Sunday, April 22, 2012

Easter 3 Sermon

Easter 3 – April 22nd, 2012 – John 10:11-16 Christ is Risen (He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia) Amen Well, Jesus gives us quite the contrast here, doesn’t He? The Good Shepherd, and then, the hired hands. The ones who fail. The ones who flee. There is the Good Shepherd who is willing to die for the sake of the sheep, and the hired hands who flee. Who run. Who shirk their duty and would rather save their own skins. So, which are you more like? The Shepherd or the hired hand? I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. This text gives me, and it gives most Pastors a long moment of pause. Why? The word in Latin for Shepherd is “Pastor”. That’s where we get the term pastor from – the shepherd of a congregation. An under-shepherd of the Good shepherd. And so it gives me pause. But it ought to give you pause in your own life as well. Although you aren’t pastors, you don’t have a congregation to look after and tend to in the same way that I do – you all have responsibilities to other people. To your children. To your friends. To your parents. To your neighbors and co-workers. So come and ponder, share my moment of pause. Do you look more like the Good Shepherd, or do you look more like just another hired hand? The temptation we face, the struggle we always have is to look much more like the hired hand. How often do we shirk our duty, the hard part of it, the rough part, simply to win ourselves a bit of comfort or ease. Parents, do you discipline your children – do you let them hate you and yell at you and scream at you for your sternness and how unfair you are in order to raise them properly? Or do you let the wolf come and scatter your children – do you let them run wild and happy, do as they will, and let them fall into all sorts of sin? Sometimes its easy to flee. Do you step up and correct your friends when they are in danger, when the wolf of some vice or evil has them do you rush in to save, or do you remain coy and shy – do you let your friends fall deeper and deeper just so they won’t be upset with you? Sometimes its easy to flee. When the teasing starts, when the griping begins – do you defend your neighbor, do you put the best construction on everything – or do you not just flee and abandon them, but become a wolf yourself. Do you run with the pack and heap on insult and abuse to fit in? When push comes to shove, do you look like the shepherd or the hired hand? We look too much like the hired hand here, all of us. We blow the second table of the commandments out of the water. The 4th? Do we give honor to those in authority, do we love and serve or do we despise them, make their lives hard, provoke them, and try to manipulate them? The 5th? Do we seek to support our neighbor in every physical need, or do we bear their hurts as none of our concern? The 6th? Do we encourage chastity? Do we teach people to lead a chaste life? Do we encourage spouses to love each other – or do go with the flow of a culture that tells us to live for ourselves? Boys will be boys and girls just want to have fun. The 7th? Do we look to the benefit of our neighbor, his financial well being, or do we only worry about ours? Do we tithe, or if not 10% at least budget our offering to the Church and see that it gets here, or simply give to God what happens to be convenient? Or perhaps more dangerously, do we give what we give, and then grumble about how our neighbor is selfish and isn’t doing his part? The 8th? When talking about our neighbors, do we put the best construction on things, or do we gladly shout how someone else is horrid and terrible? Do we build up our friends’ reputations, do we support our neighbors with our words, or do we gossip behind their backs, undercut them and break them down? The 9th and 10th? Do we look on what others have – their stuff, their friendships, and do we rejoice for them, or do we undermine them, do we get jealous and complain? Do we look like the Shepherd who will suffer all for the sake of His sheep, or do we flee from righteousness like the hired hands, and worry more about ourselves? The most dangerous thought a Christian can have is “I’m pretty good.” I’m doing okay. God doesn’t say, “Be pretty good as your Father in heaven is pretty good.” At creation God doesn’t say, “And behold, it was okay.” We were created to be not pretty good, not mostly good, but Good. God doesn’t want us to behave okay – Be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect. That’s our standard, and we forget that, and we become lax, we shrug off our duties to each other, and flee. We let the wolves come into our midst and scatter us, scatter us as families, scatter us as a congregation. When Satan rears his ugly head, all too often we back away quietly and let him have his way. This is what sin is. We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things – and too often we fear Satan, fear our neighbor’s disdain, fear not having the latest and greatest gadget more than we fear God. And we live in fear of Satan, fear of the world, and we are scattered. I am the Good Shepherd, the Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. Christ doesn’t back away. Christ doesn’t back away from sin, death, or the devil. Rather, Christ fights. Christ stays and takes on the wolf with his bare hands so that His sheep might live. Jesus will not let you be taken by Satan without a fight. And so, your Good Shepherd goes to the Cross – He goes to the cross seeing all the wolves you flee, seeing all the ways in which Satan has snatched you, seeing the ways in which you fail, and our Lord says, “I will fix that. I lay down my life for the sheep.” And your sin is forgiven. This is the beauty that we celebrate as Christians. Where we fail to fight sin as we ought, Christ succeeds. Where we lack in courage and boldness, Christ abounds, and He strides forth and He fights the Good Fight and wins for us salvation. This is why our Lord rises from the dead. This is why our Lord lives – so that He Himself might give us life, that He might give us Himself, clothe us in His own righteousness and strength, so that we might stand up and face down temptation. Jesus is always at work for us. And He doesn’t abandon us. When our Lord sees temptation brewing in our life, when He sees Satan stalking around this congregation like a hungry wolf, He doesn’t leave us. Hear again His Word. I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own and my own know me. . . they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one Shepherd. When has Christ ever stopped bringing His voice to you? When has He ever held back His Word, when has He ever stopped His preaching, stopped His teaching? When has He ever taken His Word from you? Never. Christ Jesus has established His Church, He has chosen to build up His flock here, and to call us and gather us here – and why? To listen to His voice. To be fed upon His Word. To spend our time in His Word, being forgiven, growing in faith, growing in strength so that we might look more and more like the Shepherd. And in that regards, in that respect, we have a long, long way to go. But Christ is doing it. He is building up His Church, He is teaching us, He is making us grow. This is what it means to be part of Christ’s Church, to be part of His flock. This is our focus – this is why we are in the Word, why we hear sermons and have bible studies. This is why we have this service – this is why our liturgy is about what God does, how He gathers us and forgives and us grows us. This is why our hymns are about what God has done. This is why our songs are about what Jesus does, not me. Me and my love – that flickers, that fails. There are times when I am down right nasty, and just cause I show up to Church for an hour on Sunday doesn’t give me the right to pretend otherwise. But Christ doesn’t fail. His love for you never wavers. It is always full and strong, and as such He gives you what you need. He continues to come to you by His Word, by His Supper, over and over. Always and forever He calls out to His Flock, He gathers us and shelters us, gives us His strength. That’s what this congregation is, this is what it is to be – a place where we who fail hear the life-giving Word of the Good Shepherd. Where we delight that He leads us to green pastures and makes us lie down where we ought. This is a place where we confess our faults, where we despair of any goodness or holiness or righteousness that comes from ourselves, but rather cling solely to Christ. And He gives us what we need, and we rejoice and give thanks. We don’t look like we ought. Throughout the week, we get scattered, we flee, we fail, we run away. But Christ Jesus is our Good Shepherd, and He calls and gathers us here by His Word, and here He richly gives us forgiveness, gives us His strength, fills us with Himself so that we might look a bit more like Him, so that we might stand and fight the battles in our lives that our friends and loved ones need us to fight. But Christ knows that battle is hard, for it is one He has fought Himself – so over and over He calls us here to His Church to be forgiven and filled again, until that day when He calls us to our eternal home. All thanks be to Christ Jesus, who defends us always from Satan our foe. Amen. Christ is Risen…

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