Sunday, April 26, 2009

Misericordias Domini, The Second Sunday after Easter

The Shepherd and His Sheep, by Norma Boeckler

Misericordias Domini, The Second Sunday after Easter

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Bethany Lutheran Worship, 8 AM Phoenix Time

Mid-Week Lenten Services are Thursdays at 6 PM.

The Hymn #201 Jesus Lives 2.81
The Confession of Sins
The Absolution
The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual 1 Peter 2:11-20
The Gospel John 10:11-16
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #A Hymn of Glory 2:93

The Hired Hand vs. The Good Shepherd

The Hymn #205 The Day of Resurrection 2:90
The Preface p. 24
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn #656 Behold a Host 2:39

KJV 1 Peter 2:11 Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; 12 Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation. 13 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; 14 Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. 15 For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: 16 As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. 17 Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king. 18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. 19 For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. 20 For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.

KJV John 10:11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. 12 But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. 13 The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. 15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.

Second Sunday After Easter
Lord God, heavenly Father, who of Thy fatherly goodness hast been mindful of us poor, miserable sinners, and hast given Thy beloved Son to be our shepherd, not only to nourish us by His word, but also to defend us from sin, death, and the devil: We beseech Thee, grant us Thy Holy Spirit, that, even as this Shepherd doth know us and succor us in every affliction, we also may know Him, and, trusting in Him, seek help and comfort in Him, from our hearts obey His voice, and obtain eternal salvation, through the same, Thy Son Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

The Hired Hand vs. The Good Shepherd

Once I got an anonymous email telling me that Jesus was never negative, but he must have forgotten this passage and many more like this. This lesson is a warning against the hired hand and the wolf who devours and scatters the flock.

In this Gospel lesson, Jesus compares His own role to that of the hired hand. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.

When people follow a hired hand, someone who wants to fatten himself as a minister, they fall prey to several evils at once. The hireling does not protect them against the wolf, but abandons them to the wolf, who destroys the souls of some and scatters the rest, who are utterly lost and confused.

Church history has many examples of charismatic figures who spoke in God’s Name and led people into destruction. One was Thomas Muentzer, who incited the Peasants Revolt in Germany. When the battle came, he ran away and hid in a pile of hay. Thousands died - and many went back to the Church of Rome, blaming Luther for the slaughter. Luther is still blamed for the battle today, because Muentzer was a Protestant. Muentzer claimed to received his instructions directly from God, not from the Scriptures, so he was an Enthusiast of the worst sort.

Today many of the hired hands are watching their empires collapse. They fleeced millions of dollars from people to build palaces that would proclaim God was on their side. They borrowed millions more for the mortgages, which are now in default. When the house of cards blows down, the sheep are that much more a prey for the anti-Christian cults. If a sect is authoritarian and abusive, its members are trained to respond to the same kind of leadership from a clearly anti-Christian cult, like the Mormons or JWs.

Many religious leaders today portray Jesus as so loving that He would never speak against anything. They want their flocks to be as indolent and spiritually lazy as they are. And many prefer that as well. There is much less trouble when religious indifference is taught and practiced.

In the “Godspell” movie, the Jesus figure tells the Parable of the Last Judgment. The sheep and the goats are divided according to their good works reflected their faith in Christ. At the end, the sheep are invited into Paradise. Next, the goats are also invited. The message – it does not matter what people believe and do.

Jesus repeatedly warned His followers against false doctrine. Matthew 7 is well known but mostly ignored in application:

KJV Matthew 7:15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. 21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

Paul also used the figure of the wolf:

KJV Acts 20:28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. 29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. 31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.

The Reformation was a time of constant trial for all the religious leaders. When Luther died, the unity he created by preaching the Word was wrecked by weak and false teachers. The weak ones gave in to the false teachers inside and outside the flock. And yet, all those problems led to the Book of Concord, thanks to the leadership of men who were faithful to the Lutheran Reformation: Chemnitz, Chytraeus, Selnecker, Andreae.

As anyone can see, one error leads to another. My original training was in the LCA, which never took the Book of Concord seriously. I owned the Tappert edition but no college or seminary course dealt with the content of this great theological work. That reflected the general attitude in the LCA that nothing after 1530 (the Augsburg Confession) mattered. Also, no one wanted to identify with the Missouri Synod.

The biggest wave of apostasy has swept over all churches in America because of “one man, one book, and one seminary.” (Someone coined that phrase, but I cannot remember who.) The man was a sociologist, McGavran, who earned a secular PhD from Columbia University. The book was Understanding Church Growth. The seminary was—and is—Fuller in Pasadena.

“Donald McGavran is the father of the movement.
C. Peter Wagner is its systematician.
Win Arn has introduced America to church growth principles.
And Lyle Schaller, not really connected with the roots of the movement, is a guru of church planning whose advice is respected by those who are at the root of the Movement.”

The concept was simple – use statistical methods to find trends in the Christian church and copy “what works.” That quickly led to marketing methods, dropping anything suspected of being a “barrier to church growth.”

