Monday, May 5, 2014

Misericordias Domini: The Sunday of the Good Shepherd

"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 leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 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 fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd" (John 10:11-16 ESV). 

The Bible is filled with shepherds. Abel, the son of Adam was a shepherd, he was killed as his blood cried out from the ground. Jacob is a shepherd too. He comes to a well that was covered with a large stone. The stone was so large, they had to wait for many other shepherds to appear before they could move the large stone away so that the sheep could be watered. But when Jacob saw the lovely and beautiful Rachel, bringing her father’s sheep to the well, there was no need to wait for other shepherds. He singlehandedly rolled away the stone and watered the flock.

Then there is Moses the Shepherd – he tended sheep before leading the people out of bondage to Pharaoh. One day when he was sitting by a well in Midian seven daughters came to water their father’s flocks. Some of the shepherds harassed them, so Moses stoop up to them. He rescue the women and watered the flock of sheep.

When it comes to Shepherds don't forget David. When he tried to convince Saul that he could take on the huge warrior Golaith, he told him about his skill as a shepherd. Whenever a bear or lion would come and take a lamb from the flock, David would go out after them and rescue the lamb. He would go after the lion, grab his mane, and kill the lion and wolfs which would attack his flock.

But today, the church, celebrates “Good Shepherd Sunday.” Jesus says “I AM the good shepherd.” That is to say Jesus is the good shepherd to whom all the Scriptures point. Abel, Jacob, Moses, and David they all point to Christ is not a good shepherd. But THE Good Shepherd – the one and only shepherd. Jesus Himself says “All the Scriptures testify to me.” The blood of Abel points to the sacrifice of Christ, Jacob’s latter points to the cross of Christ, Moses shepherds us through the Red Sea of Christ’s blood, David destroys Goliath and Jesus ends the devil’s tyranny.

You have someone better than Moses and David. You have Jesus. And Jesus says “the Good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Most shepherds do not lay down their lives for the sheep. But Jesus – the Good Shepherd does precisely that. The wolf – that is Satan – and death itself is after us all. But Jesus does not run away and leave you to your own devices. He offers himself up instead.

On Good Friday the Good Shepherd truly did something wonderfully good for you. The wolf has always been after you. So Jesus played a cosmic trick on him. Instead of letting the wolf go after you He let the wolf go after him. He was willing to be beaten up, hung on a cross and left for dead. The Good Shepherd saw how the wolf of hell held all of humanity in his cruel jaws. So he let those jaws chew on him, let himself be eaten in death and swallowed up in the belly of the wolf.

This is all to say – He died our death. The wolf thought he had eaten his best meal yet but the wolf could not hold him – he burst forth from the belly of the earth. He was raised on the third day to bless you and to proclaim to you this morning that all your sins have been forgiven.  Like Abel, Jesus offers the pleasing sacrifice. Like Jacob, the stone is rolled back on Easter morning, and the flock can be led beside the still waters of baptism which revives our souls. Jesus is the better Moses who shepherds us out of the bondage to sin and into everlasting life. Like King David, Jesus is the better shepherd who puts a stone in the devil’s forehead and destroys the infernal wolf – Goliath is destroyed – death has ended.

Moses lifts up his shepherds staff and the waters part. The wooden staff of the cross is lifted high and Jacob’s latter with all the holy angels descend. And you are all invited. Jesus says “truly, today, you will be with me in paradise.” Jesus is the Shepherd you need. He is good because he lays down his life. He is good because even though there is nothing good within us, He is still good. He loves you.

He loves the unloveable. He is good to those who don’t deserve it. And this is good news. This is the Gospel. That God loves sinners. That God is good to you.

For the confirmands this morning, dressed in white, and proud as can be there is an important message. You may graduate from confirmation. But you will never graduate from being a sheep. We are all just his little lambs here – and nothing more.

Everyone here has a problem with straying off. But here we know that God receives us again and forgives us our sins. He calls us into his fold. He protects us. He feeds us. He guides us. He dies and rises for us. He sets a table before us. He gives us not just His body and blood –but He gives us Himself with all that he is. He calls us by name. And he shows us all how to live.

Live only in Him and for Him alone. For he will lead you to greener pastures. The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want. His rod and cross – they comfort you. You have a shepherd much better than Jacob, Moses, and king David, because this Shepherd is God Himself – His very Son. And only in Him can we lost sheep be found and at last find our way home. In the name of Jesus. Amen.  

(Much of the inspiration for this sermon was taken from Fr. Ralph Tausz)

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