Friday, November 25, 2011

“I” (Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24)

S-1278 LSOCY/3C 11/20/11 Hymns: (O) #388; S#364; (C) #428

Text: Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24; 1 Corinthians 15:20-28; Matthew 25:31-46

Theme: “I” (Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24)

Question: “Do you think highly of yourself?” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for the Last Sunday of the Church Year is the O.T. lesson: “Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out… I will rescue them…I will bring them out… [I will] gather them…I will feed them…I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.” (Ezekiel 34:11-16).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

Beloved in the Lord, do you know what is the problem with our world? I am the problem. As a pastor, I admit to you that I am selfish, self-serving, self-centered, arrogant and proud. I will be the first to admit to you that on many occasion I have made strong statements such as: “I am self-made man. I came to this country at age 16 without any English skills and taught myself English. I worked hard and went to college; and I am the highest educated Nour in the whole Nour family both here and in the old country. I came with $500.00 to my name and now I am comfortable.

And if that is not enough bragging about what I have accomplished, last Sunday while hunting deer, I shot one from 450 yards. Yes, I told everyone about it. What you hear is I have done this and I have done that. It is all about me—I.

Even one of the GOP candidates for the presidency, Rick Perry said in one of his commercials: “I am a doer and not a talker!”

Now before you jump all over me and Rick Perry, review your life and your statements. How many times have you said, “I have done this or that? I have built this or that? I bought this car with my money. I shot a big deer last year; I am going to accomplish this in my lifetime and this is what I have in my bucket list?”

This is the problem with our world. I am the problem, but it is also you. You, I and every person who is born likes to take credit for the things he/she does. Remember the story that the Savior taught in Luke 18? Jesus tells us: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’” We all like to tell others of our accomplishments. We like the world to know that we are decent people. PAUSE.

Saints in Christ, have you ever gotten a Christmas letter or sent one out? What is contained in those letters? My Susie is a great athlete! My Jimmy is on the A honor roll. Sam starts on the varsity BB. My husband got a promotion to vice-president. We took this vacation and saw these beautiful sights.

There is nothing wrong with such letters. They are wonderful to receive and read from family and friends. But do they tell the whole story? How many of those letters say it like it is. Susie got pregnant with her boyfriend, Jimmy has flunked algebra for the 3rd time, Sam has been benched because of his drinking; and my husband was fired because of lying to his boss. We don’t tell those kinds of stories, do we?

How often do we admit that we have bombed it? How many times are we the first ones to acknowledge that we have sinned against God in word and deed? Are we always ready to say, that I have sinned against my neighbor? Of course it is always his fault. We are innocent. Do we acknowledge the tax collector’s saying: ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’

You see my brothers and sisters in Christ the problem with the world is me, because I am concerned about myself and not others. I am turned inward rather than outward. I focus on myself rather than my neighbor.

You don’t believe me. Let me ask you this simple question: “What is at the center of the word sin? “I.” Yes, it is I who have done all of these things against God and neighbor. PAUSE.

However, today’s text from Ezekiel tells us if anyone has a right to say, I, it is God Himself. Our God is the Great I Am, who gathers His sheep, seeks them out, finds the lost, rescues them, feeds them, binds them, strengthens them and be their Shepherd. God in this text tells us that He will do all of these things for His people—YOU His precious saints.

If you have a pen, please mark your Bibles or reading for today and see how many times the letter I is mentioned in these few verses? {give them time to count them} 23 times the author of life and the Great Shepherd of His people says I will do these mighty activities for My people.

If anyone has any right to brag it is not you and me, but our Gracious and faithful God. He Himself will shepherd His people to the green pastures so that they will live in peace and harmony. He will bind their broken spirits and hearts and give them the joy and hope of the future that awaits His sheep. He will restore them to the place before sin marked our world and us.

In order for Him to do so, He set One shepherd over them; and this faithful Shepherd—Jesus Christ, God’s only Son and David’s Son, came to earth with redeeming love to gain forgiveness for us and reclaim us as His people. An oft-quoted verse comes to mind: “Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to Him­self as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:25-27).

Indeed, this faithful Shepherd of the sheep fulfilled His own words of John 10, I Am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep” (V. 11), The Good Shepherd has done away with the problem of the world turning me from sinner to saint, from darkness to light, from hell-bound to heaven-bound.

Because of our Awesome God, we hear Him say to us again today, “I, I myself will do this!” And He has. We believe what He has said only by faith, as our good Dr. Martin Luther taught us in the explanation of the 3rd article of the creed saying: “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength, believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him. But the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel....” Yes, we believe and move and have our being because we are rooted in Him who died and rose for us and gave us hope—Jesus the faithful Shepherd. This is our Awesome God, the Great I Am who has rescued us, restored us and redeemed us by His Son’s great sacrifice on the cross of Calvary. For that we are thankful and we want to tell this story over and over. PAUSE.

Comedian, Bobby Smith tells of a day when she was terribly sick and had to go to the clinic for help. As she entered the clinic she had to take a number. After about 45 minutes the nurse hollered “number 7”. She leaned over and moaned her number was 47. She was perspiring and light-headed. However, there was a 10 year old boy who was obnoxious and loud. She couldn’t handle him because of the many things he kept doing. 2 ½ hours later, the nurse cried out “number 34.” At which the boy jumped up and started saying “I have number 34 and going through the door, if you have number 38, you just have to wait.” He repeated this as he moved from one person to another.

Finally, this kid stopped in front of Bobby and said: “I have number 34 and going through the door, if you have number 38, you just have to wait.” Bobby was annoyed but didn’t lift her eyes from the Bible she was reading. At the sight of the Bible the boy looked closely and said: “Are you reading the Bible?” She responded “Yes!” He asked again: “Are you a believer?” Again, she said, “Yes, I Am!” At that, the young boy’s demeanor changed and said to Bobby: “You know, why don’t you take my number and go and see the dr. I’m not really that sick, but you look like you are.” She didn’t know what to say, she looked at him and looked at his mother who had a big grin on her face as to affirm what her son has done and he repeated again, saying, “You go in my place please.” With tears streaming down Bobby’s cheeks she commented, “Few moments ago, I was reading in the Bible about Jesus, and right before me this little boy became a GIANT of a man and was Jesus in person!”

Beloved in Christ, the problem in the world is me, but Jesus the humble infant is the solution for our problem because He takes our place. He says to His Father, “Father, I will go and die for these sheep!” And He did. But He also rose again to gives us a future and a hope. For that we thank Him and tell His story here and everywhere. Amen

Now the peace of God…


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