Sunday, April 26, 2009

Storms and a sermon

Last night, much of the Enid Circuit was hit by tornadoes and thunderstorms - including Lahoma, Enid, Breckinridge, and Pond Creek. Lahoma seems okay - North Enid got hit hard (one of my members has someone's boat in his backyard), and I haven't heard about the rest.

**Correction** Just got a phone call here and my cleaning gal just took off, flood waters are coming and two of our members tend to get flooded out (her in-laws) - she's off to go get them

On a serious note - keep the folks here in your prayers.

On a smarmy note - people noting that this happens less than 24 hours after I have been made circuit counselor will be mocked. Besides, something of this magnitude, if incited by someone earthly, would clearly fall on the shoulders of our VP, Chris Hall.

Here follows today's sermon.

Easter 3 – April 26th, 2009 – John 10:11-16 – Good Shepherd Sunday

Christ is Risen (He is Risen indeed, Alleluia) Amen
Today our Lord teaches us by saying that He is the Good Shepherd. Again, this is such a familiar idea – it’s one we like, in fact, this is one of the most popular images of Scripture. If you have any Psalm memorized, chances are it’s the one that starts “The Lord is my Shepherd.” We have 7 stained glass windows in here, and one is of the Good Shepherd. In fact, we even have Churches named Good Shepherd – I have preached at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Toledo. It is a common, familiar idea. And again, the danger with any familiar idea is that when we hear it, we just give it the quick nod of the head – oh yeah, Good Shepherd, I’ve got that one down – and then move on by without much thought. But today we will ponder what our Lord is teaching us by saying that He is the Good Shepherd – we will pay this idea the attention it deserves.

I Am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. And suddenly we get something, even at the very start that is odd. No, it’s not odd that Christ would lay down His life for us – we’ve just come through Good Friday and Easter, we’ve been focused on this. But the connection that is made – the Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. Many of you here have animals. Doesn’t this phrase, then, strike you as a touch odd? I don’t expect, and I don’t want to be doing a funeral sermon because one of you lays your life down for one of your cattle, for one of your stock. In fact, it seems the height of foolishness to me. But then our Lord makes the contrast more full. “He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf comes and scatters them.” Alright, here is the idea. What’s your stake, what’s your interest? If something doesn’t matter to you, you aren’t going to fight, you aren’t going to struggle for it. But if something is yours, if something belongs to you, you will fight and struggle to protect it from any dangers that come against it.

Is that not, then, the description of what our Lord Christ Jesus does? Yes, in Genesis 3 Satan acted under the guise of a serpent, but Scripture often describes the Devil as a ravenous wolf, ready to pounce, to crush people between his terrifying jaws, to cause panic and ruin, to scatter and destroy. And is this not an apt description of what sin and its impact upon us is like? How often does it happen that this world seems like it is clamping down upon you and shaking? How often does it seem like you just keep running and running away from one difficulty after another, not wanting to face them? How often do the people who ought to be there with you, who ought to be protecting you, supporting you, turn and flee at the first sign of trouble? Indeed, how often do they turn out to be wolves themselves? Or even to put a finer point on it – how often are you like the hired hand, who has a hard duty to care and support – and you see the wolf coming for someone else and you flee, you decide it’s too much, not worth your time, not right now there’s just too much going on for you to deal with this. And so often, the end result in our lives in this sinful world is that we are bruised, battered, and scattered – each one left alone.

I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. Christ sees the impact the Devil has upon the world. Christ sees the impact sin and death have upon us. He sees it, and He does not flee. Rather, He stands His ground, and for our sake, the sake of His beloved sheep – for our sake, for we who are not as good as He is, not as worth as much as He is, not as high as He is – but for our sake, not because of any worth of merit in us but simply because He loves us and is determined to have us as His own – the Good Shepherd stands His ground and fights. The wolf comes, the wolf approaches, his jaws snapping, his whips cracking, his crowds jeering and mocking, his nails piercing – but our Lord the Good Shepherd stands His Ground. Even at the cost of His own life, He will not let His sheep be scattered by that old wolf. And the Good Shepherd defeats that wolf, keeping us safe – even by laying down His life.

