Sunday, April 30, 2017

Sermon for 4/30/17: Third Sunday of Easter

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The Shepherd

ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Wolves eat sheep. They don’t care whose sheep they eat; they don’t care that you lose sleep or income. They just want your sheep. Build all the sheep pens you want. If the wolf wants your sheep, there’s a good chance he’ll get it. Without a shepherd to fight off the wolves and gather and protect the sheep, the wolf will have his prey. And when the wolf steals your sheep, it’s easy to point fingers at others—at coworkers and neighbors, at family and friends. “Why did you let the wolf cross your field to get to my sheep?” “Why didn’t you raise an alarm?” “Why didn’t you slay the wolf?” So not only do wolves drive away and kill the sheep; the devil also uses them to put a wedge between us, to mar and destroy our life together in Christ.
Now where is Our Lord Jesus in all this? Does He stand idly by? Or does He lash out against wolves, hunt them down, and give them what they deserve? When Our Lord was beset by sheep-stealing priests and wolfish Pharisees, when they sought not just His sheep, but also His life, He did not let the devil have his day. “He was reviled, but He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.” And when He was beaten and murdered by the wolves, He did not point the finger at His disciples, or accuse them of not defending Him, or blame them for those who killed Him. Instead, He stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” He spoke peace to the very men who let Him down. And He visited the very women who would not believe that He was still with them.
Doing this, He showed that He was their Good Shepherd, the true and steadfast Bishop of their souls. He did not do what we do: He did not criticize or whine or place blame. He did not give in to devilish thoughts and desires. Instead, He embraced His own and pointed them to their heavenly Father. He pointed them to the rich gifts He set apart to feeds them.
The Good Shepherd knows His sheep. He knows your fears, your complaints, your misgivings, your anxieties. He knows you are quick to cut and run and fall over the edge of the cliff. He knows that you think you know best, that you are quick to believe He has once again let you down. And He knows that you foolishly value your stuff more than you take comfort in the Baptism that makes you a member of His flock or the Holy Supper with which He feeds you.
And so our Lord Jesus, the Good Shepherd, restores your soul. He lays down His life for His sheep. He lays it down so that He may take it up again. He lays it down so that you would have His life as your life. He has come—precisely when wolves come to devour you—so you may have life, and have it abundantly.
Jesus is not just some hired hand. He is the Good Shepherd. Any shepherd can chase away wolves, but the Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep—both to drive off the wolf and to make His body and blood into a sacrament. In this way, our Lord saves and delivers you: by dying your death and by satisfying you with His body as food.
So Jesus is your Good Shepherd. He spares your life by laying down His life on the cross, and by giving you His body and blood for you as Gospel food on the altar. And your response, your thanksgiving, is to take to heart our Lord's death by feeding off Christ's body and drinking His blood. And our confession is to say, “I cannot live without receiving the Supper of our Lord's body and blood.” So let the wolves come. Our Lord Jesus, our Good Shepherd, still stands among you, still feeds you, still cares for you, and still guides and guards you with His unsurpassed love. ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.   

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