“There is no person, no place, that is absent from the presence of God.”

This was the sermon/teaching that was originally delivered on January 3rd, 2021:

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Hear the word of the LORD, O nations and declare it in the coastlands far away; say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him, as a shepherd a flock.” (Jeremiah 31:10)

Hello, grace and peace to you my friends and Augsburg members. For those of you who may not know me, I am George Benson, your Outreach Coordinator and Development Director. I have the great privilege to deliver today’s sermon to you all! I will say this is my first time, in a great while delivering one, so I ask for your grace as I am sure it will be a little clunky.

Today’s sermon may be a little shorter than normal, just because recording happened differently this week and we wanted to make sure you all had something to start your year off with. Which, I tend to believe is a good idea. 

Yet again, we find ourselves watching from home, and even though we have been at this for almost a year, it still feels incredibly foreign. However, I am comforted by the words Pastor Brenda spoke at our Christmas Eve service:

There is no person, no place, that is absent from the presence of God.

One day, hopefully this year, and very soon we will all be back in the sanctuary worshiping together. However, if you’re like me, sometimes it’s hard to believe in what has yet to happen, especially given this past year. While we put our hope in God, we tend to leave practical things to humans, and that can be frightening at times.

When I was preparing for today’s sermon, one of the passages from the readings really stuck out to me, Jeremiah 31:10:

Hear the word of the LORD, O nations and declare it in the coastlands far away; say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him, as a shepherd a flock.

Throughout November and December, we have had a Bible study on the Book of Lamentations, which has been traditionally accepted as written by the prophet Jeremiah. While Lamentations comes after Jeremiah, the prophet knows what is coming for the nation of Israel. Babylon will come, and utterly destroy Israel and take her people into captivity. This is something that God allows to happen. 

While God will allow this to happen, according to Jeremiah, God will also gather Israel back together, like a shepherd gathers a flock. Which, if you have been attending the Lamentations study, it is hard to believe that would be the case. In a similar way, all of us attending this morning all lived through 2020, and the concept of things returning to normal may seem similarly far away. 

When Jeremiah talks about the shepherd gathering the sheep, I personally think of Jesus and the parable of the lost sheep. How the shepherd leaves the 99 to go find the one. As Christians, one of our great privileges is caring for those who are in need, in the way that Jesus did. However, one of the hardest parts is getting past what our individual definition of “those in need” looks like. 

As we look to this fresh new year, 2021, a year that has great capacity to be as devastating as 2020 was, we can choose every day to gather the flock. 

We can choose to follow in the way of Jesus and care for those in need.

And, we can choose to be cared for. This past year was traumatic, and 2021 will, at least for a time, continue to be traumatic, and it is important to recognize that at the start so that we know how to move forward in a healthy and safe manner. 

While I have met so few of you, what I know about Augsburg so far is, we are a community that loves one another, and the neighborhood we serve. So I would like to leave you all with a few questions to think about:

How in this next year can we follow in the way of Jesus to bring the sheep in?

How in the next year can we allow ourselves to be the sheep and be cared for?

How in the next year can I feel a sense of being gathered with the flock that is safe and healthy for all of us?

May the Lord’s grace and peace be with you today, tomorrow, and throughout the week.

Amen.

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