2008-04-13 - Fourth Sunday of Easter

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2008-04-13 - Fourth Sunday of Easter

  1. 1. Easter 4—April 13, 2008 “The Loving Good Shepherd” John 10:1-18 “I Am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” In the Name of The Good Shepherd Jesus Christ. Amen. What is your favorite painting of Jesus? Is it Him praying in The Garden? • • Or maybe standing in the boat reaching out to Peter? Or maybe it is one that depicts His death on the cross. • For many of us our favorite depiction of Jesus might be the one that portrays Him as He describes Himself today—The Good Shepherd. • Jesus with the children—his little lambs. • Jesus carrying a lamb across His shoulders. • Jesus with a staff with His little lambs following. We love these pictures of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. And what’s more--He loves us! Think of the many ways that He has shown His love for you. The most important is by giving His life on the cross. In love the Good Shepherd became a lamb and allowed Himself to be thrown to the wolves. Why? So that you could be saved from the ravenous wolf named Satan. Because Jesus has walked through that valley of death, He promises that for all who walk with Him, they shall also pass through that valley and see the glorious light of heaven in the resurrection. 1
  2. 2. If that were all that Jesus did, it would be more than enough. But He has done SO much more for you! The Shepherd King David describes some of the ways the Good Shepherd has loved us in the psalm WE all love—the 23rd. He leads us in paths of righteousness. Sheep are prone to stray. It’s our nature. Think of the times you have wandered in your life. Not a pleasant thought. Now think of the gentle way that Jesus has guided you back into the paths of His righteousness. That is pleasant! He comforts you. He doesn’t use the shepherd staff to beat or abuse the sheep. He doesn’t punish or mistreat the sheep. Rather, He takes you into His arms and embraces you with His love, forgiveness, and salvation. He feeds us. He provides for you daily needs like clothing and food and house and home. And He also provides for your eternal needs by feeding you His precious body and blood. He provides a table for you in the presence of your enemies. He makes your cup overflow! He anoints your head with oil—a direct reference to baptism in which you were anointed with the Holy Spirit—the heavenly oil of gladness. “Wait a second”, you might be thinking, “I don’t remember Jesus doing any of that to me.” Do you know why? Because Jesus does it indirectly. The Good Shepherd bestows His love on His sheep through means of His under-shepherd, who is called the pastor. During the year my family and I lived in Scotland we worshipped at St. Columba Lutheran Church—one of the few, if not the only, Lutheran churches in Scotland. Scotland is the land of green pastures, where you see the white forms of sheep looking like cotton balls dotting 2
  3. 3. the landscape. But the scenery isn’t what made St. Columba in Scotland such a wonderful place. Nor was it the church architecture—it wasn’t an old cathedral—rather a more modern building. Nor was it that fact that because it was the only Lutheran church it had lots of members and great programs and terrific music. It had a total of less than twenty members, a couple of my girls were the only ones in their Sunday school class, and many times there wasn’t anyone to play the organ—or any other instrument for that matter. Nonetheless it was one of the best congregations I’ve ever been in—other than Peace with Christ, of course. With so few people it was very easy to get to know everyone quite well. (Incidentally, though we live in a culture which seems to believe that bigger is better, I am convinced that smaller is best! One of the many reasons why smaller churches are best is because you get to know people by name.) Anyway, back to St. Columba Lutheran Church in Scotland. On one occasion we were talking about a pastor who had recently studied to receive their PhD. And was now known by “Doctor”. At the time I was studying at Glasgow University, and had thoughts of continuing on for my PhD. I’ll never forget what one of the members named Azania said—“Why would a pastor prefer to be called “Dr.”? Being called “pastor” is the best title a person could have.” You know what? She was right! We don’t call our holy men “father” or “Reverend” or “Doctor”—we call them “pastor”. Because pastor means shepherd, and the pastor is working under and for the Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ. The Pastor’s job—or calling—is quite simple—to do for the sheep what Jesus did, does, and would do. Remember what Jesus said to Peter after the resurrection? “Peter, do 3
  4. 4. you love me? Then feed my sheep.” It’s so important that He repeats it three times! Ezekiel 34 gives us more specifics on what the pastor is to do. Take time this week to read that chapter—it’s an oldy but a goody. God is upset with the shepherds of Israel because they are not serving faithfully. The words God speaks should be seared into the mind of every man who is serving as a pastor. “You do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought bck the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally.” What God DOESN’T say is almost as important as what He does say. He doesn’t condemn the shepherds for not being good administrators, or not growing a large flock, or not building great big beautiful barns in which to keep the flock. No, it is all about the personal care that is being neglected. The job—the privilege—of the pastor is to care for Christ’s sheep. To feed and comfort, to lead and guide, and most importantly to speak to them—to you—the loving words of the Lamb of God Jesus Christ who is the Good Shepherd. And do you know what your job is? To listen to the Shepherd’s voice, and to follow the Good Shepherd. Not to follow the under shepherd. Too many people get that part confused—and that is why when a “favorite” pastor leaves some of the sheep also leave—they have confused the Chief Shepherd with the under-shepherd. You are to follow the voice—of the Good Shepherd Jesus Christ. Through the voice of the pastor you should be hearing the words of the Good Shepherd. And a good pastor will always direct your attention away from himself and toward Christ. The church should never be a personality cult. Let me give you an example—Confession/Absolution 4
  5. 5. —the pastor says “As a called and ordained servant of the word I forgive you. . . “ It is the pastor standing there—but it is the Good Shepherd Jesus Christ whose voice you are hearing forgive you your sins. The pastor does not have the power to forgive sins—but he does have the privilege to do so as he stands in the place of Christ and speaks His word. I am grateful that Christ has given me this privilege of serving under Him—speaking His word, feeding and comforting and caring for His sheep. And I am grateful that He has called you to be His sheep. That you have heard His voice—and faithfully followed. And most important, together we are all eternally grateful that He has sent the Good Shepherd Jesus Christ to love us, and lay down His life so that His sheep might live forever. Amen. 5

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