29 April 2006

Homily for Good Shepherd Sunday

When Christ announces that He is the Good Shepherd and the Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep, he is teaching us that He is the only One to whom his disciples can look for help and protection against sin, death, and the devil. He calls these things that would devour and scatter his little flock “the wolf.” And He teaches that He alone can help the sheep because the sheep are His; they belong to Him.

He contrasts Himself with the hired-hands. According to Dr. Luther, do not mistake these to be false preachers and pastors, but the hired hands are all who came before our Lord’s incarnation. Yes, even Moses and all the prophets. You see, they were servants of the Lord’s sheep, but they did not own the flock. And no matter how much they preached and taught, neither Moses nor the prophets had the wherewithall to stop the wolf from devouring and scattering the flock.

So because this was the situation, the Son of God himself took on our flesh and blood from the Blessed Virgin Mary to fulfill the prophecy of Ezekiel: “I myself will seek out my sheep.” Thus He came among us as one of us, He who had created us in the beginning - “for all things were made through Him and without Him was not anything made that was made.” He thus came to those who were His own by virtue of their creation, and even though we had fallen into sin and become the prey of the devil, sin, and death, He came to redeem us, to buy us back, to lay down His life for us, so that He might not merely be our Creator, but also our divine Redeemer, our Savior, our Shepherd. Thus He “did not cease to do all things until He had brought us up to heaven and bestowed on us His kingdom to come.” But all this is only in Him.

Whoever hopes to survive the onslaught of the devil, our own sinfulness, and death, has no other help or hope. In the end, either the Good Shepherd or the wolf will have you.

So hear the voice of your Shepherd, people loved by God! He comes to you not to take from you, but to give to you. He laid down His perfect life in place of your forfeited and imperfect life. He says to the Wolf - “You cannot have that one. You must have me instead.” And so He gives His life into death to destroy your death. And so He places His sinless soul over you to protect you from the terrifying teeth of the wolf.

Thus when the wolf comes howling at you and tries to frighten and alarm you, you must not listen to what it says. Rather, you listen to the voice of your Good Shepherd, the One who laid down his life for you. The One who waged war with that Wolf and won long ago. It is the voice of Your Shepherd who speaks to calm you: “Do not let the sin you struggle with or the thought of your death or the devil’s accusations frighten you. I have forgiven all your sins by my death; I have destroyed death’s power over you by My rising; and I descended into hell and took the keys of hell and death that Satan could never again have any right or claim on you. You are mine, my very own. Mine because I made you and doubly mine because I redeemed you. Did I not wash you in the baptismal water and mark you with my cross as my own dear possession forevermore. You are my sheep and I am your Good Shepherd. And so every need of yours I can and I will provide for. Only trust me.”

This is the voice of the Good Shepherd that the sheep hear. And they soon learn to know when it is His voice they are hearing, and they learn to flee from anyone who comes to them speaking something else. Any voice that invites them to fear the wolf, to run from God in panic over sin and guilt, or from fear of death or the devil. No, they know that any voice urging such things is NOT the voice of their Shepherd.

And where does our Good Shepherd’s lovely voice ring out more clearly, more sweetly for you, than at the Table He prepares for you in the presence of your enemies? “For this Sacrament is the Gospel.” What sin can accuse the one who trusts and receives the Blood of Christ? That is the blood that atoned for the sin of the world! Our Good Shepherd spilled it in your place. Given to you it marks you as His, blood-bought and paid for. What death can attack the one who trusts and receives the Body of Christ? This is one Body that Death will never forget. Death took hold of that body once but could not hold onto it; rather death was shattered by it. When that body enters you, death groans that it has lost another!

“I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep....I have other sheep not of this fold, them also I must bring and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock and one Shepherd.”

And that’s where you and I come in, so that all He first said to the Apostles applies to us. We are the other sheep He was speaking of, Gentiles not of the fold of Israel originally, but led into the joys and privileges of Jesus’ flock by hearing the Voice of our Shepherd and following where He leads. And herein is the true and only unity of the Christian Church - that we are all but little sheep who hear and know the voice of our Shepherd, and that we have no other Shepherd but Him alone, our Good Shepherd, the One who laid down His life for us. “For you were straying like sheep, but have now been returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls, even Jesus Christ.” In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

13 comments:

James Ramsey said...

Is this a sermon that you will be preaching tomorrow, or soon, or one that you preached previously? If one previously, could you post several of your most recently preached sermons? Thanks.

William Weedon said...

If there is no date on the sermon, that means it is one that I am preaching presently. I just preached this one this evening and will preach it again tomorrow.

William Weedon said...

James,

Can I ask why you ask? The more I have thought of it, the odder the question seemed.

Also, when I say not dated, I mean that in the body of the text I do not note: "preached last year" as I did for Quasimodogeniti (I was on vacation at St. Paul's this year that week and did not preach). Obviously the blogger dates every post; I wasn't including such dating in my previous comment.

