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Posts Tagged ‘Shepherd’

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Text: St. John 10: 14-15

14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.

 “You know he owns you now.” It means a  person has something over you, something you really want from him and you want to get from him at all costs.  But when it is said of the Good Shepherd, you know He owns you now, there is only grace and peace, at the cost of His blood, the treasures of His grace..  He has bought you by laying down His life.  We are His own. There is nothing we can do to obtain what we want out of the Good Shepherd, and in particular, His love and salvation.  He gives it, the kingdom, the power and the glory by His sheer grace and mercy. He leadeth us.  He does not lead from behind, but in front of us,  His rod and His staff comfort us.   He forgives our debt when we confess our debt as we forgive our debtors.  He has found us.  When the disciples were hiding for the fear of their lives after the Good Shepherd’s crucifixion, after the sheep went astray everyone to his own way, running away, the Good Shepherd sought them out in their locked room to bring them again in His own fold, lambs of His own redeeming, sheep of His own flock. Is it any wonder that the Apostle Peter, who heard Jesus teach John 10, would write to the churches in his first letter:  

24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.  

Here the Apostle cited and allude to two passages from Isaiah 53, by His wounds you are healed, and we all like sheep have gone astray, everyone to his own way, the wounded and crucified and now risen Good Shepherd seeks His own.  He finds us, we do not find Him. I found Jesus, if that is true it means the Good Shepherd was lost.  Just the opposite we are. AS the hymn writer got it right of the human condition, 

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,

Prone to leave the God I love.

Here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it,

Seal it for Thy courts above. 

If He owns us, we are His own.  This means we are not the devil’s, nor sin nor death nor any power and principality. Rome, at the time of Jesus, had more slaves than freeman. Slavery is evil. A costly Civil War was waged in our nation for the freedom of slaves.  But there is a greater slavery, over the hearts and minds of men and women.  In a sense, in Rome, there was not one actual freeman or free woman.  Tyranny over the soul is wanting more and more, and enjoying it less and less. The idols are tyrants, demonic tyrants.  Sometimes they are quite human and yet all powerful, seemingly so:  from Napolean to Hitler to the Islamist overlords. Once giving into our desires and lusts, then I  know someone owns me. You are free to live as His own, but not free to sin as we please.  Inside the rotunda of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. is inscribed this noble sentiment by our third President:  “…I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” I dare say that Mr. Jefferson had in mind only political tyranny, but before there is political tyranny there is spiritual tyranny.  Political tyranny is hard to be rid of as we know with ISIS.  But tyranny of sin and the devil is pernicious and no political movement or party can free the heart, soul and mind.  No ruler nor lord on earth, of nations or culture, can free us spiritually, not even God’s Law, but God’s Son, Lord of lords, who walked upon the earth, born into our life and world, crucified and risen can free us, has and keeps us free. The Good Shepherd showed them His crucified hands, His lanced side from which came water and blood.  Christ Jesus protects us from the wolves of false doctrine, heretics, even man’s immorality we lust in.  His rod and His staff they comfort me. The Good Shepherd, 

“… 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.” (Pr. Johann Gerhard)

The hired hands are regularly on TV, sell many books

“Sheep don’t need self-help gurus.  Sheep don’t need false praise or self-affirming flattery from hired hands who are really out to fleece the sheep.  Sheep need a shepherd, a Good Shepherd, one who loves the Sheep.  Sheep need Jesus.  You need Jesus (Pr. Tony Sikora)

He makes us lie down and feed on the green pastures of His Word, the still water of our Baptism, in right pathways for His Name’s sake. The Good Shepherd calls us by name for the glory of His Name, which the Apostles began preaching after His resurrection. 

The Divine Service is nothing less nor more than the Good Shepherd calling us at least once a week into His sheep pen so that He may protect us and feed us directly.  So many say these days that worship is all about us praising God.  

If the Divine Service is viewed primarily as our praising God, then you can do that just as well from home. In fact, once we have looked at the topic of vocation, you will see that we can serve God better in the world than in the church building. But if the service is understood as God giving us the forgiveness of sins, then you’ve got to be there. It is very possible that the low attendance at Sunday services seen in so many churches today is a reflection of how we define the service. If I am acting, then I can do it another time.  But if it is God who acting, then I better be there.” (Pr. Klemet Preus) 

He owns us, as He has bought us back and brought us back, He knows us and we know Him.  He has called us by name.  And “knowing” is not some head knowledge alone, like knowing how to ride a bike, or swimming, knitting, etc. we know how to do that not only in the head but body and soul and the Lord as well!  Body and soul, true Man and true God, His wounds by which we are healed.   He knows us as His own. 

The Good Shepherd promised there will be one flock, one shepherd, and yet we see such a fracturing of the Church, many flocks indeed!  Yet, whoever has heard the voice of the Good Shepherd which is the call of repentance and the forgiveness of sins, knowing His wounds heal us, then throughout the many folds, there is one flock, one shepherd.  As it is confessed in the Lutheran confessions:

 “…thank God, a seven-year old child knows what the Church is, namely, holy believers and sheep who hear the voice of their Shepherd.  So children pray, ‘I believe in one holy Christian Church.’” 

O little flock, taste and see the Lord is good and His mercy endures forever. 

“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13)  

 

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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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