Easter 3 – May 4th and 5th, 2019 – John 10:11-16
Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia +
Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia +
Who do you listen to? That's actual a very important question, one that can tell you a lot about a person. What music do you like, who do you listen to? Rock or Country? Real country or this modern junk that sounds like 80s boy bands with a twang country? See, what you listen you and what you don't listen to can say quite a bit about you. And we can come up with other things we listen to. What stories, what movies do you like? Action adventure or romantic comedy? That can be interesting. Or what channel do you listen to for your news, CNN or Fox? Ew, that can get a bit contentious. What politicians do you listen to? And suddenly the differences in who we listen to get a bit more tense, especially today. But really, here in this place, none of those really matter. I mean, we might mock each other's music, or get into political debates, but that's all small potatoes. There is, though, one case, one situation where the question of “Who do you listen to” becomes vitally important.
I am the Good Shepherd. I know My own and My own know me, just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this folds. I must bring them also, and they will listen to My voice. Who do you listen to? Do you listen to Jesus? Now, here, in this place – that's the vital question. Do you hear His voice? And where do you go to hear His voice, and what are you expecting that voice to say? You all do realize that these are the questions that we ask of our confirmations tomorrow/today – the questions that were asked of you at your confirmation. Your Savior's voice – what does it sound like? To whom do you listen?
There are a lot of voices out there vying for our attention, vying for our devotion. A lot of voices calling out for us to fear them, or love them, or trust them. In some ways the babble of those voices is as loud as it's ever been, at least in living memory. There are so many places where one go searching for truth – Siri, hey google, whatever. The wolves seeking to scatter the flock have megaphones and book deals and podcasts these days. Entertainers and athletes have become idols to worship and devote your life to. People offer to welcome us and accept us, just as long as we go along with whatever they want, and peer pressure is ratcheted to insanely high levels. So many voices, all speaking, all enticing, all demanding that we follow them. Over and above all this din, this confusing tumult, Christ Jesus your Lord is still speaking. And do you want to know the difference in how Jesus speaks, the difference between the voice of your Shepherd and all those wolves out there?
Jesus, the Good Shepherd, does things for you and gives gifts to you, demanding nothing in return. His focus is upon making sure that you receive His life and salvation. Everyone else out there wants something from you. Bands want you to buy their albums, and the Lord knows that with Star Wars George Lucas has gotten plenty of my money. Politicians want your vote, and TV channels want you to boost their ratings. But Jesus – did you hear the difference? He's not demanding that you do and give things to Him, He is doing things for you. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. The Good Shepherd gathers the sheep, brings them in to take care of them. The Good Shepherd cares for the sheep at cost to Himself.
The first question in the rite of Confirmation highlights this reality – Do you this day and in the presence of this congregation acknowledge the gifts that God gave you in your Baptism? Do you see the direction there? God has given us here gifts – He's active – He's the one doing. We are passive, we receive. We have been given forgiveness and life and salvation, we have been gathered into the fold, made part of the family of God and heirs of His Kingdom. Do you see, do you acknowledge, do you hear the gifts you have been given? And that's the question that is asked of us all. Do we hear the voice of our shepherd giving us His gifts? Yes, we do.
But here is the point to ponder this day. There are many, many voices trying to get your attention, but there is only one place where you can be sure that you will hear the voice of Jesus. Do you hold all the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures to be the inspired Word of God? The Word of God. Do you listen to the Word and what the Word says? Not merely someone's thoughts on God, or merely someone's feelings (oh, the feels), or whatever junk someone's heart tells them – those can be all over the place and often lousy. We confess that we sin in thought, words, and deed, and our feelings are often wrong, and our hearts often go astray. So the question is this - do you pay attention to the Word, to the Scriptures, to the Old and New Testament? Because that is where Jesus continues to speak to you today, over and above all the rigmarole in the world.
And what does Jesus sound like in the Word – Do you confess the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, drawn from the Scriptures, as you have learned to know it from the Small Catechism, to be faithful and true? Not just do people quote the Bible – Satan can do that. But what do they say it's about, what's the point? Is their point Christ Jesus for you? Because that's what the Scriptures and the Catechism actually teach. Who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the Devil. Christ for you. In this Christian Church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. For you. These words, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins show us that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words. For you. So be wary of anyone who doesn't preach or teach Christ for you. The truth is this: the Shepherd is seeking you out and giving you His gifts so that you are forgiven and live and grow at peace in Him – that is the point, that is the voice of your Shepherd.
And that is why at Confirmation we are asked, Do you intend to hear the Word of God and receive the Lord's Supper faithfully? And that is a question we answer, not just once on a specific day, but we answer it week in and week out whenever we come to this place, and we hear again and again the voice of Christ Jesus, giving us mercy and life. I must bring them also, and they will listen to My voice. That is what goes on here – the voice of Christ Jesus. In the Word, in our worship, in our liturgy and hymns, all sung back and forth. From the beginning of service – In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit – the very name and gift you were given in your baptism, all the way unto the end of service and the benediction – the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace – all of it the voice of Jesus, bringing us together.
That was the point of all this Easter stuff, after all. That was the reason that Christ Jesus went to the Cross, that was why He suffered and died, that was why He took bread on the night when He was betrayed. All that Good Friday and Easter stuff – all that took place simply and solely so that right now, this day, this moment, we here gathered together around His Word and His Supper would hear His voice again and receive His gifts again, and delight in them again. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep and rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. When Christ Jesus was there upon the Cross, clouds and thick darkness covered the land, and there Jesus, True God and True Man, drew us all unto Him. This is what Jesus said in John 12: And I, when I am lifted up from the Earth, will draw all people to Myself. This is what Christ has done for you and will continue to do in His Church, in and for His flock.
Because make no bones about it, life gets hard and messy. And every one of us here in this room will mess up, and sometimes mess up royally. There will be times when we give too much ear to other voices that would lead us into places we don't need to go. And there will be times when those voices will break us down and batter us. There will be times when we will be exhausted by the burdens and duties we face in life. In all those times, especially in all those times, Christ Jesus still is the Good Shepherd, who seeks the lost and the scattered by the power of His Word, His Baptism, His Supper. He says, “I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak.” Again and again, God doing good for His people. Again and again God doing good for you. And the world will do its best to drown that out, our flesh will try to distract us and drive us away. But Christ Jesus is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness – and His Church is the place where that forgiveness is given.
So, who do you listen to? You listen to Jesus who will over and over forgive you your sins (because sins you do have, and anyone who says otherwise is just trying to fleece you). Forgiveness is the point of this place, that's the point of this day, every day we are gathered here at Church – so that refreshed by Christ Jesus we are filled with faith towards Him and love toward one another – made ready to go out those doors and love our neighbor and be not just a voice of love and reason, but also a voice of Christ's peace and Christ's mercy and Christ's forgiveness out in a world where that is seemingly in short supply. That is the truth we confess together here, that is the gift we receive here together. Christ Jesus has done it all, and He has done it all for you. Amen. Christ is Risen – He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia!