Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Fourth Sunday of Easter (A)
Good Shepherd Sunday
April 13, 2008
Text: John 10:1-10

He is risen! He is risen, indeed!! Alleluia!!!

So many voices… too many voices in our culture, in our world, vying for our attention, demanding our devotion, or perhaps taking the more subtle approach of enticing us with their allurements, wooing us with the whispers of sweet nothings (and I mean literally nothings that nonetheless take on the appearance of sweet somethings), each of these voices promising that if we just follow their lead, we will finally be happy, fulfilled, complete, self-actualized (whatever that means!). You know the voices I’m talking about. You’ve listened to them a time or two yourself. Perhaps you’ve followed them. Maybe you’re following one or two of these voices now: the voices, for example, that say, if you just had a little more money, you’d finally be set. You could finally relax a little. You could say to yourself, “Self, you have plenty stored up for the future. Take a load off. Eat, drink, be merry” (cf. Luke 12:13-21). So you should do whatever it takes to get that extra money, no matter how many toes you step on, how ethically questionable your actions, no matter how you have to neglect your family. They’ll understand. It is for the best. And of course, there are other voices that seek your attention. What you need is a different spouse, or someone other than your spouse, or to claim, use, and abuse God’s gift of sexuality outside of marriage. Then you’ll be fulfilled. What you need is revenge against that scoundrel who cheated you, lied to you, or ruined your reputation. Then you’ll be at peace. What you need is a new car, a bigger house, the newest entrée at your favorite fast food restaurant. Then your life will be complete.

But you know that all of these voices only offer you empty promises. They cannot make you happy. They cannot fill you to satisfaction. They do not complete you. Not even the best things in this life can do that. They may self-actualize you, because these voices are all about the self. And that’s the point. These voices appeal to your self-worship, your self-idolatry. You’re worth it! You deserve it! And yet, if you’re honest, you know that this is all a lie. And you know that these voices come from the father of lies, the devil, and his allies, the fallen world and your own sinful flesh. The devil and his allies stop at nothing to divert your attention from God, turn your gaze from Jesus, to anything and everything else that is not God, especially yourself. Because if the devil can turn you from God by his smooth talk and sultry voice, he can take you captive again to himself.

How different is the voice of our Good Shepherd, Jesus, who calls to us in His Word! You know His voice. It isn’t always attractive to you, because you still have the old Adam wrapped around your neck. But you know that voice nonetheless. It is His voice that calls you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). Once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord (Eph. 5:8). “For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25; ESV). Jesus, our Good Shepherd says of Himself, “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice” (John 10:3-4).

Jesus is our Good Shepherd, and we are His sheep. It is really a confession of sin that we call ourselves sheep. Sheep really are not smart animals. They easily stray. They are always prone to attack. Sheep are too engrossed in their grazing to be able to defend themselves. And even the food they eat can be a danger to them. “Sheep being what they are, will bite on. We’ll snack on any tasty weed, no matter how poisonous it might be; we’ll drink from any puddle no matter how polluted.”[1] So we need a Shepherd. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, who, as we sing in the 23rd Psalm, makes us lie down in green pastures and leads us beside still waters (Ps. 23:2). He leads us away from the poison and filth of our own choosing and feeds us with the choicest food, gives us to drink of the purest water. He protects us from thieves and wolves. He protects us from all who want to harm us.

So we come to the parable in our text this morning. Jesus is the true Shepherd, the Good Shepherd, who enters the sheepfold by the narrow door. The Father is the Gatekeeper who opens the door immediately for the Shepherd. The thieves and robbers are the false teachers, the Pharisees and Sadducees and all the sectarians and false religionists of today and throughout history. Jesus protects us from these by becoming the door of the sheepfold. “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep… I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:7, 9). The Shepherd becomes the door of the sheepfold by laying Himself down in front of it. Jesus lays Himself in front of the door in death. He sacrifices Himself for the sake of the sheep. He gives Himself into the hands of the thieves and robbers, that the sheep may go free. He does this because He loves His sheep. He loves those who are His own, even unto the death of Him. And then He rises again for the sake of His sheep. The sheep find life and immortality in their crucified and risen Shepherd. Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (v. 10).

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, do not follow the voices of strangers. Follow the voice of the Good Shepherd alone. He alone will lead you to the green pastures and the pristine waters. He alone can provide for all your needs so that you have no wants. He alone can restore your soul, lead you on the paths of righteousness, and guide you with His rod and staff through the valley of the shadow of death so that you come out on the other side alive and in the perfection of your Shepherd. It is He alone who prepares a table before you in the presence of your enemies so that your cup overflows, and goodness and mercy follow you all the days of your life, and you are given to dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Yes, follow the voice of your Good Shepherd. You know His voice. You hear it every time you encounter His living and abiding Word and the Word made tangible in the Sacraments. The over three thousand souls that were added to the number of believers on Pentecost in the reading from Acts heeded the voice of their Good Shepherd and followed Him. Having been baptized for the forgiveness of their sins and having received the gift of the Holy Spirit, they followed the voice of their Shepherd by devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching, the fellowship, the breaking of bread, and the prayers (Acts 2:42). All of this is to say, these new disciples were concerned to hear the preaching of the apostles and meditate on the Word of God. They participated in the fellowship of the one, holy, Christian, and apostolic Church principally by the breaking of the bread, the Lord’s Supper, wherein they received the true body and blood of their Good Shepherd Jesus, and were themselves molded into the Body of Christ. And they did all this in the context of “the prayers,” which is to say, the liturgy of the Church.

So how do you know you are hearing the voice of your true Shepherd, and not just someone who sounds like Him? Go where He’s promised to speak to you, in the Word and Sacraments. Devote yourself to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Come to church! Come to Bible class! Participate in the life of your congregation. Receive our Lord’s good gifts in His Supper often. He has prepared a table for you here in the presence of your enemies. Your cup overflows. Come to church and pray and sing with your brothers and sisters in Christ, and offer up your own sacrifice of thanksgiving in response to all God so graciously does here for you.

Follow your Shepherd. Hear His voice. Rest in His safety. He has conquered sin for you in His death. He has conquered the devil for you and driven Him from the sheepfold. He has conquered death for you by bursting its bonds in His resurrection. He has come that you might have life, and have it abundantly. You no longer need to listen to the other voices that contend for your attention. There is only one voice that matters, only one voice that saves. It is the voice of the Lord who is your Shepherd, Jesus Christ, who calls each one of you by name. Jesus fulfills you. Jesus completes you. Jesus gives you eternal happiness. In Jesus, your Good Shepherd, you will never be in want. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

He is risen! He is risen, indeed!! Alleluia!!!

[1] Rev. William Cwirla, Rev. Cwirla’s Blogosphere, http://blog.higherthings.org/wcwirla/The%20Sermonator/SeriesC/4easter.html.

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