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Posts Tagged ‘Good Shepherd Sunday’

Intro:  These quotes are for busy pastors, looking for good quotes for tomorrow’s sermon and for laity who may be fed a thin gruel of me centered legalisms  instead of Christ centered Gospel.

The Holy Spirit creates and works all this through the divine Word, which He allows to be echoed in the Christian Church. It [the Christian Church] is His work place, where He, through the preaching-office (office of the ministry)—which is called the office of the Spirit in 2 Cor. 3:8—desires to be effectual and bring to completion this gracious work in the hearts of mankind.

Accordingly, since we heard about the Person and Office of the Holy Spirit on the Feast of Pentecost, so now follows the doctrine of the Christian Church in appropriate order. In the parable of today’s Gospel, the Lord Christ compares it [the Christian Church] to a sheep-fold. He compares the Holy Spirit to the Gate-guard, and Himself to the Door into this sheep pen, [as well as] to the Shepherd of the sheep. It is precisely for these reasons that these two items are placed side by side in the Third Article of our Christian faith, where we say: I believe in the Holy Spirit, one holy Christian Church, the communion of saints. 

...We should not be overcome with wonder that Christ is likened simultaneously to the Door of the sheepfold and to the Shepherd, for that occurs because of the differing benefits and works of grace which Christ accomplishes in those who are His. In the same way that He on the timber-trunk of the cross (as He was offering Himself up to His heavenly Father) was at the same time the High-Priest, the Sacrifice, and the Altar, so also is He Himself the Door to the sheepfold and the Shepherd simultaneously.

This faithful Shepherd calls His sheep by name. He knows each one and leads all of them out to salutary meadows, as David extols in Ps. 23:1-3—The Lord is My Shepherd; I lack for nothing. He grazes me upon rich, green pasture and leads me to fresh water. He renews my soul; He leads me onto the right paths.

This Shepherd also goes before His sheep both with His holy teaching and with His holy life. He directs them on the right way through His Word and by His example. That’s why He also states in Matt. 16:24—Whoever would be My disciple (and My little sheep), let such one follow behind Me.

This same shepherd fidelity of the Lord Christ is prefigured for us by the fact that the holy Patriarchs often times were shepherds, as we, in particular, read about Jacob in Gen. 31:40 char he languished in Frost at night and in heat during the day, and no sleep came into his eyes.

To this point, everything has been about the Chief Shepherd. He, in turn, has under-shepherds, which consist of all faithful teachers and preachers. In keeping with Christ’s example, they are to faithfully graze the flock, direct them to the right Door, and guide the little lambs to Christ. Those who do otherwise, says Christ, are thieves and murderers, for they take away Christ’s glory; and they kill the souls of men through false doctrine, just as death devours little lambs in a poisoned pasture.

And since the Pharisees and Sadducees in particular falsified the doctrines, Christ consequently says of them: All who came before Me—that is, who came without Me and My deeds, who had not directed men to Me—were thieves and murderers. Here a shepherd must apply good caution and faithful zeal and not follow them, lest he poison the pasture for the perishing of souls. Instead, he should go to school with the Holy Spirit, the heavenly Doorkeeper, and take his word from the mouth of the Chief Shepherd, Christ. As Sr. Peter says in his first epistle, 4:11—If anyone speaks, that he speak the words of God.

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The LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not want, He maketh me to lie down in green pastures

Intro:  This coming Sunday is Good Shepherd Sunday, the 4th Sunday of Pascha (Easter).  The Gospel lesson is always selected from St. John 10: 1-18 and the Psalm is always the 23rd.  The 23rd Psalm is easily the most memorized, cited and beloved in the Psalter.   Next to the Our Father (the Lord’s Prayer) which is prayed in the English speaking world almost exclusively from the King James Version, so also the 23rd Psalm is most recognizable from the 1611 Version of  Holy Writ.  I think it is good to take a closer look at the 23rd Psalm and this is what I intend to do.  So first the entire 23rd Psalm from the King James Bible:

1The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

 2He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

 3He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

 4Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

 5Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil;  my cup runneth over.