But as we know this Easter season – the same Good Shepherd who lays down His life for us rises from the dead, rises victorious over Satan. And risen, He beholds His sheep. Do you hear what He says? I Am the Good Shepherd. I know My own, and My own know Me. I know My own. Christ Jesus knows you, even knows you by your name, given to you in the waters of Holy Baptism. Christ Jesus makes you to know Him as well. He calls you by Name, reaches out to you, teaches and trains you on His Word, continually cares for you, feeds you His Word and Sacraments, binds your wounds with forgiveness when something in this world gets to you, all of this, aiding your growth, aiding your increasing growth in knowing and understanding who He is. We know who Jesus is. He is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for us that He might protect us, the Good Shepherd who rises that He might have us with Him for life eternal.

But it is not just you and I for whom Christ does this. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to My voice. So there will be one flock, One Shepherd. It’s not just us here – Christ Jesus gathers sheep from all over. Consider all the divisions and hatreds that sin in this world bring out, all the causes for wars and strife between peoples – yet Christ gathers us together. This day, even those who have been our enemies in this world are gathered together with us around Christ. The phrase, “The Lord be with you” has been said in Arabic, and Russian, in German, and in whatever language an enemy or former enemy happens to speak. Christ has gathered many from all over into His flock – a flock that we don’t see now, a flock that we over look. It is a wondrous thing when we pray for the Church throughout the world – a reminder of just how vast the fold is of our Good Shepherd. From every tribe, from every race, Christ Jesus has gathered His own.

But also note that Christ speaks of what He will do, what will happen in the future. The simple fact is that sin scatters, sin causes division – and not just on a global scale – even in our own lives. Are there not people whom sin – your sin, their sin, probably sin on the part of both of you – whom sin has separated you from, scattered you from? Do you see what Christ desires? That we be gathered, that we be reconciled, that we be made part of one flock together again. Again and again the Shepherd calls out with His voice, speaking out forgiveness for our sin, but not only our sin, but also their sin as well. This should be the image we bear when we think of Christ the Good Shepherd, not just that He is the One who lays down His life for you, but that He is the One who lays down His life for that person who is most annoying, most hurtful to you. That the sheep which the Good Shepherd longs to find, restore, pick up and hold in His arms is the very person who has done you wrong.

This the is wondrous reality of the power of Christ’s forgiveness – it goes beyond what we could expect. The things in ourselves that still snipe at us and cause us guilt – the silly things we did decades ago that pop up and accuse us – those things are indeed forgiven – and we have been gathered to Christ. The things that others have done to us, against us – those to, really, have been forgiven. Those are sins which Christ has died for – and now His voice goes out, so that all those who have sinned might hear His voice, know His voice – and enjoy the benefit, make real in their own lives that forgiveness. Our Lord actually gathers us – and that us includes people the world cannot understand, people the world says we should have no reason to associate with – and gathers us into one flock together, gathered around our Good Shepherd.

This is the reality, this is the idea that our Lord puts forth to us today – He is the Good Shepherd who is determined to protect us from Satan – He is the Good Shepherd who is determined to restore us unto Himself, but also to gather us together around Himself and to restore us unto each other. This is the reality which we see – this is what God does. Indeed, this is what God accomplishes through us – for the Spirit puts His Word upon our tongues, so that when the ravenous wolf, Satan, attacks, the Word defends us, so that when we see others who are scattered, the Word of God on our tongue calls them back to the fold. Christ Jesus our Lord, is the Good Shepherd, and He is determined to love and care for you – all glory and praise be to Christ Jesus our Risen Savior who loves His unworthy sheep in so wondrous a way. Christ is Risen (He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia) Amen.

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