The Glory Has Departed

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I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-4

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Misericordia Domini - The Second Sunday after Easter. John 10:11-16.
The Good Shepherd

Misericordias Domini – 
The Second Sunday after Easter, 2017

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

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       
The Gospel              
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn # 426         The Lord My Shepherd Is             

The Good Shepherd 

The Communion Hymn # 307            Draw Nigh               
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 #50                 Lord Dismiss Us                

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.

KJV 1 Peter 2:21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: 22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: 23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himselfto him that judgeth righteously: 24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. 25 For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

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.

Three of Luther’s sermons on this text:

The Good Shepherd

KJV John 10:11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.

This text teaches us that the Savior is the ultimate shepherd, who guides and guards us.

The Bible references sheep and shepherds over 500 times, perhaps the most important metaphors we have for our relationship with the Messiah. Some might say, "That is because raising sheep was so important in ancient times." And that is true, but it remains one of our favorites even though most people have never been on a sheep farm. A few have seen them at a petting zoo, where the large sheep are famous for stealing the little bottles of milk from the lambs.

Some of the references are:

  • The spotless lamb featured at the Passover Meal, before the Exodux.
  • The blood of the lamb on doorposts, keeping the Angel of Death away.
  • Psalm 22 describing the sacrifice of Jesus.
  • The 23rd Psalm, told from the perspective of a sheep.
  • Ezekiel 34 and the false shepherds of yesterday and today.
  • I will strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered, fulfilled. Zech 13:7.
  • Isaiah 53 - We like sheep have gone astray.
  • The Parable of Judgment, Matthew 25.
  • Jesus the Chief Shepherd. 1 Peter 2:25.
  • The Lamb in their midst, Revelation 7.
  • The shepherds in the fields, Luke 2.
  • They were like sheep without a shepherd. Matthew 9:36.
John's Gospel unites and explains all this in a few verses. As Luther preached in his first sermon on this text:

2. Now, you have often heard that God has given the world two different proclamations. One is that which is declared in the Word of God when it says: Thou shalt not kill, not commit adultery, not steal ( Exodus 20:13-15), and when it adds the threat that all who do not keep these commandments shall die. But this declaration will make no one godly at heart. For though it may compel a man outwardly to appear godly before men, inwardly it leaves the heart at enmity with the Law, and wishing that there were no such Law.

3. The other proclamation is that of the Gospel. It tells where one may obtain that which will meet the demands of the Law. It does not drive or threaten, but tenderly invites us. It does not say, Do this and do that, but rather: Come, I will show you where you may find and obtain what you need to make you godly. See, here is the Lord Jesus; he will give it to you.

For those who have sheep in action: their stubborn and self-destructive nature, their lack of common sense, their gluttony - we can easily identify with them. But Luther points out something else that is especially significant in this parable. Sheep know they are utterly helpless without their shepherd. Therefore, they listen for the voice of their shepherd, because he calls them by name, leads them to food and water, and guards them against all enemies.

The Good Shepherd
This is the most comforting titles of Christ, because it includes both aspects of his work. One is feeding and nurturing our souls, the other is protecting us against spiritual predators and all danger. In the original text, the meaning is really The Shepherd Above All Other Shepherds, or The Noble Shepherd - defined as the one who gave up His life for the sheep. This description means Jesus is far beyond any normal shepherd, because even the best shepherd will not sacrifice his life for the sheep, as Jesus did.

That is why Jesus is the Good Shepherd, and why He invites and comforts us, instead of commanding and condemning us. 

Turning the Gospel into Law, Jesus into Moses
I teach Old Testament all the time, and the students constantly remind me of the effort to turn Jesus into Moses. "We have to be obedient, or God will not bless us." So many statements are based on the Law and condemnation.  Rather than citing Luther, who makes this so plain, I quote Jesus and point out that the foundational sin is unbelief (John 16:8), and we are to teach faith in the Gospel of Jesus rather than condemnation. "The Holy Spirit  will convict the world of sin, because they believe not on Me."

I also use Pilgrim's Progress to show images of the Law, such as sweeping a dirt floor to raise up clouds of choking dust. Or the figure of the Law who knocks down poor Pilgrim every time he gets up. "Have mercy," Pilgrim says. "I show no mercy, I am the Law."

Jesus can be taught in such a way that everyone is condemned or frightened into obeying a bunch of man-made commandments. 

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. 

This lesson is clearly one of warning, because the hired hands are condemned for their lack of concern for the sheep. The wolves are far worse than the hired hands, because they murder and scatter the sheep. 

Ezekiel 34
Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks?
Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock.
The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them.
And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered.
My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them.
Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the Lord;
As I live, saith the Lord God, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock;
Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the Lord;
10 Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them.
11 For thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out.
12 As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.
13 And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country.
14 I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel.
15 I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord God.
16 I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but I will destroy the fat and the strong; I will feed them with judgment.

Luther - Tend the Weak
11. Here you see that Christ’s kingdom is to be concerned about the weak, the sick, the broken, that he may help them. That is, indeed, a comforting declaration. The only trouble is that we do not realize our needs and infirmities. If we realized them, we would soon flee to him. But how did those shepherds act? They ruled with rigor, and applied God’s Law with great severity; and, moreover, they added their own commandments, as they still do, and when these were not fulfilled, they raved and condemned, so that they were driving and driving and exhorting and exacting, continually. That is no proper way to tend and keep souls, says Christ. He is no such shepherd as that; for no one is benefited, but is rather wholly undone, by such a course, as we shall presently hear. Now let us consider this citation from the prophet in its order.

