Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and
from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.
Beautiful, angelic voices it was good to hear on this Good
Shepherd Sunday where we celebrate and accentuate the very relationship that our
Lord Jesus talks about with us. We are His sheep; He is the Shepherd. And the sheep
and shepherd relationship implies many things of which we need to be reminded regularly
because sheep are also very stubborn, willful, and like their own desires
rather than necessarily the lead of the shepherd.
We live in a world (and we have to remember this) that does
not understand the Christian faith as you and I understand it. The world sees
this as moralism. The world views what goes on here as another way of infusing
morality into the population. But that is not what your or my faith is
all about. That is not what is taught in our school here. That is not
what has made up part of the work of these two ladies and several others that
we’re going to accentuate and highlight this morning. It is Christ crucified
and risen for all. The undeserving are the only ones for whom He died for there
were none who were deserving. But that is not how the world views itself.
So we have to get that understood that from the get-go,
there is a marked difference of point of view of reality between the world and
us. That is why our Lord spoke very clearly when He was questioned. “How
long will You keep us in suspense? If You’re the Christ, the Messiah, tell
us.” “I told you, and you do not believe.” Because what
differences between us and the rest of the world is faith in a God who sent His
only Son who died and rose again and faith in something else…moralism, the
goodness of man, some other vaporous truth that is not true.
Now the reason this is so important is did you hear what
Pastor read from the first reading? Paul had been preaching to a whole host of
people and in a world that’s a lot like our present world. The Roman Empire in
which Paul was preaching is a lot like our world where moralism, though there
may have been a cloaked view of it, was cast to the wind. It was hedonism at
its best scattered about. There has always been hedonism. It’s just been hidden
by self-righteousness or openness…one of the two.
But when Paul left, he said, “I know that after my
departure [meaning his death] fierce wolves will come in among you not sparing
the flock.” That makes sense to us. If there is this differentiation
between us and the world, then the world wishes to scatter us because what
we’re proclaiming is at odds or at variance with the world. We’re proclaiming
there is only one flock. There is not a whole bunch of flocks and a whole bunch
of shepherds who are all working in concert doing different things, but it’s
all going to come out in the end okay.
We believe there is only one flock, and there is only one
Shepherd. Either we are listening to His voice and are a part of His flock, or
we are not. The world looks upon that (and rightly so), “Well that’s
exclusionary, and we can’t have exclusion in this world! All should be the
same, and all should be equal.” Yes, we are. When Christ died, He did die
for all. But as the Pharisees got confronted with “not all believe”, that is
what marks you as different as one of God’s sheep. You are different.
It is the next statement, “And from among your own
selves will arise men speaking twisted things to draw away the disciples after
them.” That has been the way of the Church since. Why are there schisms?
Why are there multitudinous numbers of Christian churches in this world?
Because there are a multitude of different points of view on Scripture and on
truth. What is your Shepherd telling you?
That raises that famous statement, “There is no truth.
There is no absolute truth.” Well if there is not absolute truth, then the
words “I love you” from your loved one mean nothing, does it? Because
love isn’t absolutely true from that person’s lips all the time. Catch as catch
can? Enjoy as you can? You and I crave and demand absolute truth in a
relationship. Your Shepherd has knit you in to such a relationship where you
lean upon and demand and can live nothing but by His truth that “I love
you as My sheep.”
However, in this world of which you and I have been called
apart from, that’s why we are here. We are called apart from this world that
does not gather here and does not wish to hear what this is all about because
they are not a part of the flock. You and I have been called apart as sheep of
His flock not to sit here and relish the great truths we’ve been given and to
go about our weekly tasks unencumbered by what that means because you and I
have been given a great gift. As sheep, you’ve also been given the gift of
being a shepherd.
Now it seems kind of a big thing to grasp, but think of it
in simpler terms. You as a shepherd were first given that gift the moment you
came to faith. Though you may not have seen yourself as a shepherd (which is
sometimes thought of as being someone who is above and over someone else),
being a shepherd really means to serve because the Shepherd serves the sheep,
doesn’t He? Our great Shepherd serves you and me.
Since you were a little boy or a little girl and you came to
faith, you have been a shepherd. You’ve been serving others with this good news
about Christ. But not all the people with whom you hung out as a little kid
believed what you believed. What a marked contrast that must have been. All of
us have experienced. We have come into contact with another kid, and you’re
thinking that what you’re speaking about Jesus and about what He did for you
and how He died and rose again isn’t speaking another language but speaking
something that should make sense! But not all people believe it, do they?
