Cruce Tectum

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

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Fourth Sunday of Easter (A)

May 11, 2014
Text: John 10:1-10

He is risen!  He is risen, indeed!  Alleluia!
            Christ, our Good Shepherd Savior, keeps us, His sheep, safe in His sheepfold, the holy Christian Church.  Our Holy Gospel this morning is a parable of the Church.  We are, as we sang in the Introit, “the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand” (Ps. 95:7; ESV).  The parable this morning is about how Jesus, as our Good Shepherd and as the Door of the sheepfold, keeps us safe and secure in His Church.  Middle Eastern shepherds lead their sheep by the sound of their voice.  They call their sheep out in the morning to graze under the watchful gaze of the shepherd.  And when night comes, the shepherds call their sheep back into the sheepfold where they are protected from the dangers outside; from predators and from thieves and robbers, from getting lost or caught or injured by some unseen peril.  When the sheep are in the sheepfold, they are safe.  If they find themselves separated from the shepherd and the flock, alone outside of the fold at night, they are in mortal danger.  Sheep are dirty, stinky, and stupid animals.  When they are in danger, they don’t even know to run, much less can they figure out an escape from the danger.  When we think of Christ the Good Shepherd cuddling with His fluffy white and loveable little sheep, we miss the point of the parable entirely.  It is not a compliment when He calls us sheep.  But there is one thing the sheep have going for them. They know the voice of their shepherd.  Even when several shepherds are calling at once, a sheep knows the voice of its shepherd and only follows that shepherd.  Thus the call to pasture and the call to safety in the sheepfold.  Thus the Christian, you, who know the voice of your Good Shepherd, Jesus.  You hear His voice.  He calls you by Name (that’s what He does in Baptism).  And you follow Him. 
            A stranger you do not follow, and that is very important.  This Holy Gospel is nothing less than a warning never to follow an imposter’s voice even for a second.  Jesus is warning you about false teachers.  These are the wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matt. 7:15), Satan disguised as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14).  Remember that false teachers never come to you claiming they are false teachers.  They always come claiming that they are true teachers.  They may even believe they are teaching the truth.  In fact, they may even be Christians who are very sincere, yet very sincerely deceived.  Some may even be Missouri Synod Lutheran pastors, which is why it is imperative that you watch the doctrine proclaimed here very carefully and know your Holy Scriptures so that you can test what is proclaimed.  And here’s the test you use, according to Jesus.  Does the teacher come through the Door that is Christ Himself?  In other words, does he preach Christ and Him crucified for your forgiveness and eternal life?  Or does he preach something else?  Maybe he gives lip service to Christ crucified, but ultimately preaches that you have to do something either to be saved or to make yourself a more effective Christian, bring yourself into a deeper relationship with God, or be assured by your works or by your decision for Jesus that you are really saved.  Or he substitutes something or someone other than Christ as the Savior, again, even if he gives lip service to our Lord’s saving work.  More often than not, a false teacher substitutes himself for Christ.  We call it a personality cult, when a church grows around a particular preacher rather than around the Good Shepherd, Christ Jesus.  Mark this, that this is one of the big problems with the mega-churches and the celebrity pastors who lead them.  False teachers come in many shapes and sizes.  Some are more successful, others less, but they all have one thing in common: They do not enter the sheepfold through the Door.  They try to sneak in any and every other way, but they never come in through Christ.  They do not come proclaiming Christ crucified, Christ risen, Christ alone for you and for your salvation.  They do not proclaim Christ as the only Door, the only way of salvation.  They claim that there are other doors, other ways, their way, for example.  You want to know how to spot a false teacher?  Ask the question, are they consumed with Christ?  Or is something else driving them?  Undershepherds of the Good Shepherd always preach Christ crucified.  They are the faithful pastors.  A preacher who preaches anything else is nothing but a hired hand. 
            Or worse, a thief or a robber.  Thieves steal.  The Greek word used for robber means someone who will resort to violence or even murder to get what he wants.  Jesus says “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10).  And that is a good description of our three main enemies: the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh.  These three act in concert with one another to steal your faith in Christ, to rob you of eternal life, to murder you into everlasting death in hell.  The devil holds the world in fascination with his lies.  Have you ever wondered to yourself if the world’s gone crazy, because you just can’t imagine how so many people have been so deeply deceived that they believe and advocate such blatantly wicked things?  Like abortion or promiscuity just to name two examples.  These things are actually held up in our culture as good things to be embraced.  The deception is nothing short of demonic.  The devil and his minions deceive the world, and our fallen flesh believes the lie.  Faith in Christ, virtue, honor, truth, peace… these things are stolen.  Believers in Christ are murdered spiritually as they buy into the deception.  And people actually lose their lives.  Those babies who are aborted certainly do.  So do those who die from AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases or as casualties of the physical and emotional violence that so often accompanies sexual promiscuity.  And then there is the deterioration of the culture itself and the society that is built around it.  Again, just take these two examples of abortion and promiscuity and you can clearly see how our three main enemies steal and kill and destroy, as is their nature.
            So what are we to do?  How do we fix this?  How do we keep ourselves and our children safe?  Don’t leave the protective care of the Good Shepherd.  He has graciously brought you into the sheepfold of His Church where you are protected from these things.  A mighty fortress is your God, your Savior, Jesus.  Never stray from His voice.  Enter through the Door that is Jesus Himself and rejoice that He keeps you safe and secure inside His Church, protected from the dangers of predators and thieves and robbers.  Unlike those thieves and robbers that come only to steal and kill and destroy, Jesus has come that you may have life and have it abundantly (v. 10).  He has come to give you His life, even as He gave it on the cross to purchase you to be His own.  Our Good Shepherd Jesus is risen from the dead, and He has the power over death and the authority to give you life eternal, which is what He does as He gives you Himself in His Word and in Baptism and in His Body and Blood in the Supper.
            And how do you fix it?  Well, you can’t.  You can make it better within your sphere of influence by exercising your vocation in a godly way.  Today we celebrate the vocation of godly motherhood, for example, and we give thanks to God for all our mothers who have raised us in the faith.  Society needs godly parents, children, teachers, mechanics, farmers, politicians, and all the other ways God uses His people as His hands in the world.  Vocation, calling, is the Christian loving and serving where and among the people with whom God has placed you.  Serve others in your vocation as serving God Himself, and you’ll make it better for a time in your specific place.  But you won’t fix it.  And I’m not just being pessimistic.  The days are evil, says St. Paul (Eph.5:16), and it is only by grace that you escape the wickedness.  But you also know that Christ, your Good Shepherd, will fix it in the end.  For fixing it takes nothing less than a death and resurrection: His own for you, yours in Him, and the whole world’s in the end.  On that Day, St. Peter tells us, “the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!  But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:12-13).  And we don’t have to worry about what will happen to us on that Day because we’re safe with Jesus, sheltered by Jesus, in the sheepfold that is His holy Christian Church.  He will raise us from the dead and give us life abundant.  He is the Door to that life, and when you enter by Him, death can never harm you.  And in the new heavens and new earth to which your Good Shepherd will bring you, there will be no more demonic deception or capitulation by the world or your own sinful flesh, for those things will be at an end.  No more thieves or robbers.  Safe in Jesus, you will have life and joy and peace.

            How do you know?  Because Jesus says so.  And you know His voice.  He calls you by name.  You follow Him.  You follow Him all the way through the valley of the shadow of death and through the empty tomb into His eternal and abundant life.  He is risen!  He is risen, indeed!  Alleluia!  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.               

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