You Need The Good Shepherd

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego 92114
http://www.tlcsd.org
Easter 4A, May 11, 2014

Click here for audio of this message

“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 10:3b, 4]

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed! But more than that He has risen for you!  Before His death, He assured His disciples then, as He assures us today, that He would not leave us alone as orphans; He promised us that He would come back to us!  And He has.  This morning, in our readings and in our message He speaks to you and you hear His voice.  You have been hearing His voice since your baptism, where He first called you by name.

This morning, like all other mornings He speaks to you and He invites you to follow Him out, but out of what, and out to where?  Well, our message this morning will answer that very question, but before we begin, let’s first agree on what He does not “yet” lead you out of.  He does not yet lead you out of this world.  You must follow your Good Shepherd within this life of sorrows and trouble.  There are many dangers here in this world, as all who have lived any sort of life will agree.  The question each of us must answer is, “Do I want to pass through this way of danger with or without the Good Shepherd?”

So, are you ready to follow where Jesus leads us in this message?  Good, let’s get started!

The first thing that Jesus leads us out of is our sins.  Every misery in your life and mine, can be traced back to sin, either our sins or someone else’s.  Sin is the very thing that leaves us alone; it separates us from the love of God and His real presence in our lives.  Isn’t this true in all relationships in our lives?  If we sin against spouse, friend, coworker or neighbor, aren’t we going to be deprived of those relationships if something isn’t done to repair them?  And so enters the need for an apology.  But an apology without real change in the one who has done the harm is simply a string of empty words; something substantive must take place to repair and restore that lost relationship.  This is what we call making amends.

And so enters your Good Shepherd.  Upon the cross, His bitter suffering, agony, and finally His death made amends for your sin.  Jesus died for sinners; He died for you.  Jesus died to pay for your sins; to remove your sins from your standing before a righteous and perfect Creator; sins you have committed first against your Heavenly Father and second, sins you have committed against your neighbor.  That is what He did for the entire world, but this atonement, this making amends wont help you in the least if you do not claim it as a work that He does for you.  In your baptism, He gives you the means to do this very thing!  In your baptism not only does He give you complete restoration with Him, but He also provides you with the real presence of His Holy Spirit and the Sprit’s power; He gives to you the Good Shepherd Himself, Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Now, as you go out in the real world you will encounter real dangers; dangers that on your own you can’t overcome.  That is why you need the Good Shepherd.

On your own, you are only a little lamb.  You need the Good Shepherd because bad things really do happen to righteous, baptized children of God; in fact, bad things happen to everyone.  Bad things happen, because until the end of all things when Christ returns, God’s Children of faith are still to be living, breathing, and finding their very purpose of life in Him, here in this sinful and broken world.  But, as we wait for Christ’s return, we wait with a purpose, or for a reason.  We live first to give God glory in all things, and then we live to share God’s presence and gifts with other sheep who have not yet heard their Good Shepherds voice, or have maybe forgotten that voice and have wandered away into danger; the real danger that exists in this world.

So, as we wait, we are busy listening to our Savior’s voice and following Him through some pretty rough places. If we listen, we will find comfort and assurance that safer pastures are just around the bend, down the hill, or through the canyons.  If we listen we are assured that the Living Water is always with us to quench our thirst, and we little sheep can really work up a thirst, especially when we are wandering away from our Good Shepherd’s voice, and falling into some pretty sinful places; places that we have no business being in or going to.  Of course, the Living Water that I am speaking of is the privilege that comes to us who are baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  And that privilege is the forgiveness of all of our sins.

Each and every time you receive the absolution, you are being picked up, cleaned off, and brought back to the fold by your Good Shepherd.  But remember, you are here for a purpose, and that purpose is to glorify God and to help others know his forgiving love as well.  An excellent way for you to do this very thing can be observed in how you pass through those dangerous times of life when you are following your Good Shepherd.  What kind of dangerous times?  Well right off the bat, we might include illness, tragedy, and disaster; and those would be good examples, but what about when you suffer unjustly at the hands of another simply because as a Christian you are an easy target; a target that will not fight back by meeting evil with evil?

