GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM THE LAMB OF GOD WHO IS THE SHEPHERD OF OUR FLOCK.
Today as we end our series on THE LAMB OF GOD WHO IS OUR SHEPHERD, our focus is on that Day of Judgment when Jesus calls His Flock to continue following Him as He leads us to dwell in The House of The Lord forever. Sadly, it is also the time when those who have refused to follow Jesus part company with OUR DIVINE SHEPHERD forever.
In our Gospel text – like a flock of sheep and goats – we stand before Christ on Judgment Day. And Jesus will place the sheep on His right, but the goats on the left. Then King Jesus will say to those on His Right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit The Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed Me, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me.’
Understanding our text we must begin with a question every Christian needs to answer. Why would any person or institution give food to the hungry, give a drink to the thirsty, welcome a stranger, clothe the naked, or visit the sick and imprisoned? The answer usually falls into one of three categories.
First there is the most obvious answer - the purely eleemosynary interests of some people who appear to be just born to love and to serve – often at tremendous cost to themselves and their very lives.
Second is the most human answer - enlightened self–interest. The social repercussions of multitudes of people struggling with poverty, addictions and other social ills are enormous. The crime rate and other social problems increase as does the cost of police protection and medical assistance. For some church leaders and politicians with a more individualized self–interest helping those in need is the path to personal power.
Third there are those who believe they have a collective responsibility as citizens of political entities or members of social organizations to help people. Like the insurance industry, we are all in this together – I’ll help you today – I may need your help tomorrow.
Our Gospel text this morning provides our Christian answer – Relationship with The Lamb of God Who is our Shepherd.
As we stand before Christ The King on Judgment Day, the sheep on Jesus’ right will ask Him, “Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? And when did we see You a stranger and welcome You, or naked and clothe You? And when did we see You sick or in prison and visit You?” Jesus will answer “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers and sisters you did it to Me.’” Our eleemosynary endeavors have a foundation and His Name is Jesus. Our enlightened self–interest is The Gospel of Jesus Christ in which we bask now and eternally and which so fills our lives that we must share it. Our collective responsibility is under God in Jesus Christ and nowhere else.
We are members of the human flock that has been redeemed by and follows The Lamb of God Who is our Shepherd. What we do grows out of our faith in our Shepherd as we follow Him and act in His Name.
The Lamb of God Who is our Shepherd loves every member of the human flock so much – calls us His brothers and sisters - that every gift and service given in His Name in Jesus’ View is given to Him. The gifts we give are never complete unless we do them in Jesus’ Name – sharing Jesus with the Gift.
Jesus said to the believers in His Flock, “I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink.” Whenever a believer in Jesus Christ feeds a hungry person or gives a drink to a thirsty person in Jesus’ Name that believer is giving food or a drink to Jesus Who loves us all so deeply. But there's more - far more. There is The Relationship we who know Jesus as The Living Water and The Bread of Life are sharing along with the food and beverage.
In His Sermon On The Mount, Jesus said, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied."(MATTHEW 5:6) Followers of The Lord our Shepherd are the people who truly hunger and thirst for righteousness - who truly hunger and thirst to be what God Himself has defined, created, sustained, redeemed, and called us to be. And, as Jesus promised, we are satisfied – so abundantly satisfied that Jesus fills our lives to the brim and overflowing into the lives of others.
That is what Jesus meant when He said, "I am The Bread Of Life, whoever comes to Me shall never hunger, and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst."(JOHN 6:35) Only Jesus’ Church has that The Bread Of Life to share. There is no greater gift we can share in Jesus' Name than our faith in Jesus - no greater gift we can give to those who hunger and thirst than to be one of the conduits through which God satisfies all hunger and thirst as only God can.
One day when famine had wrought great misery in Russia, a beggar, weak, emaciated, all but starved to death, asked for alms. Count Leo Tolstoy searched his pockets for a coin but discovered that he was without as much as a copper piece. Taking the beggar’s hands between his own, he said, “Do not be angry with me, my brother; I have nothing with me,” The thin face of the beggar became illuminated and he whispered in reply “But you called me brother – that was a great gift.” The ultimate brotherhood we can share is our membership in Christ’s Flock – that is the greatest gift.
Caring for people enough to do all we can to fulfill that greatest of all hungers and thirsts, we are concerned for their physical well-being as well - as Jesus Himself is.
I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me.
Many years ago, I spent a month in Chicago as part of a church program studying Urban America. I spent one night and part of a day at the Pacific Garden Mission. You may be familiar with this organization through their radio program – Unshackled. They provided a clean bed for the night and in the morning, there was an excellent breakfast. In between, there was a worship service. The worship service proclaimed The Gospel of Jesus Christ – how Jesus can change lives – and told one and all that the Pacific Garden does all it does in The Name of Jesus Christ and as a direct outcome of the mission volunteers’ redeemed relationship with Christ. They also told their guests that Jesus was giving them food, drink, clothes and other help through Jesus’ Mission and that Jesus was also offering the greater gift of eternal relationship with God.
