Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sermon -- 4th Sunday of Easter (April 26, 2015)

PSALM 23
THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD; I SHALL NOT WANT.

Pastor:            Alleluia!  Christ is risen!
Cong:              He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

In the name + of Jesus.

     The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. (Psalm 23:1)  What David confessed, Jesus elaborated on.  I am the good shepherd. (John 10:11)  Jesus is the Lord, and he is the shepherd.  He is not one of many shepherds.  We believe in one holy Christian and apostolic church, and so we believe that Jesus is the one shepherd and Savior of that Church.  There is no other Savior, and there is no other shepherd.  And as long as you have Jesus, you shall not want.  You will not lack anything that you truly need.
     But, if Jesus is your shepherd, that means that you are his sheep.  This is not really a compliment.  The point is not that you are cute.  When you tell stories that corrupt the details so that you come out looking noble and the other person is presented as heartless or stupid, you are not cute.  When you click onto immoral websites or fantasize over obscene images, you are not cute.  When you pray for or giggle at the misfortunes of a colleague because you don’t like her, you are not cute.
     You are a sheep, but it is not because you are cute.  It is because you are weak and defenseless.  Sheep do not have fangs or claws to fight back against their enemies.  They do not have speed to outrun predators, nor are they camouflaged to hide from them.  For that matter, sheep are not very aware of their vulnerability.  They are devoted to quietly grazing in the fields.  Sheep are easy pickin’s for the predators who would devour them.  This is you; for you are sinners.
     Sin, death, and the devil stalk you.  Quite often, you are unaware or unconcerned about these enemies, but even if you are, you are still defenseless against them.  Have you stopped sinning?  No, you still do.  Will you escape death?  No, no one does.  Does the devil leave you alone?  No.  Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)  He cannot snatch you out of the kingdom of God, but he will try to seduce you away from the flock and away from your shepherd.  He will entice you with a sweet sounding voice, telling you what your flesh wants to hear so that you listen to him rather than to your Good Shepherd.  Many Christians have been seduced by the sweet-sounding voice and have wondered from the faith.  Others have simply stopped listening to Jesus’ voice.  Be warned: Your enemies are very real.  They are relentless.  And you are sheep.  You cannot escape them or overcome them.  That is why you need a shepherd.
     And you have a shepherd.  In fact, you have the good one.  The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. (Psalm 23:1)  Jesus declared:  “I am the good shepherd.” (John 10:11)  With Jesus, you lack nothing that you truly need for this world, and especially for the world to come.  But that does not mean life is going to be easy.  It means that you need, and will always need, the Good Shepherd to speak to you, to guard and protect you, and to nourish and nurture you.
     King David wrote about the reality of life in this word: Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)  The valley of the shadow of death is not a place that sounds exciting or inviting.  Yet, we will all walk there.  You cannot escape death no matter how devout of a Christian you are.  We have all been stained with sin, and so we all have a death to face.
     But even in the valley of the shadow of death, the Lord is my shepherd and I will not want for anything.  The choice of words David used is significant.  Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. (Psalm 23:4)  Although you cannot escape going to the grave, that does not mean you have no hope.  Jesus Christ remains your shepherd.  Not even death separates you from him.  That is because your good shepherd has gone into death already for you. 
     The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.  Everything your good shepherd does is for the good of his flock, for you.  He takes his stand between you and your enemies.  Though sin should condemn you, Jesus has saved you from this enemy.  He stood in your place.  He took the blows of God’s wrath for you.  He laid down his life for the sheep.  It seemed as though death had claimed Jesus, but in fact, Jesus has claimed death!  The Good Shepherd has taken his life up again.  So, although death comes for you, Jesus saved you from this enemy.  He went into death for you in order to destroy the power of the grave by his resurrection.  And that is why you will pass through the valley of the shadow of death!  Your Good Shepherd shall raise you up to eternal life.
     The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.  With Jesus Christ, you lack nothing.  He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. (Psalm 23:3)  Everything Jesus does is for his name’s sake.  That means Jesus does everything for us based on his perfect love and infinite wisdom.  No matter what you endure, it is for your good.  Once again, that does not mean he makes life easy for us.  Sometimes the path of righteousness can be pretty difficult to walk on.  Sometimes, it is downright painful.  Consider King David.  For several years of his life, he was on the run because King Saul wanted to kill him.  David knew he was the Lord’s anointed, and yet the Lord subjected him to persecution by his enemy.  The Lord did not hate David or even neglect him.  The Lord had David walk this difficult and painful path because—believe it or not—it was good for him.  The Lord, in his wisdom, decided that David needed to endure this.  But David did not endure it alone.  The Good Shepherd was always with him.  Though it was not a fun lesson, David learned that his life was in God’s hands.  His strength was in God’s promises.  His security came only by God’s protection.  Even though he would be king, David was reminded that he was weak and helpless.  He needed his Good Shepherd.  And though David’s life was filled with uncertainty and stress and fear, he did not want.  With the Good Shepherd, he had everything he needed.
     Now, David’s lesson is no different than yours.  Chances are, no one is trying to hunt you down to kill you.  Nevertheless, your life is also full of uncertainty and stress and fear.  It is a constant reminder that you need your Good Shepherd.  He does not promise to make life easy.  He promises to defend you against the enemies who would do you real, everlasting harm. 
     If you truly want peace and rest in the midst of a sinful world, then stay close to your shepherd and pay attention to his voice.  The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.  No, you lack nothing with Jesus.  His rod and staff, that is—his word and his sacraments, always defend you and comfort you, even with the enemies surrounding you.  King David wrote: You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. (Psalm 24:5)  The enemies will always be there.  Sin, death, and the devil will always be around you.  But they cannot harm you—not when your Good Shepherd is with you and not when you are with him.  In fact, Jesus sets out the table so that you can celebrate and feast in the midst of these enemies.  Sin wants to have you?  Ha!  We feast here for the forgiveness of sins.  Death wants to claim you?  Ha!  We have the body and blood of our risen and ever-living Lord to give us eternal life.  Satan still accuses you?  Ha!  Jesus overrules him.  Your Good Shepherd lives to intercede for you and to console you with words of comfort and salvation.  That is why the sheep listen to their shepherd: He has the words of eternal life.
     Because the LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.  I lack no good thing for this world and for the world to come.  Therefore, each of us rejoices to confess with King David: I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (Psalm 23:6)


In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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