Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston & Mount Ayr, Iowa;
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:1–10, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Who’s your shepherd? Maybe that seems like an odd question. But I think it’s a fair one. Who’s your shepherd? We have after all designated a whole Sunday service to the “Good Shepherd.” So when I ask, “who’s your Shepherd,” you may quickly reply, “Well Pastor, that’s obvious, The Lord is my Shepherd! Just end the sermon right now and let’s all go home.” The Lord is my Shepherd, is indeed the answer to the question, but maybe we should think about it just a little bit more before we go home to lunch in the oven.
Who’s your Shepherd? It is an important question. It’s important because the Lord isn’t the only shepherd out there. The Lord seems to have lots of competition, especially these days, especially these very busy days. Maybe even though you say The Lord is my Shepherd, you are really listening to one of the others. Maybe you’re straying from the Good Shepherd’s flock. Maybe one of these competing shepherds, maybe one of those false shepherds, is leading you. In fact, it would be surprising if they didn’t have some influence over your life, because there are a great many false shepherds vying for your attention. They are out there, calling to you, wanting you to follow them. And what’s more they don’t “come through the gate” Jesus says, they climb in some other way. We may not even recognize that they are there.
There is o command ne “shepherd” that is calling out for us to follow, one that’s obvious and overt. He calls out to us 24 hours a day. We, in fact, have invited him in to our homes and our pockets and given him a place of prominence. No other “shepherd” has more influence on us than the daily bombardment of the screen. There’s Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, Amazon prime video, over the air television, and cable TV. It isn’t that the technology is evil. It isn’t that we become vegetables by sitting in front of the tube (although that is a real problem). The problem we are talking about this morning is the constant repetition of themes and images that come to fill our thoughts and minds. So many of those messages are in direct contrast to the “paths of righteousness” that the Good Shepherd would lead us on. So much of what this “shepherd” has to say is hidden in and among messages that seem to be so good. No “shepherd” is better at playing on our sympathy than this one. But he comes in the back way. We take him out of our pocket and put him in front of our eyes whenever we have nothing else to do. He deceives us by telling us that what the whole world thinks is more important than what God, the creator of the world, thinks. This shepherd comes to steal away, and to kill you, and you, are a captive audience.
The “Good Shepherd” isn’t like that. As Jesus says, he comes in the gate. He calls out to his sheep, by name. They know him and follow him. The “Good Shepherd” can be trusted and followed. He knows the right way. He leads his sheep on the well-worn paths of righteousness. The path of righteousness is the good way to go. It leads to a fullness of life; a way of life that preserves and protects, instead of kills and destroys. Other “shepherds” don’t lead that way.
There are many “shepherds” also who tell us that the way is wide and easy. They tell us that many roads lead to the same place. It really doesn’t matter which way you choose, as long as you are sincere. Religion, says this “shepherd,” is for personal comfort; for personal growth in times of trouble; or even for personal wealth and happiness. It’s easy to follow this “shepherd,” too. When he calls out to be followed, he only asks that you recognize that “the truth relative” and “what’s true for you isn’t true for everyone.”
But, the “Good Shepherd” isn’t like that. He says there is only one ‘right’ path to follow. “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father, except by me.” (John 14:6 NIV) There is only one way. The “Good Shepherd” leads in that way. His way leads through the green pastures, and beside the quiet waters, and only the way that he leads ends at the banquet table in the House of God.
There is another shepherd that calls out to you to follow him… and that shepherd has more influence over you than all the others do. He is the shepherd that lurks in your very own heart. He’s the part of you that wants nothing to do with God or the Good Shepherd. He wants to be his own shepherd. He wants to be in control of his own life, and live it his own way. “I can make that decision on my own. I don’t need God’s guidance. God can’t really mean that this thing that feels so good is sinful. I can do what ever I want; the commandments don’t apply to me. Doesn’t God want me to be happy?” Unfortunately, this shepherd can’t be separated from us. He’s a part of our being. And none of us, who are alive, lives without him. It’s perfectly natural for us to want follow him. We call it “looking out for number one,” or “Taking care of myself, first.” But, you see, the sheep can’t lead themselves. The sheep don’t know which way to go. Every sheep is right in his own thinking and the flock gets scattered, then none of them make the journey safely. When we follow ourselves as our shepherd, again the way leads to death.
Again, that isn’t the way of the Good Shepherd. He gathers his sheep together and leads them. He knows the sheep want to go their own way, but he corrects them. He calls out to them to keep the flock together. He walks in front of them to show the way.
There is no picture, no image, which is burned into our minds that is stronger than that of Jesus the Good Shepherd. It’s there in the stained glass window. We find it in countless paintings and multitudes of art. I’ll bet most of you have it somewhere in your home. We can understand this image. That’s probably why the 23rd Psalm is the favorite bible passage of so many people. When Jesus says he is the Good Shepherd we know what he means.
Who’s your shepherd? It isn’t the shepherd that calls to you from your computer screen your pocket, calling you to believe lies. It isn’t the shepherd that tells you there are many paths that all lead to the same place. It isn’t even the shepherd you harbor in your own heart. No, none of these are the Good Shepherd. Your shepherd is the Good Shepherd.
The Lord, Jesus Christ, is your shepherd. You are his sheep. He knows you very well. He calls you by name. He has marked you as his own with the very still waters of baptism.
You shall not want. He supplies you with all that you need for the journey through life. He guides you. He leads you. He protects you.
He makes you lie down in green pastures. He leads you beside still waters. He restores your soul. Sometimes you need to be made to rest. The Good Shepherd knows that too. The pastures that he leads you to are full of green, green grass. There are restful and there are quiet waters there. You are well rested when it’s time for the journey to continue.
He guides you in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. He guides you in the way of truth. That’s the best way to go. It is the way that makes life full and complete. He does it, not because you are a special sheep, but because he is the “Good Shepherd.”
Even though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you will fear no evil, for he is with you; the journey is a very dangerous journey. Danger is all around. But there is no reason to fear. The Good Shepherd is with you. In fact, the Good Shepherd has already died for you. Jesus has already walked through the shadow of death, he was crucified, died, and was buried. But, he didn’t stay in the shadow; he walked out the other side and was raised from death to life. He promises to walk with you, to lead you through death, too. You don’t need to be afraid because you will also walk from death to life.
His rod and his staff, they comfort you. Even if you begin stray, even when you begin listen to other shepherds, Your Good Shepherd is there to bring you back. He uses his rod to drive the other shepherds away. He uses his staff to hook you and keep you close to himself, close at hand, where you can listen to him, see him, and follow him.
He prepares a table before you in the presence of your enemies. He anoints your head with oil; your cup overflows. You are his honored guest. Your enemies, those false shepherds, are not able to influence you. The blessings of Your Good Shepherd overflow.
Surely goodness and love will follow you all the days of your life, On this journey, with your Good Shepherd, His goodness and love follow you. They pursue you and make the journey rich and full of wonder.
and you will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. When the journey is over, when the destination is reached, it is only the beginning; because your Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, is leading you home, to the place that he has prepared for you. There everything you experienced on the journey, the goodness and mercy, the overflowing banquet, the comfort, his presence, and the abundance of his blessings, will never end.
So we come back to the question that we began with, who’s your shepherd? He’s the one you listen to. He’s the one who leads you. He’s Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.
The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.