Friday, March 22, 2024

Do you still follow?

It is not uncommon for the sheep to wake up one day and wonder where are the promised still quiet waters and rich green pastures.  After all, it seems like winter all the time.  Lives of Christians and non-Christians alike struggle with the cold and bleak landscapes of our world.  Nobody really believes things are getting better and most of us fear the future with foreboding.  Especially for the Christian, the hope is that around the bend the sun is shining, the brook babbling, and the pasture in full summer clothing.  The reality, however, is that Christians are wondering where the idyllic and pastoral scenes of the 23rd Psalm are for most of our lives.  In place of such romantic images, we end up with youth stolen from our children, schools on lockdown, kids captive to screens, loneliness, and fear.  Where is the Good Shepherd leading us, anyway?

In the midst of the winter of our discontent, it is tempting to stop following the Good Shepherd until we get some sort of explanation or answers.  Where is the world going?  Where is the Church going?  Where is my life headed?  I would suggest that it is precisely in the bleak view of winter that we need to trust the Good Shepherd even more.  In our wintry states of mind where it is so easy to focus on what is wrong and to be captive to this disappointment, we need to follow the only one who knows us, who knows what we need, and, most importantly, knows where we are going.  In the world of today, we cannot afford the luxury of abandoning the Good Shepherd.  Now more than at times of ease and plenty, we need to stick close to the Good Shepherd and not to stray too far from the staff of His Word or the provisions of His grace.

The temperature is decidedly cold out there.  We have turned truth into mystery and vice into virtue.  We cannot answer basic questions about who is a woman or a man but we are confident that our technology will enable us to fix all that is wrong.  We have more confidence in artificial intelligence than in human wisdom and we have surrendered what is real for the domain of our screens.  We are more disconnected and isolated than ever before -- even when we are sitting at the same table or living under the same roof.  But we have read the wrong thing into our Shepherd's words of promise.  He is good and His path is the good way -- not because we will realize any sort of utopia here but because He has bridged the gap between sinner and redeemed, between darkness and light, between death and life.  He will lead us to the rich green pastures of our heavenly home and He will bring us to the still quiet waters there.  It is just that to get there means traveling through winter and keeping our eye on the only One who can find His way for us to get home.

The Lord is still our Good Shepherd.  He knows us by name.  He knows our needs.  He knows the way.  Do not wander off and make sure that you stick close to the Good Shepherd.  His Word and Sacraments and our communion within the means of grace should not be taken for granted.  We must be deliberate and resolute.  Goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives and we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  It does not look like that now but the winter will give way to God's spring.  Just make sure you have not lost your way in the meantime.

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