We are Guided by a Gentle, Tender Lamb, Good Shepherd Sunday April 17th 2016
Good Shepherd Sunday April 17th 2016
Acts 9:36-43 Psalm 23 Revelation 7:7-9 John 10:22-30
We are Guided by a Gentle, Tender Lamb
We Lutherans believe in the real presence of Jesus Christ among us – not only here, when we remind ourselves about it again and again in worship, but also in our vocations, in our everyday lives, in how we relate to each other, and in how we share ministry.
Christ Lutheran Church celebrates a lay-based ministry, ever since 1951 when six lay missionaries helped our church get started and Mildred Bradfield led campaigns from our congregation to activate laity in other congregations. We believe in the priesthood of all believers, so we all read the bible, do devotions at home, and pray regularly so that our faith becomes active in love and our love seeks justice.
In a sense we are a flock of shepherds – but in the real presence of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, we are all lambs, little sheep. We are all the 99 sheep looking for the lost ones. God is gracious and merciful and helps pastors teach the skills of ministry to all, but also to listen and learn from all. Good shepherds need to learn to listen. Believing Jesus Christ is really present as the Good Shepherd makes a congregation gracious and merciful. We can approach Jesus in prayer if we are weary and heavy laden and he gives us rest, because Christ’s yoke is easy and his burden is light.
It is surprising how all the myriads of elders and martyrs in their white robes worship a lamb on the throne. That’s not the image of a powerful, majestic king or to stay in the shepherding metaphor, not a great-horned ram or hard sniping sheepdog, keeping all the sheep in line. No, it is a lamb on the throne, who guides us with a gentle spirit into the truth. “Come learn from me,” says the Lamb, “for I am gentle and humble of heart.”
Of course, a good shepherd, who is not doing a selfie, who is not a hireling, will protect the flock from danger – stand between the flock and harm’s way and not let a wolf tear up any sheep. Jesus says that no one can snatch away anyone who belongs to him, not out of his hand, because we have been given to Jesus by the Father, and no one can snatch us out of the Father’s hand. We’re not in the hands of an angry God, to think of Jonathan Edwards, but in the hands of a gracious and loving God, full of forgiveness, and so greatly to be feared. Remember Psalm 130?
Think about Tabitha, who seemed to have tailored beautiful clothing as a vocation. She may have been the fashion designer for the city of Joppa. But what you also hear is that she was devoted to good works and acts of charity. She was a lay minister full of concern for others. Once my car was stolen from behind my church in Coney Island while I was doing a wedding. The police of our precinct were furious with me that I even expected them to help. Someone told me, “There’s one concerned policeman in Canarsie.” And he gave me his number. I called him and he told me where they parked the cars before they stripped them. Two members of our congregation went and found my car on the side of the Belt and brought it back. So like this officer, what a loss she represented when she died! What could the people do? They heard of another ordinary person, a fisherman called Peter, who followed Jesus. Disciples immediately went to fetch him and he did a Lazarus! He said, “Tabitha, get up!” and “she opened her eyes and seeing Peter, she sat up.” In the power of the resurrection, Peter was able to pray and get the Good Shepherd to perform that wonderful sign again. Like Lazarus he raised up Tabitha. Then Peter stayed with Simon the Tanner. If you know about the smell involved, you wonder how he could have endured it.
All of their ministry gathered people around the throne of the Lamb. We too call others to come and worship with us. We can witness to the healing going on in this congregation, witness to our neighbors that Jesus brings healing, eternal life, abundant life, just the way we experienced Friday night. Jesus provides us with a life filled with hope, because when we are the people of God’s pasture and the sheep of God’s hands, then we will never perish. The Holy One who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ, the great Shepherd of the sheep, his reign does not end here on earth, but also enters heaven and also does not remain in heaven, but also comes and overflows to us on Earth. Heaven on Earth? Just read the newspapers! No way! But God makes a way where there is no way. We can’t expect the main feature, but we can certainly experience the previews of the coming attractions.
Faith is the power of God in and among us. Let us listen to the shepherd’s voice. Jesus knows us and as sinful as we may be, he sees us through rose-colored glasses as the very saints of God. When Jesus says, “The Father and I are one.” He points out that he is the Son. And when he teaches us to pray, “Our Father in heaven, he points out that we are God’s children now and what we in Christ Lutheran church will one day be, has not yet been revealed, but we will be Christ-like, for we shall see him as he is.
You might say, “What can I possibly do? I am old and fragile and have so little strength and no power.” Don’t forget, it’s a lamb on God’s throne, Jesus the tender lamb so wonderful to hold in our arms, who gets right into our hearts, to whom is given all power in heaven and earth – all glory, majesty, and honor at the right hand of God the Father, Almighty, whom we worship in spirit and truth, and who is only a prayer away. Amen.
A joke (not included): Pope John XXIII was asked by an overwhelmed tourist, “How many employees work in the Vatican.” He thought a moment and said, “About half of them.”
 Matthew 11:28-30.
 Psalm 130:4.
 In the Benefit Concert the confirmands sponsored for the Children’s Cancer Center on Music Night over 60 attended and donated $1,000. We were overwhelmed!
 Psalm 95:7.
 1 John 3:1-3.