Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Robbers, Thieves, and Fake Shepherds

Sermon for Easter 4A, preached on Sunday, May 11, 2014.

    Cher sang of gypsies, tramps, and thieves.  Today Jesus sings the lament of robbers, thieves, and fake shepherds.  It is probably not smart to draw your attention to this; I don’t want you to identify me with any of them.  But that is the Gospel we have today.  My mommy taught me if that you cannot say something nice about someone, you should be quiet.  Today is the day we remember what mom’s taught us.  But Jesus has to speak bluntly the truth in love -- there are deceivers who would wrest the kingdom from us.
    All who came before me were thieves, robbers, and false shepherds, says Jesus.  He does not make neat and tidy distinctions but paints with a broad brush.  It is Jesus or nobody.  This is the EXCLUSIVE Gospel which is INCLUSIVE for all who believe.  Jesus insists: “I am the door and the gate...”  Jesus does not share the glory and we refuse to share His cross so that means salvation is by Christ alone.
    If you come through Jesus you will enter the safety, care and security of Christ the Good Shepherd.  And you will be saved.  But there is no other name, no other Savior, no other faith, no other Redeemer.  Jesus, Jesus, only Jesus.  That sounds kind of arrogant to a world in which all truths, all religions, and all deities are equal.  It is not rude.  It is the truth. There is life only in Christ and no other.  Period.
    There is no other blood that washes sinners clean, no other suffering that delivers forgiveness, and no other death that gives life.  It is Jesus or nobody.  He refuses to be a better shepherd in comparison to others.  He is the one and only Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep.  The green pastures and still quiet waters are found only through Jesus Christ who is the gate and door of heaven and eternity.
    Not only does Jesus know His sheep, call them by name, seek them out from their wandering, and save them from death.  “My sheep know Me...” says Jesus.  Jesus is not some door thata you find by testing different door knobs to see which one will open.  Jesus’ sheep know He is the door, know He is the Good Shepherd, and know where His saving, feeding, and forgiving grace is to be found.
    Predictably, well, we are Lutheran, Jesus’ sheep know His voice through, come on, you know it...  Yes!  Through His Word. What we hear in Scripture is not the strange voice of the One we do not know but the familiar, comforting, and gracious voice of our Good Shepherd, our Gentle Savior, and our Mighty Redeemer.  The Word of the Lord leads us to faith and faith teaches us that Christ is the voice that speaks to us and calls us.
    “They follow Me...” says Jesus.  The voice of the Word cannot be dismissed.  It is never just word, never just Jesus... Because it is Jesus our ears perk up, our minds pay attention, and our hearts burn within us.  I know that voice.  That voice is Jesus.  He is my Good Shepherd.  I am forgiven.  I am not afraid.  I will follow Him.
    The corollary to following Jesus is fleeing strangers.  Here is the hard word.  Do not pay attention to everyone who says “Lord, Lord...”  Do not buy the best selling inspirational book because the world says it is just the thing.  Do not trust the guy on TV who says he is trustworthy.  Do not pay attention to every lunatic on the internet who purports to preach Jesus.
    The sheep of Christ have a discerning ear.  They weigh the claims of the stranger against the Gospel they know from the Word and the faith they know from the catechism.  The sheep of Christ are not gullible because they know the voice of Christ, they know the Gospel of the cross, and they know the faith we confess each week “we believe in God the Father....”  The sheep of Christ refuse to follow strangers.  They run from them!
    The Gospel does not play well with strangers.  It is one way, the narrow way, Jesus or nobody, the way of the cross or nowhere.  How do we know this?  Not because I say so.  Because Jesus says so in His Word.  We know His Word, we hear His voice, recognize Jesus calling to us, and so we run from the strange and the stranger into the arms of the Good Shepherd.
    The Word of the Lord calls us by name in baptism.  The Word of the Lord leads us out of death’s shadow, into the still quiet waters and rich green pasture of His grace.  We know that voice.  If we hear another Gospel, we run, we do not stop to listen.  We run.
    The greatest danger to Christianity is not the devil on the outside of the church but the demons on the inside who confuse their own voice with the voice of Christ, who preach another Gospel besides the Gospel of the cross, who purport to speak for Jesus when they preach only themselves, and who talk about grace without speaking Christ, His Word, and His sacraments that impart His grace to us.
    If Mom has done her job well, she teaches her children the voice of Jesus and to run from strangers.  Of all the things a mother can do for her children, this is her greatest legacy.
    Jesus says that His sheep will not listen to the wrong voices.  They are robbers, thieves, and false shepherds.  Jesus insists that His sheep will not pay attention to them.  Now, I ask you, do not prove Jesus wrong.  Know the Word well enough so that you can judge what you hear, even right here, according to that Word.  Or else you are not the sheep of Jesus!  Amen.

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