I have noticed great admiration for those who dictate to their congregations. One General Motors veteran said to me years ago, "They love the A+ personalities. No one can stop them. They run over everyone, like steamrollers. But look where it got GM. We are selling off our test track to raise cash." That happens repeatedly in the congregations run by media starts. No one can touch them until the police, lawyers, and IRS show up.

Luther described this well, 500 years ago. Certain pastors want to identify with the wealthy and powerful, so they curry favor with them. That way they can imagine that they too have all this opulence. In the meantime, they neglect the needy - the sick and shut-in, the people longing to hear the Gospel while the rich man's pastor is absolving the unrepentant.

This is done in a subtle way too, when the content of the Gospel is abandoned for the sake of peace, often fueled by the persecution of the synodical leaders, who rule by fear. No touchy subject is treated, because of the fear that someone will run to a synodical authority and cause a big fuss. Luther commented that wolves love fattened sheep, but they do not like the growl of the sheepdog.

I subscribe to the theory that the real cause of the Reformation was not so much the preaching of the Gospel itself, but Luther saying, "If that is the Gospel, then Rome is completely wrong and the pope is a ravening wolf."

Even now, on the most basic level the current pope is aligning with Islam, a process started 30 years ago with the concept of all world religions owing something to Rome.
The group that day included rabbis wearing yarmulkes and Sikhs in turbans, Muslims praying on thick carpets and a Zoroastrian kindling a sacred fire. Robert Runcie, the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, exchanged pleasantries with the Dalai Lama. Orthodox bishops chatted with Alan Boesak, the South African anti-apartheid activist and president of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches.
The very attitude of ignoring the wolves while teaching a false peace is part of the hired hand attitude. The wolves are those who know very well what they are doing and delight in murdering and scattering for their own benefit.

13 The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.

One of the best things the denominations have done for themselves is to create an assumption of relative security and comfort - as long as the pastors are obedient to the denomination. Great efforts are made to please the denominational leaders and agree with their shifting opinions. Thus, the hired hands must also join in shunning the pastors who warn about the wolves. 

So we can see how so many Lutherans have cast aside the Gospel in order to please some of their peers and to receive rewards from the wolves controlling their synod. It only takes a few in the right places to impose this reign of error upon almost everyone. These leaders overlook all manner of crime and false doctrine, but go on full alert against false doctrine and pleas for reform. 

Errors are hidden in ambiguities. Everyone is allowed to believe their own version, which can be taken two ways - or three. In God's Word, there are two choices, the wrong one and the right one. No ambiguity. No fuzziness.

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.

This is an important turn in the lesson. The Good Shepherd knows the weaknesses of His sheep, but He leads and strengthens them. He feeds them with the Gospel. All the Law in the world will not improve one's behavior or character. The Gospel bears fruit and those who rely on Christ cannot help bearing the fruit of the Spirit.

Leaders used to recognize this. They urged pastors to feed the members with the Gospel, not rail at them. Already at Mordor I heard a student sermon where the young fanatic blamed the members of the congregation for not growing "because a survey shows that a congregation grows only because of its members. It is your fault." I knew that was straight outta Fuller Seminary and taught in those scared - I mean sacred - confines of Mequon. When religious leaders no longer trust the Word to do God's work, they search for clever answers and pound those issues to death.

Those who trust in Jesus as the Savior will not be moved by wolves and hired hands. I told the Mormon missionaries, "I know your doctrine, and you do not know mine." They said, "We are not trying to..." I said "Put your little whiteboard away. I know about multiple gods and all that." They wanted to convert me. Next door a neighbor became a Lutheran (left her cult) simply from our services. We seem to be ahead of the Mormons on this block, though that does not matter.

Weak training has led to people swarming to the cults and quasi-cults. One Augustana leader wrote such a powerful booklet on Mormonism that their missionaries routinely stopped in to steal the book from the college library.

Opposition is a true vote of confidence by false teachers. They know what hurts  their cause, so they urge their blind followers to avoid the truth and shun those who teach the truth. Opposition is the highest recommendation, then, from false teachers and their disciples within a group. It is meant to intimidate, but it should encourage the targets who feel the hatred and loathing, which is really a cover-up for fear.

Gorillas scream and pound their chests when afraid. Every bully has a gorilla inside, trying to get out.

The faith relationship with Jesus is a circle in a circle in a circle. We are in Him and He is in us, just as He is in the Father and the Father is in Him. That is a powerful relationship, which can survive poverty, exile, imprisonment, persecution, and death. 

For instance, Luther regarded martyrdom as merely one more aspect of being a Christian. He accepted it as his fate, since all of Europe seemed against him at the time. Yet out of that opposition came the Reformation.

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 are those sheep, the descendants of pagans in Europe and other places. The Gospel Word gathered believers out of all the tribes of the world, and conversions (and persecutions) hit Africa with great force.

The conclusion should be - we need to get the Word broadcast in as many ways as possible, measuring the cause and not the effect. The effect belongs to God, and He is the cause, but we can leverage the cause by spreading the Word more.

When rain threatened us with flooding, I broadcast:

  • 5,000 Buckwheat seeds.
  • Crimson clover seeds.
  • Butterfly weed seeds (for Monarchs).

And planted:

  • Butterfly weed root.
  • Roses.
I cannot claim anything for the seeds, the roses, and the rain, but I definitely want the effect of rain on seeds and plants.

Paul said, 

1 Corinthians 3:6-8King James Version (KJV)

I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.
So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.
Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.