Misericordias Domini, The Third Sunday of Easter: The Lord is my Shepherd

Lessons: Ezekiel 34:11-16, 1 Peter 2:21-25, John 10:11-16
Hymns: LSB 478, 666, 740, 710, 709, 692

      Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

      There’s a series of books we used to read to our son. They all begin with “That’s not my.” One book is, “That’s not my lamb.” Each page has a picture of a lamb and something to touch. One would be spots, “Its spots are too fluffy” or “Its back is too fuzzy.” Finally, on the last page, it says, “That’s my lamb. Its ears are so soft.”

      Perhaps we need a book for Christians called, “That’s not my Shepherd.” An obvious one would include a picture of the devil. That’s not my Shepherd. He’s too evil. You see, Jesus says His sheep know Him and His voice. And Peter says that God’s people were straying like sheep but have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of their souls. Christians need to recognize that we can easily be shepherded astray if we do not place our true Good Shepherd first.

      False teachers are not my shepherd. They lie, they tear me away from the pure doctrine recorded in the Scripture. They are wolves, who may appear to be as kind and gentle as innocent sheep.

      The government is not my shepherd. While there is much good in our government, we must not look to it in all times of trouble as if it is our messiah. God establishes government, yet sinful people run it. Perhaps we need to remember the words of JFK, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

      The Democratic Party is not my shepherd. The Republican Party is not my shepherd. We’re seeing way too much partisanship these days as elected leaders are not representing their people, but they are toeing the line within their party. And we, too, as citizens must remember that one party or the next is not our shepherd. While civic duty is good and so is being informed, if we find ourselves getting angry over politics, we ought to take a step back, turn off the media that’s feeding us, and commend it all to the Lord in prayer. As Christians, we know God is ultimately in charge anyway, and He will take care of us.

      This also means FOX News, MSNBC, CNN, or any other media outlet is not my shepherd. We may learn current events through them, but since they expose our hearts and minds to all sorts of evil in society (reported to us as “news”), we must limit our time with them, or we, too, will fall. Ask yourselves, are you shepherded more hours per week in the Word of God or in these “news” stations?

      Social media is not my shepherd. Society is becoming increasing agitated. Anger is everywhere. Social media is spewing hate in ways spun around to make it look like justice is served or rights are being defended. Systemic this or that is being presented to make those in any type of majority guilty of crimes they didn’t commit. Americans spend countless hours being fed and fueled by mind-changing, thoughtless, loveless social media.

       Video games are not my shepherd. They’re addictive and mind-numbing as they callous our consciences to violence. A man once told me when he saw his grandson spending countless hours playing video games but could not get his Catechism memory work done, “I just wish there was a video game help kids learn the Catechism.”

      Contemporary music is not my shepherd. Many think the silver bullet to saving our youth and keeping them in the church is to get the Church to match the musical preference of the youth. But there is no single musical style, and the Church cannot incorporate rap, country, pop, hard rock, soft rock, techno, screamo, alternative—you get my point—to match what is supposedly a single style. How about offering that which has its roots in Bible times and boldly confesses our true Savior? That is, why not continue with what we’re doing?

      Television is not my shepherd. In addition to the Church trying to match the professionals in their secular music, many in the Church are trying to match Hollywood or the NFL through dramatic presentations. There’s no way the Church can present a well-orchestrated media event that will match Amazon’s upcoming TV Series on the Lord of the Rings. Their first season is costing them a record-breaking $465M! If we recognize our true Shepherd, we wouldn’t even be tempted to turn the Church into a concert or media hall. These don’t shepherd us.

      Do you know what all these lack that cannot be matched by what you already have here? The personal reality of our Savior. Those in media and government do not know you. If you write to them, they probably won’t read your letter themselves and you’ll likely get a canned response sent by a staff member.

      Instead of all these other shepherds out there who are leading me astray or ultimately don’t care about me, the Lord is my Shepherd. We heard Jesus, our Good Shepherd, speak in today’s Gospel, “I am the Good Shepherd.”

      The Lord is my Shepherd. He lays down His life for the sheep. Unlike ordinary shepherds who made their living off the sheep, Jesus made it possible for the sheep to live. Not only did God create us, but He gives us the opportunity to receive eternal life. For Jesus went to the cross, shed His innocent Blood on our behalf, bore our sins in His Body, and rose victoriously from the grave. He lives to shepherd you home so that you can dwell eternally with Him.

      The Lord is my Shepherd. He receives me, a sinner into His fold. He baptized me into His family. He feeds me His Body and Blood for the forgiveness of all my sin. I am righteous in Him.

      The Lord is my Shepherd. He loves me every day the same, even calls me by my name. I am the apple of His eye and He even knows the number of hairs on my head.

      The Lord is my Shepherd. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil.

      The Lord is my Shepherd. He gently guides me. He knows my need and well provides me.

      The Lord is my Shepherd. He feeds me. He not only gives me what I need to live in this life, but He also feeds me His Word and Sacrament so that I can receive eternal life.

      The Lord is my Shepherd. Upon His resurrection, He established the office of pastor so that His Word would have free course among us and be spread throughout the world. He sends pastors after His own heart to declare to us the wonderful works of God. He establishes churches where we live so that we can hear the true voice of our Good Shepherd.

      The Lord is my Shepherd. He is kind to me. He never lets me down. He never misleads me or deceives me. He is always there for me. He hears all my prayers and answers them according to His will.

      The Lord is my Shepherd. He is the Word made flesh. His Word is sure and certain. Nothing He says is false. He is only concerned with teaching me the Truth.

      A man in history who was also concerned with the truth was Martin Luther. Of course, he’s not the Lord and he isn’t the Good Shepherd. Yet his writings, drawn from Scripture, have certainly shepherded us Lutherans. After learning true doctrine as recorded in the Bible, he would not allow false teachers and false teachings to shepherd him, for he would only be shepherded by his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 500 years ago, the Reformation was underway, and Luther was being bullied as he had been excommunicated from the Roman church for clinging to the pure doctrine of the Bible. Now, he was being threatened with being declared an outlaw who could then be burned at the stake or suffer other torture.

      On this day in 1521, Martin Luther gave his very famous “Here I stand” speech before the Emperor Charles V. He was asked to recant his writings. In the end, Luther would not recant and boldly declared, “Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. I cannot do otherwise, here I stand, may God help me, Amen” (LW 32:112–13).

      The Lord shepherded Luther. He saw to it that Luther would not be burned at the stake. Luther’s friends staged a kidnapping when Luther was traveling back to Wittenberg. They brought him to the Wartburg Castle, where he stayed for the next 10 months. While Luther was there, he continued to write, and he translated the New Testament from Greek into German. While others had done some Bible translating before Luther, they translated from Latin instead of the Bible’s original languages. Luther’s translation became the standard for others as they translated the Bible into other languages.

      For the Lord is my Shepherd. I know Him and He knows me. We know Him because we hear the voice of our Good Shepherd. Our Lord, who is very personal, speaks to us. We can understand Him. He doesn’t use foreign tongues or clangs of cymbals to communicate; instead, He speaks to us in our own language, as did the Apostles at Pentecost. We hear the wonderful works of God in English. We hear that Jesus paid for our sins on the cross and rose triumphantly from the grave. Our shepherd knows us personally. He loves us and laid down His life for us. He lives, and so shall we. Amen.        

     The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting. Amen