April 26, 2021
1 Peter 5:1-5 CEB
Rev. Brandon Berg
First United Methodist Church of Bristol
Clinch Mountain District
1 Peter 5:1-5
1 Therefore, I have a request for the elders among you. (I ask this as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings, and as one who shares in the glory that is about to be revealed.) I urge the elders: 2 Like shepherds, tend the flock of God among you. Watch over it. Don’t shepherd because you must, but do it voluntarily for God. Don’t shepherd greedily, but do it eagerly. 3 Don’t shepherd by ruling over those entrusted to your care, but become examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief shepherd appears, you will receive an unfading crown of glory.
5 In the same way, I urge you who are younger: accept the authority of the elders. And everyone, clothe yourselves with humility toward each other. God stands against the proud, but he gives favor to the humble.
Yesterday I got to preach a sermon on shepherding. There’s a reasonable chance you heard a similar sermon yesterday, since the texts most widely shared among our clergy this week have been the 23rd Psalm and Jesus telling folks, “I am the good shepherd.… I give up my life for the sheep” (John 10:11a, 15b).
I mean, where else do you go with that?
But this bit from Peter’s first letter is an angle we don’t encounter often. Peter gives advice to two groups: old people in the church and young people in the church. Where I find myself on that spectrum depends entirely on where I physically am; given the age my grandparents were when we lost them, I’m barely on the downhill edge of middle age. So when I’m in church committee meetings (y’all know what those look like, right?), I’m strikingly young. When I’m helping coach the run club at Anderson Elementary, I’m antique.
From where I am, I get to see the world from both points of view. That’s pretty nifty. It helps me deeply feel the advice Peter offers to both groups, because I empathize with both: “clothe yourself with humility toward each other.”
It’s poignant to be talking about this as an exercise in shepherding, and coming out of yesterday’s texts, because the other person we tend to think of when shepherding comes up (you know, the one who’s not Jesus) is David. Do you remember his introductory scene? Can you recreate it in your mind?
Saul’s kingship has failed. He is losing control of both his people and his mind, and God is just done with him. So God sends Samuel begrudgingly to the household of Jesse of Bethlehem.
Remember, Samuel had served as judge over Israel for a long time before the people begged for a king and Samuel was compelled to anoint Saul. Now we’ve reached the slow ending of Saul’s reign. Samuel is old.
Jesse is the father of young men, probably teens (God help him). That’s about where I am in my life.
Jesse’s sons parade by Samuel until the youngest – a scrawny, sunburned shepherd kid – makes Samuel’s eyes pop as God exclaims to him: “That’s the one! Go anoint him!”
In the face of all Samuel’s wisdom and experience, God chooses an untested green (okay, red) little boy who doesn’t know the first thing about command or delegation or motivating people. That’s a bit much to take. But Samuel does what he needs to do. He has a lifetime of learning that God knows better than he.
Clothe yourselves with humility toward each other.
Young or old, experienced or green, insider or outsider, clothe yourself with humility. Clothe yourself with understanding. Clothe yourself with compassion. Clothe yourself with love.
You’ll be amazed what God will do with you then.
God our Shepherd, guide us all our days. God our Wisdom, write your word on our hearts. God our Creator, revitalize our weary souls. We offer ourselves to you in humble adoration of you and your beautiful and good world. Amen.