 6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Verse 1a, “The LORD is my Shepherd”:  Before we even read verse 1 in a Bible, as most of the Psalms, there is for the 23rd an inscription:  “A Psalm of David”.  This already is an interpretative key.

Who was David? He was the greatest king of Israel in the history of monarchy.  But before that his first vocation was a shepherd. (1 Samuel 16: 10-11;  17: 15, 40).  Then David was chosen. David was a conqueror.  He was a musician and his music would calm the ravings of King Saul.  In fact, the founding date of Jerusalem is when he brought the Ark of the Covenant into the city.  In this Psalm, in this first verse he knows “The Lord is my shepherd” which means the great and  powerful  king knew he was  a sheep who could be lost, misguided, in danger without his good Shepherd leading  him as he knew he was prone to wander, to leave the one he loved and loved him:  forsaking the good Shepherd.   David found this out “big time”:  2 Samuel 11.  “I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments.”-Psalm 119: 176, the last verse

The first sentence of the Psalm is a metaphor and it is an absolute  equivalency:  The LORD = my Shepherd. This is the theme sentence of the entire Psalm, “…these words are brief but impressive and apt. The world glories  and trusts in honor, power, riches, and the favor of men. Our psalm, however, glories in none of these, for they are all uncertain and perishable. It says briefly, “The LORD is my shepherd.” (Luther’s Works, Volume 12, selected Psalms I)

Please note that when in a translation, LORD is so capitalized, this means that the Hebrew word is the Tetragrammaton, the 4 letters, YHWH , or Yahweh.  Rev. Professor James Luther Mays comments on this verse and meaning of Shepherd (emphases my own):

“In the ancient Near East the role and title of shepherd were used for leaders as a designation of their relation to the people in their charge. As a title, “shepherd” came to have specific royal connotation. Gods and kings were called the shepherd of their people. Both are described and portrayed with mace (rod) and shepherd’s crook (staff) as siglia of office. (see my photo above and verse 4-Pr. S.) In narrative, song, and prophecy the LORD is called the shepherd of Israel, his flock (Gen. 49:24; Pss. 28:9; 74:1; 95:7; 100:3; Jer. 31:10; Micah7:14). The LORD made David his undershepherd (Ps. 78:70-72), and the kings of Israel were judged as shepherds (Jer. 23:1-4; 49:20; Micah 5:4). The title had special associations with the LORD’S leading and protecting in the wilderness (Pss. 77:20; 78:52-53; 80:1) and in the return from the exile (Isa. 40:11; 49:9-10).

To say “The LORD is my shepherd” invokes all the richness of this theological and political background as well as the pastoral. The metaphor is not restricted to associations with what actual shepherds did; it is informed by what the LORD has done and what kings were supposed to do. One does not have to shift to images of guide and host to account for the whole poem. “Shepherd” understood against its usage in Israel accounts for the whole. The statement is a confession.  It declares commitment and trust. I t also has a polemical thrust againt human rulers and divine powers. the psalm entrusts the support, guidance, and protection of live only and alone to the one whose name is LORD.” (Interpretation:  Psalms/John Knox Press)”

So when the LORD became flesh and dwelt amongst us  full of grace and truth, He alone could say:  “I am the good Shepherd.”If Christ, your Shepherd, did not seek you and bring you back, you would simply have to fall prey to the wolf.  but now He comes, seeks, and find you.  He takes you into His flock, that is into Christendom, through the Word and Sacraments.”  (Luther, ibid)

Almighty God, merciful Father,  since You have wakened from death the Shepherd of Your sheep, grant us Your Holy Spirit that when we hear the voice of our Shepherd we may know Him who calls us each by name and follow where He leads; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

(Collect for the 4th Sunday of Easter)

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