Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sermon for Easter 4A - John 10:1-10 and 1 Peter 2:19-25

The Lord's my ShepherdImage by Lawrence OP via Flickr
          Good Shepherd Sunday brings images of peace and safety, green pastures, a strong Protector.  You have life, and have it in abundance.  “For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand,” as we sang from Psalm 95.
          Yet Jesus Christ is not only the Shepherd, but here He says, “I am the Door of the sheep… If anyone eneters by Me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:7, 9).  What great news for us sinners.  The doors of heaven were shut to us, and we had no hope of everlasting life.  Our lives were under God’s wrath.  Our deaths would be an eternity of restless wandering in the dry wasteland of Hell. 
           But now the Door has opened, for the Lord “Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree” of the Cross (1 Peter 2:24).  You have come through the Door, baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus.  Your sins are forgiven.  You have access to the Father, who delights to hear your prayers.  You will dwell in the House of the Lord forever.  You know the Shepherd Jesus’ voice and you follow Him. 
In John 10, the voice of Jesus is rebuking other voices that are trying to lead people away from Him.  The Pharisees were upset that people were claiming Jesus healed the man born blind (John 9).  Because they want to rob God’s sheep away from Christ, He calls them thieves and robbers.  They try to steal and kill and destroy Christ’s Church by turning turn you inward to your religiousness, to your feelings, to your works, to yourself, and away from Jesus and His blood bought gifts.  [something along the lines of  - Now, we don't have people called Pharisees today, but we do have plenty of people who teach false things.  Listen to their preaching and see how they say you can get to Heaven.  Do they mention Jesus?  And if they do, do they talk about Christ's death paying for your sins, or do they talke about Jesus telling you what to do to get yourself into God's good graces?]  Christ warns us to flee from those like the Pharisees and do not follow them.  Their voices should sound strange to us because they refuse have anything to do with the Door, Jesus Christ, true God and true Man.  They do not speak about His forgiveness to you because they refuse to believe they need Christ’s forgiveness.  Instead they rob Him of His glory by trying to save their lives with their own obedience to the Holy Law.  When Jesus spoke honestly to them about their sin so that He could lead them away from it, you know how they worked to steal, kill and destroy His life with the Cross.    
           However, the problem with thieves and robbers is they are not always so obvious.  Some rob you openly, and some are good at hiding what they do.  [something along the lines of  - Your sin responds to your faith in the forgiveness of sins by saying, "This is great.  I can do all the evil I want to do and God is just going to let me into Paradise anyway.  It does not matter if I do the right thing or not.]  St. Peter, in his epistle text today, rebukes this thought so that sin will not successfully rob you blind of Christ’s life before you know it.  We are to die to sin and live in righteousness.  Peter tells us that having life from God means to be called by God even to suffer for doing good (2:20-21).  We follow the Shepherd’s voice as we resist sin, entrusting our days and burdens and even unjust sufferings to God because Christ also suffered for you to follow in His steps.  “When He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to [God] who judges justly” (2:23).  We are not to take matters into our own hands through revenge, because we know that as Hebrews 13 says, the God of peace brought our great Shepherd of the sheep back from the dead.  And this same God promises to do the same for us.  When He leads us through valleys of shadows of death, be certain that He will deliver you safely to the green pastures and quiet waters of Heaven.  For His Scriptures promise this. 
           Sin, however, wants you thinking having life means doing whatever you can to avoid suffering – so that you confuse the good life with the goals of laziness and greed.  To achieve these goals, excuses are given, numbers are fudged, corners are cut, and God's Law is ignored.  Those in authority over you – the boss, the parent, the government - have all heard our lies so that we could get away with our evil.  And you also try to fool the spouse, the neighbor, the kids so that you can get what you want from this world.  As if we should be more concerned with what they think of us than with what God thinks as we pile sin upon sin.
           As sheep, we stray away from God’s ways because we think the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.  We look for love in all the wrong places – in health and wealth and job security, in possessions and popularity.  Sheep try to find life in being free from conflicts and keeping everybody happy with them.  Sheep try to find life in hopping from one person's bed to another and at the bottom of a bottle.  Sheep get tired of how hard it is to follow the Lord and so we go astray.  We try to live in, with, and under our sin.  No wonder God's voice seems so silent to us - we have wandered so far from Him.  Cut off from Jesus, we become easy pickings for our enemies.  Plenty of idols and false shepherds are eager to take Christ’s place.  Not because they care about you - they want to consume and destroy you.
           Sin blinds you so that you see life in all those things that are really your death.  But your life is not in this earthly success or popularity.  Rather, your life is in Christ Jesus who comes that you and I may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10).  He loves sheep that have gone astray.  He lays down His life for the sheep on the Cross.   He serves as the open Door to Paradise even for a thief who dies with Him.  Scheming people who want to rob Christ of His glory even find forgiveness in His sacrifice.  Again and again men reject Him.  And again and again, the Good Shepherd calls out to us, reaches down to rescue us from the pit through His grace, forgiveness, and peace.
            Now you have been returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.  Now you have life – and it is a life hidden under hardships and tough paths and forgiveness in this world.  But it is also hidden with Christ in God above.  When Christ your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory (Col. 3).  He will wipe away every tear from your eyes when He removes you from every sin-filled problem.  And you shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  Amen.
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