Were some of the guests at the Pacific Garden Mission offended by the mention of Jesus’ Name? I didn’t hear any of them say that – but then that really isn’t the issue, is it? Jesus’ Church belongs to Him and ministers in Jesus’ Name – perhaps offensive to the unbeliever and those who follow non-Christian agendas – and yet we bring a temporal and eternal gift that only Jesus Himself can offer through us in Jesus’ Name.
With his tongue firmly implanted in his cheek, Erick Erickson writes that in today’s world it is said that Christians “are contemptible bigots. In Georgia … they … are planning on revising adoption laws to prohibit Christians from helping the state place children in adoption and foster families. You would think Christians would learn from all of this, but instead they have gone and done something even more ridiculous to highlight just how absurd they are. Christians across America have contributed more personal funds and more sweat equity than any other group in organized efforts helping the people of Texas and now Florida and Georgia due to Harvey and Irma. In fact, Christian non-profits like the North American Mission Board, Salvation Army, and Samaritan’s Purse have been more active in helping FEMA than all the other secular non-profits combined.” Plainly and simply, as Erickson reports, walking in our Savior Shepherd’s footsteps is what we do – what members of Jesus’ Christian Flock do in Jesus’ Name.
Copies of our own NALC Disaster Response Plan are still available on the table outside our church office.
And there is more to giving in Jesus’ Name – much more. With food for the physically hungry, Christians offer Jesus The Living Bread from heaven Who gives us that eternal food that never spoils. With water for the thirsty, Christians offer The Living Water of Holy Baptism that gives us rebirth into the Eternal Relationship with God. Visiting the sick, Christians offer that victory over death which Jesus suffered and died on the cross to give us. With clothes for the unclothed, Christians issue Jesus’ invitation to put on Jesus’ Righteousness to cover our own sin, guilt and alienation from God. Visiting the imprisoned, Christians offer that freedom from sin, guilt, addiction and everything else that can imprison people – what Pacific Garden Mission refers to as becoming “Unshackled”.
Jesus says on Judgment Day, he will allow those who reject Him to continue on the path they have chosen promising “whoever denies Me before men, I also will deny before My Father who is in heaven.” To them on Judgment Day, Jesus says, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” What they did with their lives had nothing to do with Jesus as they chose to follow someone or something else.
A sheep earns nothing from a shepherd. The sheep instinctively follows where the shepherd leads and, without earning any of it, receives food, water, shelter, salve for wounds, and all the other necessities from his shepherd.
We earn nothing from our Creator and Savior. By the Grace of God, we follow where The Lord leads. Our cup of life overflows. To those who, through our God-given Faith, accept Jesus as our Shepherd King, He proclaims “Come, you who are blessed by My Father; take your inheritance, The Kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” We continue to be members of Jesus’ Flock as He leads us to dwell in The House of The Lord forever.
Filled with concern for the eternal Relationship Christ the King offers to all the members of His human flock – like Jesus The Lamb of God Who is our Shepherd - we are concerned for the whole person – giving food to the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned – all in The Name of Jesus. Basking in the glow of God’s never-ending perfect Love for us, we love God in return – love God so much that we love all the members of the human flock as God loves all the members of the human flock – with us and through us all in The Name of Jesus.
God Himself provides us with the lives, the time, the talents, and even the faith to be God’s conduits ministering to the needs of the human flock. It is what our mission statement is all about - lovingly and faithfully proclaiming The Word of God as revealed incarnately in Jesus Christ and inerrantly in The Holy Bible – sharing our relationship with Jesus Christ and all the other gifts God chooses to give through us as well.
THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH PASSES ALL HUMAN UNDERSTANDING KEEP YOUR HEARTS AND YOUR MINDS IN JESUS — OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR LEADING HIS FLOCK THROUGH TEMPORAL LIFE INTO ETERNITY WITH LOVE. AMEN
Fifteenth Sunday of The Trinity Season – Last sermon in THE SHEPHERD AND HIS FLOCK sermon series
September 17, 2017
Dr. Kurt Borows
Pastor, Resurrection Lutheran Church, Catawba Island, Port Clinton, Ohio
What Is the Difference Between The Sheep And The Goats
“What Is the Difference Between The Sheep And The Goats”
Text –JOHN 10:14-16 and MATTHEW 25:31-46
GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR DIVINE SHEPHERD WHO IS THE LAMB OF GOD – JESUS CHRIST.
This summer, we have been focusing on our Divine Shepherd and His human flock. If I had to sum up a continuing theme in our series in one word, that word would be “RELATIONSHIP” – the eternal Relationship God created us from the very beginning to have with our Creator – the Relationship that we destroyed and God restored by coming among the human flock as The Divine Christ Shepherd Who is The True Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world and conquers death itself – the Relationship that set the cadence of David’s life in his confession that “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want” – the Relationship Jesus Himself described as “I am The Good Shepherd, and know My sheep, and am known of Mine. As The Father knows Me and I know The Father, I lay down My Life for the sheep. 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.”
