|Home | Activities | Beliefs | Contact Us | Links | Mission | Pastor | Preschool | Sermon | SermonArchive|
|BETHLEHEM LUTHERAN CHURCH: | Mason City, Iowa USA | Pastor Mark Lavrenz|
Apr 22, 2018 SERMON TEXT
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our heavenly Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
The text for our meditation today is the Gospel Lesson for this 4th Sunday of Easter, John 10:11-18. There we read these words:
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. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father."
We begin in the name of Jesus, AMEN
Jesus says in todays Gospel, "There will be one flock, one shepherd." Then Jesus explains that there is one flock and one shepherd for only one reason: Christ is risen! "There will be one flock, one shepherd," says the Lord. "For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it up again."
Dear Christian friends, In my previous congregation, I had a member who made her entire livelihood from raising sheep. She did so much with her sheep that many times some of the little ones even stayed in the house with her and her family. Not sure that I would want farm animals in my house with me, but I guess to each his own.
Anyway, in knowing this lady, I learned that, if you take sheep from two different flocks and release them together into one pasture, they will not mix very well. Each flock will remain in its own little corner, keeping as much distance from the other flock as possible.
Perhaps they feel prejudiced toward one another on account of their breed. Perhaps they simply dont feel comfortable with starting a conversation. Perhaps they would prefer to just stare at their cell phones instead.
But you know what. You do that same distance-keeping thing, and so do I. Familiarity provides a certain level of comfort, even if it is false comfort. And there is always some risk involved in exposing yourself to the unknown.
We Christians are simply too sinful and too powerless to overcome our inborn barriers. Even if we do, there is a good chance the other guy will not. Besides, the apostle Paul almost made it sound as though division and disunity in the church are a blessing: "There must be factions among you," said Paul, "in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized" (1 Corinthians 11:19).
If I were to ask all the genuine Christians seated here this morning to please raise their hand, I wonder how many people would not. Throughout the Scriptures, Jesus repeatedly describe His Christian children as sheep. But, it was not intended to be a compliment. As one fellow pastor stated it, sheep specialize in finding ways to die.
In comparison, everything about us eventually reduces to death, too. Solomon complained that it does not matter whether you are a wise person or a fool: either way, the road will still end in the same place (Ecclesiastes 2:14).
Jesus says "There will be one flock, one shepherd" and if Christians are really good at anything, it would be their undying commitment to proving Jesus wrong. The last thing many if not most Christians truly want is "one flock, one shepherd." Refusal to admit it might simply hasten the slaughter.
"One flock and one shepherd" is written in the Scriptures, but "many flocks and many shepherds" is acted out in the everyday life of the Christian church on earth
First, you can blame false teaching, and that is as good a starting place as any. Some Christians simply refuse to believe the Words of Jesus.
This section of the Scripture says things they do not want to hear; that Bible verse does not seem to fit their way of thinking; another Bible verse requires them to act differently than they want to act, another Bible verse does not seem to be very relevant to today.
When you refuse to believe the Word of God, you are left with your own words instead. That is what false teaching is: replacing Gods Words with your own. False teaching creates false hope. False teaching calls God a liar and it does so with a smile. False teaching divides Christians, one from another.
False teaching makes it impossible for you to see with your eyes what Jesus has said with His mouth: "There will be one flock, one shepherd." False teaching also tends to be about the other guy.
We Lutherans might have become so convinced that we have it right that maybe some of us have stopped thinking about it. You should change your minds about that. By no means is the work of theology done. There are too many children to train and too many people across the back fence who need to hear "the good news about Jesus" (Acts 8:35).
Secondly, even if you should leave the doctrinal problems to the professionals, disunity and division are equally evident in the ways you each act. Christians routinely do unloving things to one another, even in the name of service to God (John 16:2), and these unloving things motivate division.
Words form too quickly; selfish habits die too slowly; high school style cliques gather too naturally; and personal agendas grow too self righteously. You see, sin for Christians is as natural as a sheep stepping off a cliff and into a ravine.
When you teach the children to sing, "I am Jesus Little Lamb" (LSB 740), you are really just teaching them to keep their eyes focused upon Jesus, their Good Shepherd. That is the point of being called sheep: that you would look at the Shepherd. In todays Gospel, Jesus says a lot of comforting things about being your Good Shepherd.
Jesus says here, "The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep." These Words certainly speak about your Lords dyingand by His stripes you are healed. But your Good Shepherd does not serve you merely by His death. Christ is risen!
Your risen Lord Jesus now lays down His life for you, not in dying again, but in daily service and in full time commitment to you, for your forgiveness, for your protection, for your comfort and for your peace. In the Holy Communion, the Lord Jesus comes to youyour gentle Shepherd among youand we are talking about the presence of the living Christ, knowing that death no longer holds mastery over Him!
"I know My own and My own know Me." When Jesus says, "I know My own," He means that He knows your devils and He knows your deeds. Yet even knowing these things, the Good Shepherd nevertheless came to you to stay with you, fully prepared to bleed.
"And I have other sheep that are not of this fold," says the Lord. "I must bring them also." These Words of Jesus mean life for you. The love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord is so great, so all-encompassing that your Good Shepherd was not content merely to save that tiny flock of believers who were first present when these Words were first spoken.
Jesus claims to be the Shepherd of "other sheep," too, beyond those of His first gathering and His first fold. You are Jesus other sheep, and your Good Shepherd lives now to gather you in and make you His own. The holy Christian Church is the one and only place upon the face of earth where these Words of Jesus come to fulfillment with joyous repetition: "I must bring them also, and they will listen to My voice."
"So there will be one flock, one shepherd." With these Words, Jesus teaches you not to believe the things you see with your eyes. Because everywhere you look on earth, the eye is filled with dissension, division, and decade. Yet the holy Church belongs to the Good Shepherd, and He claims full responsibility for gathering you together as one.
Unity, true unity, has come. But it has come at the price of the Good Shepherds blood: There will be one flock, one shepherd," says the Lord. "For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it up again." Christ is risen!
Because Christ is risen, Christians have reason to hope. YOU DO NOT NEED TO HOPE FOR WHAT MIGHT BE. God in His Christ has given you hope in what is. Jesus the Good Shepherd died and rose again, in accordance with these Words, "I lay down My life that I may take it up again."
In this laying down and in this taking up again, everything is now radically different than it would seem: Where there is only sin visible, Jesus has worked forgiveness and reconciliation; Where you see only death, Jesus lives with His gift of life; Where there is only disunity and division evident everywhere in the church, the Church is nevertheless holy; the Church is nevertheless unified; the Church is nevertheless fully incorporated into the living body of Christ.
These things are so because Jesus our Good Shepherd says they are so.
Christ is Risen!
|Christ Is Risen|
|Go to top|