You see, whether you sin by responding to an unjust attack with a similar counter attack, or simply let it pass without response, you still will have to endure through the suffering.  “But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.” [1 Peter 2:20b, 21]  To what have we been called?  To suffering?  Well… yes, but you are suffering for a mission, with a purpose.  What purpose?  That others will see your life and how you live it and give glory to Jesus, your Good Shepherd.

Think of how much Jesus suffered for you; think about His passion to save you, and then remember the wonderful gift of complete forgiveness that is yours because you have been baptized.  Isn’t that enough to move you into a condition of heart that simply desires to listen to the voice of your Shepherd and follow Him through this dark valley you are passing through?

Do you Remember the choice we were given in the beginning of our message?  You can either pass through that danger with or without Him?  Now before you answer, consider what your Good Shepherd did to save you.  “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him (that is God the Father) who judges justly.  He himself bore (your) sins in his body on the tree, that (you) might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed (that is you have complete forgiveness of sin).  For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” [1 Peter 2:22-25]  Do you really want to wander away from all that your Good Shepherd provides?

I trust that the voice of your Good Shepherd has put your little feet back on the straight and narrow, so now, let’s follow Him as He shows us how to live our lives in both the obligation to bless and glorify God and to bless each other and our neighbor with His service to us and through us.

Let’s be clear on something, God does not need our worship nor our service.  God is God and He neither lacks or needs a thing.  But He insists that we both worship and glorify Him and serve our neighbor.  Why?  Because we need Him and your neighbor needs you.  We need to meet God and receive His divine service, and we receive that very thing when we gather around the teaching of the apostles in His Word and the breaking of bread, that is His Holy Supper, where Jesus gives us both His body and blood, for the forgiveness of sins.  We need to hear Him speak forgiveness to us, but we also need to ask for it; that is we need to speak to Him in prayer.  In other words friends, we need God’s Divine Service so that we can continue to follow our Good Shepherd as He leads us out.

Again, let’s consider where He leads us out to; He leads us out to be with first our brothers and sisters in Christ (that is, the church), and then He leads us out to be with our neighbors who are lost little sheep without the Good Shepherd.  To get an idea of how this life style might look, let’s read a portion of our first reading: “And all who believed (that is all who were given the gift of faith through the Word of God about their Good Shepherd), were together and had all things in common.  And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.  And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” [Acts 2:44-47]

That dear friends is a picture of a wonderful and forgiven flock of sinful sheep that simply have learned to trust their Good Shepherd.  All who believed were willing to trust all that they had to the use of their Good Shepherd.  All who believed were reminded that all that they had was simply a gift from the very One who was still leading them into an eternity where there would be no more suffering nor pain, sorrow nor offense, sin nor death.  That is where their Good Shepherd was leading them, and that is where He is leading us.

Isn’t it a little thing to simply follow the One who has given and done so much for us?  Is it too much for Him to ask, that as we go on our way following Him, that we praise Him and tell everyone what He has done for us and for them?  Shouldn’t we have glad and generous hearts that freely give as we have received?

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” We confess in the Creed, “I believe in one holy Christian and apostolic Church.” We believe what we cannot see. We cannot see the unity in the body of Christ, instead we see division. We cannot see the holiness of the church, instead, we see sin. But we must have faith, not in what we see, but in what Jesus our Good Shepherd says.

When we place our faith in His Word, we will find that our unfaithfulness is simply no match for His faithfulness. He who gave his life for the sheep has never accepted our sin; He died for it!  He has never excused our sin; He forgives it!  His voice, is what unites us with Him. His voice is what unites us with each other. His voice – his holy Word – is our greatest treasure in this life. It leads us through some pretty dark and rough times, and it teaches us how to receive and share God’s heavenly treasures here in Christ’s Church on earth.  May each of us forever follow His voice as He leads us to our eternal heavenly home… Amen!

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