For Lutherans to adopt this, they first had to overcome their resistance to unionism and start listening to false teachers. They knew it was wrong so they lied about it.

The false teachers flattered them, saying, “You are in a Biblical church. Just do the right things and you will grow faster than weeds.” The right things meant dropping the liturgy, getting rid of the great hymns, and turning the sermon into a pep talk: how to have more time, how to have more friends, how to be happy.
The false teachers all hated Lutheran doctrine and spread their loathing to their Lutheran converts. The Lutheran gurus began saying or thinking, “Lutherans are not evangelistic. We have to be just like the Baptists.”

Willow Creek started in a movie theatre, so that is the venue to covet. Rent a theatre and all will be well.

My wife and I were at a Starbucks. Right behind us was a coffeehouse minister, talking to a woman. When she left, he ordered his third cup of coffee. No wonder they have closed over 600 Starbucks. Another factor in the closings would be the so-called church where they offer couches and coffee during the service. As WELS pastor Randy Hunter says, “It works.” Whenever churches compete for commerce (gambling, restaurants, coffeehouses, entertainment) the Gospel loses.

Institutions rise and fall. One of the greatest empires of all times – Great Britain – is only a shadow of what it was 100 years ago. Macy’s, one chain we shop at, is ready to close. Their ads recently said, “We have always been there – and in the movies too.” Not always. The existence of a given congregation or denomination is temporary.

The Word of God remains forever. This is a life or death issue. When falsehood is taught, souls are gathered by Satan. The purpose of the true Church is to preach the Word and administer the Sacraments in accordance with the Scriptures.

The parents of our very good friend died a few days ago. Church was important to them. They saw the gradual demise of the ALC and the confusion in the Missouri Synod. I once wrote an article that seemed too academic for most people, about how the ALC declined. They were on the phone when it came out – they loved it because they saw it happen around them.

When someone in the family dies, the message of the Gospel is the only comfort we have. Everything else is transitory. No one says, “But they were at a very large church,” anymore than they say, “But they were in a small church.”

The central unifying event of the Christian Church is the resurrection of Christ. He died on the cross for the sins of the world, but no one knew it at the time. The disciples were afraid and locked in a room, a week after the resurrection. After repeated resurrection appearances and training by the risen Lord, the disciples began to teach all that the Holy Spirit gave them to remember.

Are we to think that the atoning death took place on a random date and not recognize the liturgical calendar? One of the most important details of the crucifixion is the piercing of Jesus (fulfilling the Scriptures), because of the Jewish high holy days. The next event was Pentecost, another Jewish holiday, when the Holy Spirit sent them out to preach.

The Pentecostals never celebrate Good Friday – too Catholic. They never celebrate the Day of Pentecost – too Catholic. The Pentecostal/Baptist break with the liturgical year is accompanied by a similar break with the Sacraments and the efficacy of the Word. Everything we associate with orthodox Lutheranism is faithful to the Old Testament, from the efficacy of the Word to the nature of Sacraments (God’s Word plus earthly elements). The Old Testament is liturgical, high church, with a definite calendar – but those who claim to be Biblical break with all that in favor of their emotionalism.

Knowing the Word is effective at all times, we know that proclaiming the resurrection of Christ is eternal-life giving. Wherever the Gospel is preached, death is conquered as souls are snatched away from Satan.

John 10:14
I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.

This verse alone is a source of great comfort. Jesus knows every single believe by name. When we are baptized, we are given a Christian name, or christened. That means every soul has a name. The very fact that we respond with delight to the Savior’s voice means we belong to Him. We cannot believe on our own. Christ plants faith in our hearts through the Word. Through this faith we receive all the benefits of the Christian faith. As Luther said so tenderly, “He is just as anxious for us as we are for Him.”

Just the opposite is true of those who reject Christ. I have known many of them, and I have seen pastors turn into enemies of Christ. Instead of gladly hearing the voice of their Master, they cringe and reject His message. They mock His death and resurrection. They openly doubt the existence of God or the reality of His love. All the blessings of the faith are curses to them because they belong to their Father Below.

Jesus made so many comparisons, to help us understand our relationship to Him. Anyone with animals knows how this works. We give our animals names, and those names matter. Our Cattle Dog lies on the carpet, looking at me, waiting for my next words. So I say, “Are you being a good Sassy?” The tail thumps. If I type too long, she reaches from the bed and taps my shoulder for attention. And of course, when she is guilt of an infraction, she does not want to be anywhere close.

John 10:16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.

We do not come to Jesus. He comes to us through the Word and Sacraments. As our Good Shepherd, He provided for us before we existed. His Gospel provisions are an example of the abundance of God’s love, because His Word is full of promises and blessings. He surrounds us with many opportunities to hear the Gospel and to speak about our hope. God’s efficacious Word alone is evangelism, gathering into one flock the true Church, made up of those who trust in the merits of Christ alone for their salvation.

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