Thursday, April 10, 2014

"My Sheep Hear My Voice" - a homily for the Wednesday of Judica

"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand" (John 10:27).

Martin Luther would say to his congregation “God be praised, a seven year old child knows what the church is: holy believers and the little sheep who hear the voice of their good shepherd.”  That is why we pray our Father who art in heaven.  And confess “I believe in one holy Christian and apostolic church.

Sheep are not known for their brilliance.  They are dumb.  They get lost, easily separated from the flock.  They are easy prey for wolves.  Sheep are an easy meal. 

On your confirmation you didn’t feel like a sheep.  That day you stood, tall and proud, dressed in a white robe.  And pledged that your life would be one of faithfulness to God’s Word.  You promised to be present in weekly worship.  To receive His sacraments every week.  To remain faithful to God – and suffer death rather than fall away.  That was your intention: to remain true to God – to remain steadfast in the faith in which you were baptized.

What happened to your good intentions?  You would say that life happened.  The real world got in it’s way, with all of its demands and obligations.  You were busy.  And your children were busy – maybe they had to kick or chase a ball around.  Other things became more important than being in God’s house each week. 

We have mimicked the way of the world rather than mimicking the ways of God and his holy commands. The truth is we have despised preaching and God’s Word. 

No wonder our children flee from church.  No wonder that vast majority of our confirmands we never see again.  We often talk about church like a crushing obligation.  We speak of worship and receiving the gifts of Christ as if it were a curse rather than a blessing. 

Repent.  The Pharisees in tonight’s Gospel reading are stalking Jesus, finding reasons they should not believe in him or worship him.  Perhaps we are actually more like them – and much less like the sheep.  But no matter what.  Repent.  Whether you are a Pharisee or a sheep.  Repent.  No matter when you were baptized, or when you were confirmed, tonight, you are in the right place. 

The Good Shepherd who loves you does not come for the religious experts.  He comes for lost sinners.  He comes for confirmation - breakers.  He comes for the broken and hurting.  He comes for those who have broken their vows.  "Even now," declares the LORD, "return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning."  Confess that you have loved the world more than God.  Confess that you have spiritually neglect your own family. 

Confess that the image that you have created for others of yourself is a mirage – and a fraud.
Don’t imagine that a sheep can survive on its own.  Sheep need a good shepherd.  And sheep need a flock to keep them warm through the long winter. 

Jesus says “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  Confess that your hearing has become weak.  You have lent your ear eagerly to the words of the devil and followed in his footsteps.  Repent.  Turn again toward the Lord who loves you. 

When you broke your vows – Jesus fulfilled them.  When you went wandering your own way.  Jesus walked steadily toward the cross.  When you followed your will, he prayed that his father’s will would be done. 

The sins of your past have been bound to the cross of Jesus Christ our Lord.  They have been dealt with.  The payment is complete.  His blood covers all your sins.  You are covered in the white robe of Christ’s righteousness.  You are brighter than the day of your confirmation.  You have a fresh start.  Your sins are forgiven you.             

Jesus says “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”  Return to the Lord. He loves you.  He lays down his life for you.  He doesn’t just forgive you.  He actually likes you.  He adores you.  You are His.   

And now, you, little sheep, can stare down the infernal wolf.  He cannot have you.  You belong to God and Him alone.  He will not break his vow.  And no one will snatch you out of his hand.  In Jesus name.  Amen.

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