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4th Weekend of Easter (A/RCL) May 6 & 7: "I am the Good Shepherd."

Fourth Weekend of Easter (A/RCL): “I am the Good Shepherd.”

John 10:1-10

May 6-7, 2017

Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Manasquan, NJ

          Hopefully you each have a prayer card. 

·         Who’s it of? [The Good Shepherd]

·         How do you know?

o   Lamb around His neck?

o   Halo?

o   Shepherd’s crook?

·         What do you see at His feet? [Briars and brambles]

·         Why is Jesus called the Good Shepherd? [He calls Himself that!  John 10:11)

·         Why does He choose to call Himself the Good Shepherd?

o   Jesus often bases His teaching on the Old Testament; in Hebrew Scripture God is referred to as shepherd of the flock, e.g.:

§  Psalm 23: The Lord is my shepherd….

§  King David was a shepherd when he was a boy!  (Remember the slingshot he used to kill Goliath?  That was the weapon he used to scare off wolves and other predators and protect the sheep.)  

§  The prophet Ezekiel (34:15-16) writes that God says:

“I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord GOD.  I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy.  I will feed them with justice.”

o   Jesus fits the bill!  As He Himself says, He lays down His life for the sheep….

John Chrysostom was a great Christian preacher.  Chrysostom is a nickname that means “Golden-tongued.”  I think there’s at least one thing he got wrong, though.  He wrote:

“If people don’t follow Jesus, it doesn’t prove he’s not a shepherd –

it indicates they’re not sheep.”

How can that be??  Those who aren’t following aren’t “non-sheep”!  They are lost, strayed, injured, weak members of the flock, like we heard in that passage from Ezekiel.    And they’re so important to the shepherd, St. Luke tells us (Luke 15:4) that the shepherd is willing to leave 99 sheep unsupervised to find the 1 who has nibbled itself lost!

“When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’”  (Luke 15:5-6)

That’s probably the passage on which our artist (Philippe de Champaigne) based his painting of the Good Shepherd.

·         Who are some modern day shepherds? [teachers, coaches, pastors, parents, physicians, counselors, politicians, etc.]

·         Sadly, they’re not always trustworthy, are they?   God loves the flock so much that in the book of the prophet Ezekiel (chapter 34) the Lord promises to punish unfaithful shepherds:  2bAh, you shepherds, you have been feeding yourselves!  Should not shepherds feed the sheep? 3 You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not feed the sheep.  4You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, you have not brought back the strayed, you have not sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled them.  5So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd; and scattered, they became food for all the wild animals… 10Thus says the Lord GOD, I am against the shepherds; and I will demand my sheep at their hand….  I will rescue my sheep…..”

·         What’s missing from the picture on the prayer card? [The flock] 

We can make our love of the Good Shepherd too much of a “Jesus and me” thing.  We need to remember always that:

·         The Lord seeks the lost sheep to return it to its place within the flock, and:

·         The Lord makes us sheep into shepherds.  How else does God:

o    seek the lost,

o   bring back the strayed,

o   bind up the injured,

o   strengthen the weak, and

o   feed the flock with justice

except through the members of the flock??  We are to call each other by name, as the Good Shepherd calls us by name.  That’s not just an assignment for the Evangelism Committee, it’s on the working papers of every baptized Christian! 

“He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.  They will not follow a stranger….” 

(John 10:3b-5a)

            Think of the difference in your relationship between your primary care doctor whom you’ve known for the past 20 or 30 years and the specialist who’s meeting you for the first time and has to check the chart to learn or be reminded of your name.  The primary care doctor doesn’t just know your name; he or she knows your story.  What a comfort that is!  And what a comfort in the family of faith to be known and loved by people who know our story….

            Strengthened by our fellowship and our sharing in holy communion with each other and with God, we then follow our Good Shepherd out into the world where we are called to:

o   seek the lost,

o   bring back the strayed,

o   bind up the injured,

o   strengthen the weak, and

o   feed the flock with justice.

We do that through our outreach ministries like the Furniture Bank and the Linen Brigade, our involvement with the food pantry and with Family Promise, and the first baby steps we’re taking toward our hoped-for participation in the resettling of refugees.  The Good Shepherd’s flock is so much bigger than Holy Trinity, bigger than our ministerium, bigger than the NJ Synod and our Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and bigger than the Body of Christ.  Every human being is a lamb in the Good Shepherd’s flock…. And every believer is called to help shepherd others.

            When you look at this painting of our beloved Good Shepherd, remember who’s missing and where He’s headed: to return the lost lamb to the flock and to lead the flock wherever it needs to go to:

o   seek the lost,

o   bring back the strayed,

o   bind up the injured,

o   strengthen the weak,

o   and feed the [world] with justice.

Amen.

Pastor Mary Virginia Farnham