Monday, June 13, 2011

Sermon for 15 May 2011, Easter 4A

The Rev. Paul J Cain
John 10:1-10
The Devil and the Shepherd
Fourth Sunday of Easter A, 15 May 2011
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the Name of Jesus. Amen
The word “pastor” has an interesting history. You can see this six-letter word “p a s t o r” in English, in German, and in Latin. Not only is this word pronounced the same way in each language, but it means the same thing, too. “Pastor” is another word for shepherd. When you call me pastor, you are saying that I am your spiritual shepherd, an undershepherd of our one Good Shepherd, Jesus.
A shepherd is given to provide pastures, water, and protection. The staff rescues and the rod beats enemies away. I am given to proclaim and teach the whole counsel of God from His Word. Not only that, but I am to warn you of lions, bears, and wolves that would seek to tear you, a precious sheep, from Jesus’ loving arms. I take this responsibility very seriously. Shepherding is dangerous and serious business, just as David explained to King Saul before going to do battle with Goliath. [1 Samuel 17:34-37 (ESV)]
But David said to Saul, "Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him.  Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God."  And David said, "The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine." And Saul said to David, "Go, and the Lord be with you!" 

1 Peter 5:8-9 (ESV) says, Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  9Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 
The Devil is our adversary, and a hungry one at that. He is actively seeking someone to devour, and you are on the menu. There is nothing imaginary about the Devil or his threat to you and your family and our whole congregation. There are many lion caves that our young people are eager to go running into, not to mention others designed to trap adults. Parents cannot just stand by and passively allow or actively encourage our young people to go be devoured by lions.
Parents, you are given important responsibility. God doesn’t take your role lightly. You are to actively train your children in the way they should go, so that when they are older, they will not turn from it. You are to bring them to the services of God’s house, place in their hands the Holy Scriptures, and ensure for their Christian upbringing in the fear and admonition of the Lord. The Lord does not give you the option of letting your kids decide whether or not they go to Church or are raised in the faith.
You don’t give them the option to not do their homework or not go to school. That’s minor compared to your responsibility to encourage them to receive the Lord’s Gifts in His House on His day and to support that with your example on Sunday and the other six days of the week. And thank God as many of you are here to receive His forgiveness, life, and salvation!
In addition, those of you who are Confirmed Lutherans made a promise at Confirmation. It is part of my call to hold you to that promise. “Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?” You answered, “I do so intend with the help of God.”
The congregation, and I as your pastor, are here to help you in whatever way possible, to help you remain steadfast. That’s why we can’t encourage you to do things that could lead you to stray. It is to be as Jesus said, “A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”
          The Devil is behind every non-Christian religion out there. The Mormon doctrine is not the only “strange” voice we hear. Islam is in the news every day. Jehovah’s Witnesses are active here. Even some who claim the name of Christ put their members back under the Law rather than the Gospel of Life. Eastern Religions are making a small but significant impact under the guise of relaxation, massage, and stress relief. And Lodges are still around. They promise life in heaven apart from the name and promises of Jesus Christ. It is to be as Jesus said, “A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”

Consider the example of an elderly Christian by the name of Polycarp living under the Roman Empire of the Second Century. Brought before the Proconsul on the charge of being a Christian, he was ordered to confess, “Caesar is Lord,” and curse Christ. Polycarp resisted the temptation to deny his Lord, even with the threat of being thrown to wild beasts or being burned to death. He responded, “Eighty-six years I have served Him, and He never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?”

The Book of Revelation calls Jesus the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. He is not a tame lion, either. The Devil, really only an evil angel, is no match to the very Son of God, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The prowling lion, the Devil, was no match for the Good Shepherd who descended from the King and Shepherd David.
In His death, Christ destroyed death. Just when the Devil thought his victory was assured with Jesus dead on the cross, that death gave Christ the victory over the Devil. The devilish lion is beaten. He is caged. We do need to remember that a caged lion cannot hurt us. That is, unless we spend too much time next to or in the cage. We have nothing to fear of the Devil with Jesus on our side. But if we go lion hunting on our own, ignoring Our Lord, we will quickly get in trouble—or get mauled.
          So, the best advice is to stay away from the lion’s den, to open our eyes to the wolves in wool costumes, to constantly be in the Word of God, in short, to stay on the safe path marked out for us.

Sometimes, a strong-willed person will ignore or resist warnings about the danger. If such a person willfully goes in with the lion, there may not be much more we can do for them except pray for them. Sometimes a person weak in the faith will be dragged off the path. Worst-case scenario, one may be enticed away. Your hearts have broken when those of our own fellowship have fallen away from the faith.
If one is enticed away, we may yet remain hopeful as long as the Lord has not yet returned. There still may be time for them to be brought back into the only saving faith, that of Christ. Pray for them. Share the Word with them. Be there for them. Don’t give up hope. There is still time. The time is short, however, and that we can never forget.

We have a Good Shepherd, One who seeks and saves the lost. That is why He came. He called you by name when He placed His name on you in Holy Baptism. He will not abandon His own, even though His own can abandon Him.
          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.” Flee the strange voices and their strange teachings. Regularly hear the voice of your Good Shepherd in His Word and make use of the Gifts He gives, Baptism, Absolution, and Communion. Amen.

In the Name of Jesus. Amen