Sermon Sheep and Wolves Rev. Joshua D. Gill
The good shepherd seeks out sheep that are lost and separated from the herd. I read a modern twist on this. Rene Compean went for a hike in the Angeles National Forest. While on that hike he became hopelessly lost; he couldn’t find the trail and couldn’t find his way. He began yelling for help. He wrote SOS on the side of a rock face, hoping someone would see it. He had his cell phone, a power bar, and a bottle of water. His cell phone was almost dead and he couldn’t get a signal. He decided to hike higher into the mountain in the hopes of getting a signal. He texted a friend, “SOS. My phone is about to die and I am lost.” He sent two photos with this text. Only one photo went through. It was a picture of his soot covered legs hanging over the cliff face. The photo was very low resolution and it didn’t have GPS enabled, so the friend wasn’t able to tell where the photo came from. He contacted the police. The local sheriff spent the night looking for Rene and they were unable to locate him. In the morning the sheriff tweeted the photo asking the Twitterverse if anyone knew the area and that they had a missing hiker. Ben Kuo, who saw the tweet, thought he could figure out where Rene was. Ben works in tech but he also has a unique hobby. He likes to look at satellite data to help track wildfires, and on occasion he likes to use that satellite data to figure out where photos were taken. Ben has never been to the area where Rene was lost. But he immediately looked at the photo and was able to begin to narrow in the search window. He quickly realized that Rene was on the south side of the mountain, on the north side there were no green plants and he could see green shrubs dangling below his feet. He found a location that resembled the terrain in the area and cross-referenced it with Google Earth and realized they matched. He called the sheriff’s office with this information. The sheriff’s office dispatched a helicopter with a search and rescue team and were able to locate Rene almost immediately. Rene had spent the night chilled to the bone huddling in a tight ball with only his shorts and tank top. He kept a stick and sharp rocks with him throughout the night as he had spotted a mountain lion. He said it was terrifying, and the sheriff’s department told him he was lucky. 
In his classic work To Know as We Are Known: Education as a Spiritual Journey, Parker Palmer describes both knowing and being known as emanating from love. He notes that the kind of love that shapes our knowing and being known is not a “soft and sentimental virtue, not a fuzzy feeling of romance.” For Palmer, this love is the “connective tissue of reality” that makes a bold claim on our lives. It implicates us in the web of life and wraps both the knower and the known in compassion. Palmer says this knowing results in an “awesome responsibility as well as transforming joy; it will call us to involvement, mutuality, and accountability.” 
Many people don’t feel known or loved. Many thought that social media would fill this void, it was supposed to help us feel more connected with one another. But survey after survey has shown there has been a steady increase in feelings of isolation and loneliness. Psychologists report an epidemic of loneliness and the pandemic has only magnified this sense of loneliness. I have heard many people describe the monotony of the pandemic experience. People want to know and be known by others.
Both of our readings this morning transpire in the context of a healing narrative. In the reading from Acts, Peter has just healed a man at the Gate called Beautiful. The people were filled with wonder and amazement at what Peter was able to do. Peter and John then go and begin preaching to those gathered at the temple. What we are seeing is people trying to sort out reality. The followers of Jesus are trying to sort out reality. The lines have suddenly become fuzzy. They are residents of the Roman empire, but they are tied to Israel both through lineage and tradition. They are also followers of the Messiah Jesus. As they are preaching, Sadducees come and arrest the disciples. Arrested, they are suddenly giving testimony in a Roman imperial court. They go from a position of authority to a place of being questioned — by whose authority or power they did this healing?
It is significant that it is the Sadducees who arrest Peter and John. These would have been aristocrats of their day. This included the high priest who yielded power in Jerusalem and the temple. They guarded the shrine, the most holy place. They oversaw the sacrificial system and had great economic power. It was the high priest that the Roman Governor would have done business with.  This power that they have is partially why they reject the idea of resurrection. Resurrection is a dangerous idea. It declares that the living God is going to put everything right once and for all, that all things will be restored. If you are in a position of power this type of thinking is deeply concerning. What happens if you move from powerful to powerless? Their response would have made little sense to the religious leaders. Who is this Jesus? When did he come back from the dead? God grants Peter boldness and he is filled with the spirit and responds. Peter’s response is about pointing to the source of true power, of true life, pointing to Jesus.
Peter says this Jesus is the stone that the builder rejected and it has become the cornerstone. When builders were constructing a house or a wall. They would reject any stones with odd shapes, because they wouldn’t fit in. They would be thrown into the rejected pile. But this rejected Jesus will change the world. This rejected Jesus who calls himself the good shepherd.
The page before, Jesus helped a man receive his sight by spitting in the mud and having him wash in the pool of Siloam. The Pharisees see the formerly blind man and ask how he received his sight. When he testifies to Jesus’ healing, the Pharisees reject his testimony and throw him out. Jesus than explains to the man and the Pharisees that he is the Good Shepherd. The good shepherd has come to save, call, protect, feed, and lead the sheep to their true home. The sheep in turn hear, follow, recognize, and benefit from the shepherd. They hear the shepherd’s voice. They find peace and pasture.
The Good Shepherd helps us to know and be known. We are known by God, so we can be known by friends, family, and our church community. Jesus calls us to live a life of love for one another.
 Joel B Green. Connections: Year B, Volume 2 (Connections: A Lectionary Commentary for Preaching and Worship) (Kindle Locations 7813-7819). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.
Wright, N.T. Acts For Everyone Part 1, pg 62.