Then we get older, and we’re a little more reticent about
sharing this faith. This being a sheep that we are being served and loved by
the Shepherd, we’re a little bit more quiet about it because we don’t want to
offend. It’s not yours to offend. It’s Christ’s to offend, but not you. You are
to show and proclaim what it is you are all about. Now mind you, what you and I
are all about is not moralism or how to live a good life. It’s about being put
to death and rising again. It’s about having been baptized into Christ and dying
with Christ and rising again with Christ. That’s what it’s about.
That’s hope, and that’s joyful, and that’s pleasing to the
ear because every human being in this congregation as well as everyone outside
of this congregation has come into conflict and into a great problem when we
come into contact with ourselves. The very thing I desire to do I don’t end up
doing. That’s not common only to Christians mind you. It’s common to all
people. The difference between a Christian encouraging and strengthening having
been gone through that conflict and someone who is not a part of the flock is …
forgiveness. Unmerited, undeserved forgiveness.
That’s why Paul said, “I commend you to God and to the
word of His grace.” He does not say, “I commend you to God and all
the commandments He has given you. I commend you to God and all the rules you
must follow. I commend you to God and all the things you must do to prove
yourself.” None of that! He says, “I commend you to God and to His
grace, which is able to build you up, not tear you down, and to give you an
inheritance among all those who are sanctified, made holy [past perfect tense].”
That’s what it’s like to be known.
But now having been known in such a manner, we’re used to a
world that communicates to us in a very flamboyant and loud manner. We’re used
to advertisements that are in your face on the radio, loud and proclaiming what
you need to buy, how you need to buy it, when you need to buy it, and all kinds
of things. We’re even into commercials that you get done watching the
commercial and go, “That was about a car tire? Some stupid killer whale
coming out of the back of a vehicle, and that’s about a car tire?”
Jesus will not do that to you. He will not nag on you like
maybe your mother or father did. He will not nag on you like maybe your husband
or wife will. He is not a nagger. Few people in this world say what they mean
and mean what they say and can do so with love. Your Lord does when He speaks
to you. But having not nagged you, you have to realize He will not communicate
to you the way the world does. He is communicating to you right now in this
manner and form. And this will be the way He communicates to you. It will not
be in a nagging form, flamboyant, packaged in any way or form. It is the way
the Shepherd speaks, and His sheep listen to His voice.
Those who are not His sheep hear it, and it goes in one ear,
out the other. That then raises that question. Having been known in such a
manner as you have been known by your Lord Jesus, the Good Shepherd, as Paul
said, we must help the weak. You do not help the weak by telling them what to
do to be stronger. That’s a fallacy. It’s like telling a man who has no legs to
sprout legs and run like the rest of us. It’s insane. To help the weak is to
tell them about the same dysfunction and handicap that you have just as they
And the one solution and the only solution for such a sin as
you and I have is to be cleansed and healed, to die in Christ and rise again. It
is not about working harder and trying again. It is about confessing and being
forgiven, acknowledging our sin and receiving forgiveness and affirmation of
being known as His sheep. Where the wolf comes in from outside the world is the
same as how it springs up from within the flock, moving our attention away from
that truth to something else, something other than the One who has died and
rose again. And we must die in Him and rise again, the One in whom we walk and
live by faith.
When Jesus said, “You do not believe because you’re not
a part of My flock,” that is at one hand a condemnation and at the other
hand an invitation. That is what we do for the weak. Satan wants us to think of
it in terms as only a condemnation. Your Lord wants you to think of it in terms
as being an invitation. You are the poster child to what God can do in a
sinner’s life. That is what you and I share with others. That is what our
teachers have been teaching our children in this school for over a hundred
years. That is what you as parents were taught and they before them and so on
because the Christian faith is far beyond, far beyond, just this time and
Its truths have been proclaimed since this was spoken.
That’s why in each generation His sheep hear His voice. Nothing will keep His sheep
from Him. “I know them, and they follow Me,” He says. That’s a
comfort as you and I share this Christ with other people, inviting them. That
is a comfort for Christ says, “I give them eternal life. They will never
perish. No one will snatch them out of My hand.” It’s good to be known by
such a God as that. It is good to be known by our Shepherd who serves us, who
says there is always a place at His supper table for us to feast upon His gifts
of forgiveness and salvation. In the Shepherd’s name, Jesus, the one and only
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your
hearts and your minds on Christ Jesus to life everlasting, Amen.