4th Sunday of Easter
This is “Examination Sunday” for the 2012 catechumens. Speaking in the 8:00 Sermon (Early) are, in order: Brooke Bindl, Shayne Brasda, Brea Falstad, Lauren Kriewaldt, Anthony Rittmeyer, Danielle Sandstrom. Speaking in the 10:30 Sermon (Late) are, in order: Riley Barnharst, Katie Conklin, Derek Gordon, James Saager, Matthew Saager, Tierney Woodward. Elizabeth Yamriska.
The Flock of Jesus Christ is a wild, daring venture. But ours is an age of confined animal husbandry. Gone are the open prairies and pasturelands dotted with grazing farm animals. First came the fences that confined flocks and herds to a specific area. And now we have the confinement systems—highly efficient systems for livestock production. So these days, critters don’t go wandering off. They are closely confined. And it in some circles, the Church has been taking notes.
Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd. I know My own and My own know Me.” It is that simple!
Like sheep we are so easily distracted. Like them we nibble at this and nibble at that and get into butting heads…and we become quite oblivious to everything around us. So is the solution better control? Control every movement, every “Baa” that comes from the flock? There are plenty of congregations these days that think so…and they build big fences, with barbed wire and lots and lots of rules.
The Good Shepherd has the better way: “I know My own and My own know Me.” That’s it! “I know My own and My own know Me.”
And this brings us to question #1. What do you know about the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ? He is the One who has called you by name. So what do you have to say about what Jesus has done to make you part of His flock?
[Answers to Question #1]
The Good Shepherd says, “They will listen to My voice; so there will be one Flock, one Shepherd.” And that is wildly daring!
As I mentioned earlier, what may work well and efficiently for the handling of livestock production today is not at all a good way to handle the Flock of Christ. The Flock of the Good Shepherd is not managed by a confinement system, hemmed in with a whole list of rules, by a closed system designed to produce results. Get ‘em when they’re young and keep ‘em confined until it’s time to ship ‘em off to market.
Yet this is the very thing that is happening more and more and more in our churches in this era of uncertainty and rapid change. So instead of being the daring venture of which Christ spoke, the Church becomes a confinement market industry.
No! What the Good Shepherd does is call His own sheep by name [six/seven…you, me]. We hear His voice and we follow Him. Where the Good Shepherd is, there are His sheep. And where His sheep are, there is His flock. Shepherd, Sheep, Flock, all together as one.
Question #2. How does this picture of one flock with one Shepherd explain what it means that you are part of that flock?
[Answers to Question #2]
The really daring venture of the Flock of Christ is that our Good Shepherd actually leads us into places where the wolves could take us. Our Good Shepherd leads us into places where we do in fact fail, where we may begin to resemble the wolves more than the flock, where we may become inattentive, get itchy feet, and wander. He leads us through the valley of the shadow of death; leads us where we sheep would never go if it were all up to us!
Yet in each and every place where He leads us, He does not shout out commands: “Stay together, get back, don’t run, be safe, do this, don’t do that. No…not rules and commands. The Good Shepherd, when He sees the wolf coming, coming in the very place where He has led us, there He lays down His life for us. The wolf takes a bite out of Him, and we sheep are spared. Our Good Shepherd says, “I lay down My life for the sheep.” “I lay it down that I may take it up.” …and us with Him!
Question #3: Does this mean that His flock never feels troubles? What sort of “wolves” and other “predators” make being a Christian difficult? But Jesus has promised, “I lay down My life for the sheep.” How does this promise strengthen you?
[Answers to Question #3]
Martin Luther once declared, “Thank God a seven year old child knows what the Church is: sheep who hear the voice of their [Good] Shepherd.” “I know them,” this Shepherd says, “and they follow Me.”
Yes, often times that means the green pastures and the still waters. But there are times…times when it is the valley of the shadow of death. Still He leads and we follow. He speaks and we listen. And even in the darkest valley we shall fear no evil…for He is with us. And we are a Flock, His Flock. And in this flock He says, “I am the Good Shepherd. I know My own, and My own know Me.” So we do…yes…so we do.