A weak and frightened sheep. said...

Pastor Weedon,

Thank you for these words about our Good Shepherd. There is much in this world that causes us to fear, our own sin, the sin that assails us, death and the devil. How often I stray in my sin, like a foolish little lamb.

This Sunday in the church year is always a great comfort to me for it points me away from myself, my sin and the world and puts my eyes on Jesus who is The Good Shepherd, my Good Shepherd.

Thank you.

William Weedon said...

Dear Sheep,

I'm glad the sermon brought you comfort.

Pax!

A Sheep said...

Dear Pastor Weedon,

You have no idea. I only wish that your fellow Lutheran clergy would preach such a message on this text. One should not come away from a sermon with fear that God may take away His grace or be led to consider that great trouble and trials are likely to come of the sort that one may not be able to stand up against them. One should not be pointed to Christ as an example to follow. How devestating such thoughts are to the mind and soul of a sheep. The sheep can never measure up to the example of Christ. Is that not why Christ came? God's grace is all this sheep has, will it be there for me when greater trials do come? What if this sheep is already struggling with present trials and persecutions, is there any hope for the future?

The sheep need their loving Shepherd, they need His gifts, they cannot, must not fear Him.

Your sermon on the Shepherd gave hope, assurance and confidence that He will not abandon me. Come what may.

Be faithful dear undershepherd of Christ, and encourage your fellow undershepherds in standing firm. There are too many of us sheep who need you to be strong, and unmoveable in your confession, practice and preaching. God be with you, Pastor Weedon. Many of us sheep pray often for you pastors of our churches.

William Weedon said...

Dear Sheep,

Beware, though, of making an either/or out of a both/and. In the epistle for yesterday, St. Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, specifically told us: "But even hereunto were ye called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps." (1 Peter 2:21) Our blessed Lord is of course our Savior, but one of the gifts that He gives us is His example for us to follow, specifically in regards to suffering.

Pax!

a sheep said...

Yes, you are correct, that was indeed the epistle, and certainly what you say is true. One of the marks of a Christian is that we will face suffering, hardship and persecution. You've caught me- my post appears to be all black and white - in haste I wrote. Yes, certainly Christ kept the law perfectly for us and because there is a written record of His doing so (God's record) there is an example for us to look to and attempt to pattern our lives after. And that is as Scripture says, a proper way to see Him but it is not the main thing. The main thing is that He came for us who could not fullfill the demands of His Father. He came for us who are weak and fearful whose faith wavers under pressure and trial. He came for us sinners, to be sin for us. He did not come as the great example. That is not what was promised in the Garden, that is not what the children of Israel waited and watched for, nor is it what His death on the cross was all about.

It is also true, that through His Word and Sacrament He is in us and we in Him and thus we are not on our own, alone or completely unable to live as children of the light. His Holy Spirit does create and work a new man inside of me that is able resist the devil, the world and my own sinful flesh. The problem is that Old Man who keeps rearing his ugly head in me. At the end of the day what you preach to me has to be run through the cross of Christ - what you say cannot stand without being run through the cross. There can be no question about where our hope comes from or where in this case, our shepherd is for us. That must overshadow all the rest. Yes? Or have I missed something?

The preacher's word should leave me confident that come what may, my Shepherd will guard, protect and keep me safe from the evils of sin, death and Satan, the hungry wolf that seeks to devour me.

I heard some of that yesterday, but not enough. It was not absent, but was competeing to be heard. That is not good enough.

My original post was not intended to start a dialog or debate or even to pit one sermon or preacher against another. But it has turned out that way. Forgive me and thank you again for the words of comfort I read in your Homily for Good Shepherd Sunday.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Fr. Weedon for this beautiful sermon! How often I have read, chanted or sung the 23rd Psalm and never made the connection that "The Table Prepared in the Presence of Mine Enemies" is... THE Table... The Table of His Gifts of His Body and Blood for my forgiveness!!! The more I read that Psalm now... the richer is seems to me!

What sweet words of comfort!

Is not also the "still waters" a reminder of the waters of my Baptism as well?

Matt

William Weedon said...

Matt,

Indeed it is. And I'll bet you can also figure out the truth of "Thou anointest my head with oil"... : )

Anonymous said...

Father Weedon...

Yes indeed...actually that had ocurred to me... and I had intended to mention it as well... but alas... got in a hurry and forgot :)

Anointest my head with oil is the foretaste of Holy Chrismation and the sealing with the gift of the Holy Spirit no?

Matt

Rosko said...

Chrismation? Is it not also Holy Unction? Both/and?

Rosko

Anonymous said...

mmm I bet it is both / and... I wass thinking of Chrismation... didn't occur to me Holy Unction. :)

But I bet it is both :)

Matt