Loving Obadiah, May 12

Loving Obadiah

Acts 9:36-43; Psalm 23; Revelation 7:9-17; John 10:22-30

Rev. Catherine E. Schuyler

Catskill United Methodist Church; May 12, 2019 (Mother’s Day)


Obadiah is my dog. I love my dog, and I tell him that frequently. I also give him leftover chicken fat and peanut butter, because he likes it.

I read an essay years ago about a man who owned a dog, a dog named Casey. He wrote because he saw an ad for another dog in a shelter who looked a lot like Casey, but where Casey had eyes that lit up when he came home and a coat that shone because it was brushed daily, this dog was raggedy and unkempt and sad. The writer talked about the difference between these two dogs, one who didn’t have a home, and one who ate a scrambled egg every morning. One dog wasn’t better or smarter or faster or somehow more worthy than the other. Casey was loved. And that made all the difference. I get this. I love my dog. I trust that you love yours, too. Or that you love something or someone dearly, which differentiates them from the rest of the world.


We love the 23rd Psalm, but it isn’t because we’re especially familiar with the ways of sheep and shepherds. It’s because the image makes us feel loved, special. God loves us, God’s sheep, like we love our dogs. We are each special to God, remembered, enjoyed, beloved. We are transformed by that love, and we are invited to live in it like our dogs live in the comfortable space we’ve made for them, comfortable and trusting that there will be omelets and walks and food enough for the day.

We hear Psalm 23 as good news because we trust in God’s love. We know that love changes things. It changes us when we know we are loved. And when we take on the call to love others, we learn that love changes us then, too. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Casey and Obadiah are loved dogs. We tend to offer love to those who are close to us, and when we offer it, we live into it, cooking eggs, doing laundry, listening, and sharing what we’ve got. This kind of love is good, it’s how we learn what love is, when we receive it and when we give it. Thank you, God, for love that holds us and listens to us, love that acknowledges us as special. For many of us, that kind of love is what we celebrate today, love that we received either from our mothers or from someone who stepped into our lives to be a surrogate mother of some sort or another.


We who have been blessed to be mothers also celebrate today. We celebrate those who’ve been given to us to love. Again, there are relationships between mamas and their children which are difficult, and we hold those families close to our hearts in prayer today. We give thanks when we can for children and grandchildren; some here even have great grandchildren to love. What a gift!

The early church heard Jesus’ new commandment to love not only in the context of their own families, but in the context of others, beyond their family, beyond the obvious targets of our love. The church in Lydda, where Dorcas and her widow friends lived and made clothes for the poor, was made up of outcasts, people without families, or slaves who had been pulled away from their families. These found love, and new ties of love, in the church of Jesus Christ.

The Lord is my shepherd. I am loved and named as special and worthy, and the knowledge and experience of that love changes me. I am called to share that love, and that experience, beyond just those in my immediate circle. On Mother’s Day, that call pulls us beyond our own kids and grandkids and into a love that remembers other kids. School children across the country whose new normal is expecting terror at school. Preschoolers taken away from their parents and locked up behind a chain link fence while their legal status is figured out. se kids are our kids, because Jesus asks us to love them. Loving them involves recognizing their uniqueness and caring for their needs. Loving them insists that we open our eyes to the pain they’re living in, and speaking out, naming their pain as wrong, doing something. Lord who is my shepherd and your shepherd is their shepherd, too.

Jesus wasn’t a brilliant thinker because he asked you to love your children. Jesus knew you’d love your children.  Jesus built on the reality of familial love to push us to share that love wider and deeper.  Jesus' depth of wisdom comes through when he names that loving beyond family boundaries enriches our lives, though we fear it will diminish them.  When you care about kids who aren’t yours, by blood or choice, then you fully live into the joy of the life Jesus calls you to.  May your Mother’s Day be a witness of love, for kids throughout the world. Amen.


Acts 9:36-43

36Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity. 37At that time she became ill and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in a room upstairs. 38Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, who heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, “Please come to us without delay.” 39So Peter got up and went with them; and when he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs. All the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was with them. 40Peter put all of them outside, and then he knelt down and prayed. He turned to the body and said, “Tabitha, get up.” Then she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter, she sat up. 41He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he showed her to be alive. 42This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. 43Meanwhile he stayed in Joppa for some time with a certain Simon, a tanner.



Psalm 23

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths for his name's sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long.



Revelation 7:9-17

9After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12singing, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

13Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” 14I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. 16They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; 17for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”


John 10:22-30

22At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, 23and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. 24So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” 25Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; 26but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. 27My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. 30The Father and I are one.”

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