Sunday (4/21/2013) was Good Shepherd Sunday in the liturgical church year Where we worship the theme Hope in Recovery Sunday was joined to the Good Shepherd emphasis. Joining the themes “recovery” depends upon The Good Shepherd and the support of the Shepherd’s sheep. The congregation sponsors an Alcoholics Anonymous group with a 12 – step: Singing and Dancing Down the Road to Recovery. Two women met at the congregation’s sponsored group. They became sponsor/sponsee as a relationship team. Both are on a “recovery” journey. Faith shapes their relationship and their recovery and what a faith community can do to help those dealing with addictions and find hope in difficult times. They spoke to Adult Forums bracketing worship services. What was made clear in the homily was that addiction takes various forms and “recovery” demands similar care by the Shepherd and, as well, the Shepherd’s sheep.
The homily stressed the difficulty and fruitlessness in reliance for “recovery” from addiction on our resources. In context with that observation the preacher stated: STOP TRYING TO PLAY GOD! Operation “pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps” proves fruitless. “Christian holiness”, as one theologian has it: is “motivated by the love of Christ and gratitude to God rather than motivated by obligation or fear.” Near the close of the homily the preacher stated: “The Good Shepherd will shortly welcome all of us to His Table”. At that Eucharistic Table the Good Shepherd as the Lamb offers Himself for our redemption uniting us as forgiven sheep as members of the Body of Christ. As “forgiven sheep” in the Good Shepherd’s sheepfold we respond with love for fellow sheep “dealing with addictions so they may find hope in difficult times”
The homily on Good Shepherd Sunday stimulated my memory back 65 years to seminary days reading The Quest For Holiness, a translation of German Luther scholar Adolph Koeberle’s 1928 doctoral dissertation at Tübingen University. The Quest For Holiness importantly helped shape my theologian stance. Sunday’s worship reminded me of my debt to Adolph Koeberle. There is no more liberating basis for Christian ethics, Koeberle asserts, than the doctrine of justification of sinners.” As a Luther scholar he places emphasis on Luther’s emphasis that Christian “vocation/calling” (Christian holiness/sanctification)is motivated by forgiveness of sins. Attempts to sanctify ourselves in God’s sight, he avers, follows three paths. First, emphasis upon the Will – sanctification of conduct (moralism). Secondly, Emotions – sanctification of the soul through (mysticism). Finally, the Mind – sanctification of thought or understanding (speculation/rationalism). Koeberle elaborates on Will, Emotions, and the Mind as three ways of erecting ladders to storm the gates of heaven and earn entrance. God’s judgment, however, rests on all self-justification. The homilist’s injunction: STOP TRYING TO PLAY GOD! Christian holiness is motivated by love for Christ (Shepherd/Lamb) and gratitude to God for forgiveness of our human frailty.