The blessed Relationship God so abundantly pours into our lives fills us to the brim and flows out from us into the lives of those other sheep Jesus has waiting to be called, baptized and made disciples of our Lord and Savior.
As God prophesied through Isaiah (53:3—7), “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and The LORD has laid on Christ our Divine Shepherd the iniquity of us all.” To re-establish that eternal Relationship with us God entered the world as The vulnerable flesh and blood Christ – led us as The Perfect Example for us to live by, made Himself The Perfect Sacrifice for us and our sins, and rose from the dead to proclaim The Eternal Victory and Eternal Relationship He had achieved for us.
There aren’t many places in the Holy Land where you can be without finding yourself close to a flock of sheep and goats. They are everywhere – we even had a flock roam through one of our Holy Land Bible studies.
GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR DIVINE SHEPHERD AND LAMB OF GOD WHO TAKES AWAY THE SIN OF THE WORLD.
As the hour grows late it’s time to return to the compound or fold. The pastures the flocks pass through have already been grazed – no food available there – but David the good shepherd has anticipated this and is able to feed his flock from a reserve of fodder he keeps in the night compound. He puts up a briar type fence around the flock so the sheep can eat undisturbed in the middle of their enclosure. As the sheep dine those who would prey on them can only stand and watch from afar.
Elsewhere in Judea, two men engage in a verbal dispute that becomes a shoving match. Jesse, having been shoved by Eli, falls and hits his head on a rock. The blow is fatal and Jesse's family seeks revenge. Eli flees to the tent of a Bedouin sipping his evening coffee. An ancient Middle Eastern custom - still practiced by Bedouins to this day - requires only that a man touch the flap of another man's tent to receive the hospitality of a good meal and sanctuary from his enemies. The table would be a large piece of leather upon which the host would place the best food and drink he had and after dinner, his guest could sleep peacefully without fear inside that tent.
In the homes of Judean believers, the same rule of sanctuary applies. I heard of examples where an Israeli or a Palestinian has offered a night of sanctuary to an enemy they knew they may face in battle days later.
GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR LORD AND SAVIOR – JESUS CHRIST OUR DIVINE SHEPHERD.
This past week I was talking to little Guenther Tharp about THE 23rd PSALM and he repeated the first verse this way: “The Lord is my Shepherd; that’s all I want.” I have no argument with Guenther’s translation – I don’t think the psalmist would either. “The Lord is my Shepherd; that’s all I want.” is really the point of David’s Psalm – isn’t it?
That confession of faith can be stated many ways. David states it at the start of his Psalm, explains it throughout his Psalm, and then restates it again in the words of our text this morning – “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the House of The Lord forever.”
At the close of day, as David leads his flock on the homeward journey, he thinks of the twilight hours of his own life. He looks at the past and present and knows “Surely goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life”- it is a good life – there have been problems – there have been hardships, but God has been with him and he can continue to confess “The Lord has been and still is my Shepherd.” “Surely goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life”.
The year of 2017 is already 239 days old – already it is a year of birth and death – of laughter and tears – of experiences high as mountain tops and low in the valleys of shadows of death. During the next 126 days, we may see prosperity – we may see annihilation – we may see mediocrity – we may see civil unrest on all sides of the spectrum and, throughout the year and all of life, the drum every one of us has within us will continue beating the cadence to which we march even after the heart has beat its last. It can be a cadence of self-gratification and self-pride or it can be a cadence of surrender to The Great Shepherd Whose Word of God staff leads us through these temporal years confessing in our words and in our actions “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. Surely goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my temporal life.”
For some, such a promise is all they ask. To them, today is all that matters. Let death and the next stage of life – if there is one – take care of itself.
GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND LAMB OF GOD WHO TAKES AWAY THE SINS OF THE WORLD AND THEIR POWER.
Last Sunday, we confessed with the Psalmist David, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for Thou art with me. Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.” Of course, our ultimate enemy in our valley of the shadow of death world is death itself which is total separation from God and the relationship God created us from the very beginning to have eternally with Him.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. It was a perfect universe with all the parts fitting together in a totally symbiotic pattern. As the pinnacle of His creation, God created human beings - created us in The Image of God so that only people in all creation can know God and live with God in an eternal relationship of Love and Faith.
To love someone or something, you must have the ability to love, to hate, or to ignore. To have faith in someone or something, you must have the ability to believe, to doubt, to completely disbelieve or to ignore. God made His choice perfectly clear. To enable human beings to make our choices and live our lives by those choices, God created the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
God said, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Did Adam and Eve love God enough to obey the one commandment God told them never to violate or did they ignore God or, worse yet, challenge God and His Authority? Was their faith in God strong enough to believe Him when He said that in the day that they ate the forbidden fruit their lives would no longer be eternal and they would surely die.” They failed and left their Eden Paradise to enter the valley of the shadow of death world. And we – their descendants - have followed them into that world.