John 10: 11, 14  – 18a_We Choose the Color_May 2, 2020


Here is the service for this Sunday via You Tube:

And here it is in written form:

We Choose the Color

John 10: 11, 14  – 18a


In this gospel reading from John, Jesus describes himself as the good shepherd.  He says, “…The good shepherd puts the sheep before himself, sacrifices himself if necessary.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”


It’s easy enough to see Jesus as the good shepherd, who loves and takes care of us.  But he pushes the idea into new territory when he says, “I freely lay down my life…No one takes it from me.  I lay it down of my own free will.”  Jesus is very clear that no one is forcing him to lay down his life.  His life is not taken from him; he gives his life.  He chooses to sacrifice himself, offering himself up for the loving purposes of God.


Jesus makes a choice.  In our lives, you and I face many different choices.  We choose spouses, jobs, places to live.  We choose to walk down one road and not another.  We choose what actions we take.  Some of those actions bring us good; some do not.  But we can choose the attitude we’ll have about every situation.  Even in difficult situations, we can choose an attitude of despair, or an attitude of hope.


One of the most powerful books of the 20th century is Man’s Search for Meaning, by Victor Frankl.  If you’ve read the book, you may remember that Frankl was a distinguished psychotherapist.  During World War II he and his family were imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp.  In the camp Frankl was separated from his wife and family.  The same thing happened to many of his fellow prisoners.  Many of his fellow prisoners fell into complete despair.  That’s not hard to understand.  They had lost everything.  They were treated as less than human, stripped of their human dignity.


Some gave in to despair and died.  But Frankl noticed that a number of the prisoners who died were not particularly ill.  They hadn’t been singled out for bad treatment.  They had simply stopped living – they just lay down and died.  Frankl wrote about their resignation to what they called their “fate.”  They saw no way out, little hope of escape from the camp, and so they died rather than lived.  Frankl says that, in a very real sense, they decided to quit.  They chose to die.


In such horrific circumstances, we can understand their choice.  But Frankl chose another direction.  Every day in the camp, walking out to the work site, he thought of a book that he had been writing.  In his mind he composed the book, chapter by chapter.  He thought about his wife.  He pictured in his mind the good times they had had in the past.  He fantasized about the future they would have together.  Frankl survived.  His survival was not only a miraculous act of God; it was also due to his conscious efforts.  It was a result of the choice he made.


Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd…I freely lay down my life…No one takes it from me.  I lay it down of my own free will.” Jesus makes a choice.  You and I also make choices.  Maybe our ability, in every situation, to choose, is one of God’s greatest gifts to us. We can say yes and we can say no.


And in a sense, we have a responsibility to make choices.  If we don’t choose, if we just drift along, we’re not being faithful to the great gift of life that God has given us.  When you or I choose, when we walk down one road and not another, it can be a way of giving thanks to God for the gift of life and the freedom God has given us.  Especially if the road we choose to walk is difficult and demanding, the choice can be an act of gratitude.


People who are suffering from disabilities that render them immobile also have the ability to choose.  They have the ability to shape their lives by the decisions they make.  It might seem like nonsense, cruel nonsense, to say that a man who can hardly sit up in bed has the freedom to choose, the freedom to shape his life.


But even in situations that appear desperate, situations where there appears to be no way, there can be a way.  There can be the choice of attitude: of how to live through this tremendous affliction.  Will it be with resentment, self-pity, anger?  Or will it be with dignity, a sense of cheerfulness, even a sense of gratitude?


Many years ago the great American preacher Harry Emerson Fosdick told of a teenage girl who was stricken with polio.  As he visited with her, she told him about a conversation she had had with one of her friends.  The friend offered her sympathy and then she made the observation that “Affliction does so color life.”  The courageous young girl agreed with her friend, but she didn’t leave it at that.  She replied, “Yes, that’s true.  But I will choose which color.”  She was young, but she had already discovered that it’s not what happens to you that matters as much as what happens in you.  God has created each of us with the ability to choose.  We can choose how we will live through any circumstance.


Some of the choices you make will be difficult.  You can’t turn back the clock when an accident renders you unable to use your legs.  But you can choose whether you’ll sink into despair or discover new ways to participate in life.  Or you may struggle with a painful past.  Maybe your parents hurt and neglected you.  But you can choose not to do the same hurtful things to your own family.


Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd…I freely lay down my life…No one takes it from me.  I lay it down of my own free will.”

God has given each of us the ability to choose. As you choose, remember that what happens to you doesn’t matter nearly as much as what happens in you.  Even in difficult circumstances, you can choose to live in despair, or with gratitude and hope.

Rev. Elva Merry Pawle

Easter 4

Here is a piano piece called “Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee”

Here are the lyrics:


“Jesus, the Very thought of Thee”

Jesus, the thought of thee,
With sweetness fills my breast;
But sweeter far thy face to see,
And in thy presence rest.

No voice can sing, no heart can frame,
Nor can the mind recall
A sweeter sound than thy blest name,
O Savior of us all.

O hope of every contrite heart,
O joy of all the meek,
to those who ask, how kind thou art!
How good to those who seek!

But what to those who find?
Nor tongue nor pen can show;
The love Jesus, what it is
None but his loved ones know.

Jesus, our only be thou,
As thou our prize wilt be;
Jesus, be thou our glory now,
And through eternity.



And an organ piece as well called “When Peace, Like a River”



Here are the lyrics:


When peace, like a river, upholds me each day,

when sorrows like sea billows roll,

Whatever my lot, you have taught me to say,

“It is well, it is well with my soul.”

It is well with my soul, it is well, it is well with my soul.



Though evil should tempt me, though trials should come,

let this blessed assurance control.

That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,

and has paid life and blood for my soul:

It is well with my soul, it is well, it is well with my soul.



My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought—

my sin—not in part, but the whole—

Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more.

Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul!

It is well with my soul, it is well, it is well with my soul.


O God, speed the day that is filled with your light,

when clouds are rolled back as a scroll;

The trumpet shall sound and the Lord shall appear,

“even so”—it is well with my soul.

It is well with my soul, it is well, it is well with my soul.



Horatio G. Spafford (1828-1888) wrote this text as a source of comfort

after learning that his four daughters had been drowned when the ship

 Ville du Havre collided with another ship en route to England in 1873. 

Spafford’s wife was the only family member on board to survive.

(The New Century Hymnal Companion)