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Join Us For Worship!

Join Us For Worship!
Sundays at 8:30AM, 9:45AM, and 11AM

Sunday, April 29, 2012


SERMON GOOD SHEPHERD SUNDAY/REMEMBERING AUTISM SUNDAY

We read this morning:

Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.

 Little children from the neighborhood playing out in the yard. They run. Play Tag. The Big Wheel.  One child runs along with the crowd. Trying to keep up. Trying to follow the play. The rules of the game. But can’t.  And kids notice when someone can’t fit in and at best they ignore him or her, in this case him, and when the child will not be ignored they find an adult to whom they can bring their complaint. They want to borrow his toys.  They like the toys. They are even willing to play with his younger brother in order to use the toys, but not him.  Not the different kid. Not the one who struggles with following the rules of their play. Not him.

Their parents are there, too, watching from the comfort of their outdoor folding chairs and drinks, from behind sunglasses that shade their eyes. Watching, but not seeing. Not catching what is going on. How their children are shunning the different kid. Running away from him. Telling him to go away. To go home. But could he please leave his toys. Kids being kids, one supposes and parents being parents, except for those who have eyes to see, to capture in their hearts what is taking place. As the afternoon wore on the parents watched their children play and saw what they chose to see and ignored the rest and would not see the tears that followed from that different child’s father’s aching heart .

Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.

For families affected by autism, among their greatest needs is love and compassion rather than judgment.  With 1 in 54 boys and 1 in 252 girls diagnosed with autism, it is more prevalent then children diagnosed with diabetes, AIDS, cancer, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy or Down syndrome, combined.  Families of autistic children have to face in the eyes and expressions and gestures and words of so many people complete disbelief and the judgment of poor parenting as many children with mild forms of autism such as Aspergers Syndrome can be very high functioning at times.  Such parents in the midst of the chaos of coming to terms with their child’s needs, behaviors, prognosis, therapies, medications, educational possibilities, even suffering the pain of watching their child be declared an outcast by their peers, must deal with constant pubic scrutiny and all too many people ready to suggest: “Can’t you just control your child?”


Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.

 Imagine an autistic child trying to fit in and play soccer in a league in which everybody plays and there is no score keeping except every other parent wants their child to play longer than your child because their child doesn’t wander off to chase butterflies or pause to catch the moon rising over the horizon. And every other parent keeps score and sometimes silently and sometimes not so silently blames your child for the theoretical loss, if the score was actually kept in some place other than in their own mind.

 Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.

The Good Shepherd is willing to leave the 99 sheep for the sake of the one.  The one that has wandered off. The Good Shepherd apparently isn’t too concerned with what the 99 think about that. There is no debate, no opinion poll. The Good Shepherd knows the value of the missing sheep. The Good Shepherd is willing to lay down his life for the sake of that one sheep just as he is willing to lay down his life for the others. Certainly families impacted by autism can find themselves just like that one lost sheep in unfamiliar places, alone and fearful.  They are not the only ones – think of all the ways in which we become isolated. Lost. Alone.  Think about the ways in which age and disease and pain and suffering and brokenness and even pride can isolate us and then we become the one that the Good Shepherd will leave the 99 to seek us out.   
And what does the psalmist say? From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord!

But the writer of First John reminds us so eloquently this morning that one of the things that the Lord has done is to embody true self-giving love for us and invites us to do the same. To love in truth and action.  That is love that enfolds from grace. That is love that transforms. That is love that just captures a moment and transforms it.

 What does the Psalmist say?
The Psalmist invites us to allow the Lord to lead us.
To allow the Lord to lead us.

 We’ll never know, unless we ask, if the struggles we see, parent to child, at the grocery store, at the park, outside of school, anywhere, are the struggles of a parent with an autistic child for whom that small slice of life that we have been privileged to see represents their lives 24/7;  A life lived so intentionally in the present because the future more often than not carries with it as much fear as hope, as much anxiety as promise.  And as we seek to embody the good news in truth and action,  and we find ourselves among people here and there who are struggling, the Lord calls us forward to them not for our judgment and not for our fixing as if we can fix such things, but for our compassion and even more so, our love. Because in the end, whether it is autism or illness or hunger or pain or exhaustion or a thousand other reasons, we are called to respond in love, the very love of Jesus, the Good Shepherd who knows us and calls us by name and who willingly lays down his life for the sake of his sheep, for the sake of all.

Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.

 Those who suffer have experienced enough disdain and judgment, enough loneliness and rejection, enough hard-heartedness and coldness on the part of others. The Good Shepherd teaches us a different way, by his own example, placing himself among the lost, the broken, the outcast, the rejected, and offering them himself. In our own selfless loving, should we do no less? AMEN!

  

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