorically those Old Testament prophets regarding Israel's final destruction of its enemies and the promised kingdom. For example, John Calvin, famous theologian, father of Presbyterianism, provides the traditional allegorical interpretation of Isaiah 11, that Israel is regarded as the church, and the Philistines, Edomites, Ammonites and Moabites as enemies of the church. Thus Israel attacking its enemies is interpreted to be the church, spiritually triumphing over its enemies through the preaching of the gospel. Comparisons are odious, but nonetheless apposite to make, that those doctrines are more cult like, more bizarre, more unrelated to truth in reality than what we believe. But the bad part about those messages-- the message of mainstream Christianity and I distinguish mainstream Christianity from Christian Zionism there's a lot of this in this country. And the book, The Late Great Planet Earth, was a book of the 70's and sold 30,000,000 copies. So not everybody believes this, but the mainstream churches and it is part of Catholic orthodoxy, that God doesn't save man. Man saves man. If you think about what they teach, what I just read said that. It said that the activities of men are going to save the world, and we're going to get it all perfect. And when we get it all perfect then God will be all in all. You see, that was what made the Jews a stench in the nostrils of God. Because they thought also it was their works that saved them, not God that saved them. And that leads to all kinds of problems. One appropriate to what I'm talking about this morning is the fact that the Bible doesn't then become a book about the power of God, it teaches a form of Godliness that doesn't have any power. The Bible becomes a book of ethics. It talks about living under the precepts of the Sermon on the Mount. It has if you will modern Christianity a form of godliness, but denies the power of God because man in effect saves himself. And you know that kind of underpinning theological underpinning it seems to me lent credibility to the 60's, because the 60s developed this notion that people were good if only they were allowed to be developed to be good. And one of the children of the 60's was Hillary Clinton. And Hilary Clinton is a very religious person, I've read. She was raised a Methodist and has done a lot of reading of theologians of every stripe. I was interested to read this analysis of her life in an article called Hillary Clinton and the politics of virtue (NY Times Magazine 5/23/93, p. 24): "Driven by the increasingly common view that something is terribly awry with modern life, Mrs. Clinton is searching for not merely programmatic answers, but for THE answer. Something in ‘the meaning of it all' line, something that would inform everything from her imminent and all- encompassing health care proposal to ways in which the state might encourage parents not to let their children wander all hours of the night in shopping malls. When it is suggested that she sounds as if she's trying to come up with a sort of unified field theory of life, she says excitedly, "that's right, that's exactly right." It goes on to say in this article that "the very core of what I believe is this concept of individual worth which I think flows from all of us, being creatures of God and being imbued with spirit. " Speaking now of what she intended to do, "These are little pieces, and a lot of those little pieces can be done in a very small aggregate, but I think that what we're basically looking at is, you know, millions and millions of changes in individual behavior that are motivated by the same impulses, even if you're not doing a very good job of describing them. " Finally, one more passage, "At Wellesley college, Hillary Clinton gradually moved away from the conservatism of the times and embraced the predominant attitude of the campus that was steeped in the tradition of liberal social service oriented Protestantism and heady with the conviction that the young people of the moment were fated to remake the world. The times encouraged dreaming of great sweep and change. Alan Scheckter, who taught Rodham political science remembers the transformation of Rodham from a Goldwater girl to liberal secularism. Well, the point I'm making, I wish to compliment Mrs. Clinton in her wish to do good, but discerning what she says, the flaw in her logic, that people can be good, if only they can be allowed to be good. This is not a dyspeptic saying nothing can be done for people, but this kind of ;political philosophy was commented on recently in the Atlantic Monthly magazine, (Dec. 1993) by a prof of political science at the U of Mass who says this in his article, Can we be good without God?:

"Governments are apt to be characterized by optimistic oversimplification and distortions. American reformers typically assume that human beings are both reasonable and just and beneficent social change is therefore easy. The main thing necessary, after identifying a problem, is to devise and propagate a rational solution. Poverty, crime, class conflict, war and all the great social evils can gradually, but surely, e eliminated. Good will and intelligence, well organized and fully informed through the study of social scientists will suffice. It is difficult for secular reformers to reconcile their sense of the dignity of individuals with the recognition of the selfishness and perversity of individuals. They are thus led persistently to exaggerate human goodness, trying to match their view of human nature with their belief in human dignity. They fail to see how human beings actually behave or to understand the difficulties or complexities of reform.

The Kingdom of God", says this writer, "is a judgment on existing society and a symbol of its impermanence." ( It's the stone cut out of a mountain without hands that strikes the image on its feet the kingdoms of this world.) "Jesus was crucified because his presence and preaching were profoundly unsettling to reigning religious and political groups. Jesus did not seek the violent overthrow of those groups, but he did not show much concern for their stability."

We're called sheep. The bible calls us sheep all through the Bible. I wonder why we're called sheep. It seems to me there's a warning in that appellation. Sheep are easily led false shepherds easily lead us astray. And what are the characteristics of shepherds? Of what must we be on guard? First, avoid charisma. Or at least view people who are charismatic with a jaundiced eye. Take no man as your example; we all have feet of clay. That's one word of caution about shepherds. Another one, beware of the shepherd that makes you afraid to be different who insists that you toe the line. Also beware of the shepherd who makes you feel special, special for physical characteristics you have, as Hitler did in the Aryan movement, or you are special because you are persecuted, in a persecuted group that's David Koresh's message, I suppose, to those people. They were holy, and because they were holy they had to come together because they were special in the eyes of God, despised in the eyes of the world.

Now think of our shepherd not just as a shepherd but as a stone. A rock. A foundation stone. And in moments of self- doubt ask yourself this question, Did St Augustine make more sense when he allegorized the whole Old Testament to say you will get better and better and better until you're acceptable to God? Or, based upon your view of history, and of today, does Jeremiah make more sense when he said, ‘It is not within may to direct his steps'.? Peter calls Christ ‘the true shepherd'. He says, when the true shepherd shall appear, you shall receive a crown of glory that fades not away.

So how are we to behave? Be clothed with humility, for God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you in due time. Cast all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober be vigilant because your adversary those false shepherds out there are like roaring lions walking about to devour you. Be steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace who has called us unto eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after ye have suffered a while, will make you perfect, and establish and strengthen you. To Him be glory and dominion forever and ever.