John 10:22-30  At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon.  So 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.”  Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.  What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”

Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” And not only do the sheep know Jesus, but as it says in our Gospel today “My sheep hear my voice. I know them and they follow me.”

Jesus gives us – all of us – a promise,“ I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.”

That’s a promise. Jesus has got your back. No one and no-thing can come between you and Jesus.  You belong to Christ Jesus.

At the funeral, Pastor Eugene Peterson, the translator of the Message Bible, his son, Leif Peterson – recalled his Dad’s message to him: It's the same message over and over: 'God loves you. He's on your side. He's coming after you. He's relentless.'"

Jesus will never give you up – because He loves you.  And… he promises Eternal life. This is Jesus’ promise to you too.  

Up until she was diagnosed with cancer, five and half years ago, my mother Marilyn was busy – really busy – with work and with lots of other things. But when she went into treatment, suddenly she had more time on her hands. And one of the things that she did was take time for devotions.

Her favorite devotion – that we read almost every day after she entered hospice – came from the high school teacher of Rev. Corrine Chilstrom:  Every morning lean thine arm awhile upon the windowsill of heaven, and gaze upon thy God. Then with the vision in thy heart, turn strong to meet the day.”  

Isn’t that beautiful? Lean upon the windowsill of heaven and gaze upon thy God.  Know that God loves you. God has claimed you. You belong. God loves you – and the whole world.

Jesus loves…even though the world and people in it rejected and crucified Jesus. Jesus loves… even though the world and people… including people like us still behave in ways that are judging instead of loving, that are hurtful instead of helpful, that are condemning of people who don’t look or act or believe exactly like us – instead of welcoming everyone into God’s kingdom, now.  Despite all of this… God’s response is: love.

Our response is clear too.  After you have that vision of God as our Good shepherd who loves you and calls you by name and who gives you eternal life… THEN…with that vision in your heart,  “turn strong to meet the day.”

“Turn strong to meet the day” because Jesus the Good Shepherd has given you the gift of life for today and for each and every day.

So what does that look like?  It’s not what you might think. It’s not showing force or power. Instead, Corrine Chilstrom commends to us three things for the morning First:  read scripture and devotions – many of you do this already – and if you don’t, see me and I will give you some suggestions both here and online.

The second is to do what Jesus did. In Mark we read, “While it was still very dark, Jesus got up, went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.”  You can pray any time and any place. But putting prayer into your morning routine is a great thing to do so that you can turn strong to meet the day.

The final thing she suggests is to sing – or at least read the words of hymns.  Music and the poetry of music can reach us in ways that mere words cannot.

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, join me in singing words of faith, trusting in the promise of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has given you abundant life, eternal life, a gift that lasts – forever. That’s a promise that’s worth singing about. Thanks be to God. Amen.