Good Shepherd Sunday
May 3, 2020
“Belonging To Another”
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
The flowers today that grace this altar were given by Rich and Judy Bress, they are celebrating their 64th wedding anniversary on May 5. 64 years!! Every time Judy mentions how long they have been married I give her my sympathies. Judy chuckles, and Rich roars!! He knows I’m telling the truth. He doesn’t deserve her!!
They grew up in the same area around Primghar, Iowa. They started to date when Judy was a Freshmen in High School and Rich a Junior. If my math is correct, they have been an item for close to 70 years. I find it amazing that someone can belong to another for that long. Some of you have a ring on your finger and others a ring in your nose – they both tell you that you belong to another.
Belonging to another is more than just within marriage. People sharing the same employment belong to others. How about the connection you have developed at 8:00 in the evening making wild noises with your neighbors while you support the heroes who keep us safe? It is good to belong to another.
And, it is good to belong to Another – the one who deserves a capital A. It is good to belong to Jesus, our Good Shepherd. Today, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, is Good Shepherd Sunday. Every year we do this. Every year we read Psalm 23. Every year we hear the words of Jesus when He says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11) Of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, it says, “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 his sheep follow him because they know his voice.” (John 10:3b-4)
We, by the work of God’s Holy Spirit, belong to Him. This is all His doing – this is all His work. When I think of a shepherd I think of how tender and caring he can be. The shepherd embraces a little lamb, removing distress and worry. Here are a few verses that give us such a picture: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home.” (Luke 15:4-5) Or: “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those who have young.” (Isaiah 40:11) Or, this is what God says about His work as a shepherd, “For this is what the Sovereign Lords says, I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.” (Ezekiel 34:11-12)
The picture of this Shepherd is one of tranquility and peace. But I want you to also know about a Shepherd whose works makes His hands dirty and His clothes in tatters. I picture that Shepherd with a few teeth missing. Leon Morris in his commentary on this passage writes, “Nowadays we think about the shepherd in terms of tender care and concern for the flock, thoughts which are legitimate for the ancient world as for the modern. But we should not overlook the fact that for men of biblical times other associations were also aroused by the term. The shepherd was an autocrat over his flock…the shepherd imagery is used to emphasize the thought of sovereignty.” (Commentary on St. John, Pg. 498)
Psalm 23 begins with those familiar words, “The Lord is my shepherd…” then it says in verse 4, “I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Now, I brought the shepherd’s crook with me today, this is the rod that he is talking about. This is used to guide the sheep into the pen or it could be used to hit something that was intent on harming or killing those lambs. Do you know what a staff is? It is a short club usually studded with nails. It is a weapon. You better watch out for this shepherd. He knows how to use his bat!! Nothing quiet and tender here – no, he is aggressive, he is in charge – he is the one who will fight for his flock. “The Lord is my shepherd” is that shepherd.
In the spiritual sense your life and your soul are in a battle between God and Satan. Satan would love to destroy, hurt and maim you. He desires everything that is awful and terrible in your life. Joy? No, he’ll take it away. Peace? No, everything becomes chaos. Freedom? No, you’ll be controlled by your very weaknesses. But you have one who desires your good. Your Shepherd. Jesus. In John 10 the battle is spoken of like this, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that you may have life and have it to the full.” (Verse 10) It says that this Shepherd “lays down his life for the sheep.”
Our shepherd took His rod and His staff and He fought for you. Listen to this about the Shepherd, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep gone astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” (I Peter 2:24-25)
By grace you belong to Jesus. In this whole picture of a shepherd, Jesus introduces the picture of a door or a gate. This is one of the clearest passages about the simple way of receiving eternal life – only through faith in Jesus. Jesus said, “I am the gate, whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out and find pasture.” (John 10:9) He has made you His. He fought for you and claimed you as His. He is both gentle and tender and then strong and powerful, focused on your eternal victory. You belong to Another. You belong to Him. This is what Paul would say about belonging to Christ, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (I Corinthians 6:19-20)
You belong to Another. You belong to Jesus. In this wonderful chapter of John 10 we hear, “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 his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” (Verses 3b-5) You know the voice of Jesus who tells you of His love that is certain. You know His voice that would lead you in ways that are right and godly, holy and pure.
Who do you belong to? You belong to Another. You belong to Jesus – by pure grace, an open gate, the power of God’s Spirit in your life. You also belong to each other. There is a phrase that makes us realize how much we need each other during these days – “We’re all in this together.” Jesus, also, tells us how it is that we belong to each other. Jesus says, “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” (John 10:16) The Jews welcomed the Gentiles into this flock – everyone who called on Jesus became part of this one flock. When we look at the great needs that exist in our own area, state, country or world, we need to unite and say that we are all in this together – with our Shepherd leading us.
In our world that has become too isolated and lonely, there are some who will say these most painful words, “I don’t have anyone.” They believe they are all alone. You may believe that you are all alone and that there isn’t anyone who cares for you. That is not true. I hope someone has told you that you are loved by them. I hope you know that you belong to them in their gracious thoughts or prayers, by a phone call or a letter. You are part of the one flock – the Holy Christian Church, this Communion of God’s saints.
Today I especially want you to know that you belong to Another. You belong to Jesus. He is your Good Shepherd. He looks for you. Finds you. Puts you on His shoulder. He fights for you and will let nothing stand in the way of His continual compassion and strong rescue.
You and I belong to Another. And He belongs to us. Amen!!