Tuesday, July 24, 2012

“The Right Kind of Shepherd” (Jeremiah 23:3-4)

S-1327 8SAP/3B 7/22/12 Hymns: (O) #473 vv1-3; (S) #351; L.S. #324; #413; #314 (C) #473 vv 4-5

Text: Jeremiah 23:1-6; Ephesians 2:11-22; Mark 6:30-44

Theme: “The Right Kind of Shepherd” (Jeremiah 23:3-4)

Question: “Has a Pastor ever disappointed you?” Armour, SD.

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text is from the O. T. lesson: “Then I will gather the remnant of My flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declare the LORD” (Jer. 23:3-4).

Precious little lambs of Christ, Holy Scripture employs many different images describing God as He relates to His people: Husband, Father, Deliverer, Defense Attorney, Savior, Redeemer and many, many more. But the greatest and most loved image of God is a Shepherd who cares, feeds, protects and provides for His little lambs.

In today’s text, we see God’s wrath being poured out on the unfaithful shepherds, leaders, priests and kings who have been appointed to care for His flock—but have neglected them. God is angry because they have scattered rather than gathered His flock. Rather than feeding them, they have starved them. Rather than protecting them, they have victimized them; and He is saddened by the state of affairs that has taken place.

Therefore, our compassionate God promises that He will gather them from all the world where they have been scattered to the His fold and cause them to be fruitful and provide for them the right kind of shepherds—shepherds who will do what is right for the flock. And not only shepherds but even the right kind of King who rules with justice and truth.

To the weeping Prophet (Jeremiah), God promises to do what the other shepherds failed to do. Though Jeremiah was faithful in his ministry, yet he was abused, thrown into prison, beaten, and finally taken into captivity—he never ceased to teach the message God gave Him to speak. Yet, the Lord declares HE IS THE ONE WHO WILL DEAL WITH HIS LAMBS IN A VERY SPECAIL WAY. PAUSE.

Indeed, God is the Only One who would be the faithful Shepherd who will care for His sheep. Study Scriptures and you will see false and evil prophets, rulers and kings. No matter how good they were, they all have come short.

And it isn’t any different today. I will be the first one to say to you, you don’t have a perfect pastor. The best that I can do is point to Him who is the Faithful Pastor—Jesus Christ—Your Good Shepherd. I will also remind you that I don’t have a perfect congregation, though sometimes you think you are. And certainly we don’t have a perfect faith, BUT, we do have a perfect Savior, the True and Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ whom God has sent and set over His people.

We see this faithful Good Shepherd at work in the Gospel reading for today. Jesus is with His disciples. They have just returned from their mission to prepare His way. John the Baptist has just been beheaded. A sense of tiredness and perhaps bewilderment was falling upon the Twelve. The Good Shepherd knows His own, and He calls for them to come apart, to come aside and to rest, apart from the crowds. Rest is good for both body and soul.

But here it is, in this desolate place by the shores of the Sea of Galilee that a crowd has followed them. Jesus teaches.... all day long! It is now late. The place is remote. Imagine 20,000 people descending on our little town of Armour. Sure, we have a couple of eating establishments, they may be able to feed 500-600 souls, but soon they would run out... of milk, and meat, of cereals and grains, even of candy bars behind the counter.

The disciples grasp the situation, it is late and desolate. We should send them home to get some food before darkness descends upon them. But the faithful Shepherd who looks out to the crowd and has compassion on them, says, “You give them something to eat! It’s as though He is saying, “Problem, what problem? Feed them!” He does it every day. There is a song that describes our True and Good Shepherd: “He’s got the whole world in His hands.”

The disciples see a huge problem, but Jesus sees opportunity—He is Lord of all and over all. After all, He is the God made flesh. He came down from heaven and controls everything in the Universe. He cares! He is compassionate and He is concerned for their well being. Therefore, He tells the disciples to have the crowds sit in groups of 50’s and 100’s. He looks to heaven, give thanks, and distributes such that every man, woman, and child ate to their fill. Oh, and 12 baskets of bread and fish remained! No other man could even come close. He is the True and Genuine Shepherd who leads us by the still waters, who prepares the table before us even in the presence of His enemies who are also our enemies. Truly, if ever there was a cup that overflowed, it would have to be in this remote place. Oh, wait; there was one place, more remote where the cup overflowed even more graphically - Golgotha.

Everything done here in this remote place was to point to the True Shepherd of whom Jeremiah speaks. He is our only peace. He alone has broken down the wall of separation and made us One - with Him and one with each other. Yes, the blood of Christ has brought us close and made us family. It all goes back to the Cross of Jesus. His cup of blessing overflows, for He drank the cup of wrath for us. His cup overflows!

When we are hurting, be it for family, or for our own health, when we feel lonely because one we have loved has preceded us in death, when there seems to be more month than money, when loneliness and lack sit on our shoulders crying into our ears and hearts, know this... it is not too late. We are not so remote that He cannot and will not multiply the loaves and fishes for us today. This is not the “prosperity gospel.” We may still feel hunger pangs and still have every reason to need to pray for a loved one. But we know He has us and those we love right in the palm of His hands. He is that faithful Shepherd who hung on the cross, for He alone is the “Lord our Righteousness!” Behold, His cup overflows... for you!

Let me be as candid with you as I can. If I look to my strengths as your pastor, you will find merely a man, who more often than not will disappoint you because I am sinful to the core. If you were to look to your wealth and wisdom as a congregation you will find five loaves, probably not big ones like a loaf of Wonder Bread, but flat, dry crusty tortillas, and some dried fish. We are so puny. Our faith can be so weak. Doubt can grow strong within us. Ah, but remember, He is here with us. He increases our faith in His faithfulness. He feeds us and those around us, incarnationally, in and through our weakness and smallness. Surely His cup overflows even here today! And even now at the table set before you. PAUSE.

Precious little lambs of His don’t look to me to fill you and satisfy you. My best isn’t good enough. Don’t look to yourself, your position, your power, or your possessions, they will disappoint and disappear because of fire, theft and even drought. Instead look to Him who is the “Lord our Righteousness” who alone is our strength and our song, the only One who has become our Salvation.

I hope and pray that I don’t mislead you. I pray often that I would be a faithful under-shepherd to guide you and lead you to the way that leads to eternal life. And if you in love and mercy follow me, I will point you to Him who came to be Your faithful and Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. He will bind your wounds, He will heal your broken hearts, He will forgive you your sins and He will feed you His broken body and give you to drink His life-giving and precious blood.

Indeed, He is the One who has done what God has sent Him to do. Therefore, in this place, look to Him who satisfies Your hunger and quenches your thirst. Come to Him and taste how sweet He is, Drink from His cup, for it alone refreshes, rejuvenates and restores YOU to a peace with God. Today, You come, hungry for the Word of Life, hungry for the meal that always satisfies, for the Shepherd who gathers and does not scatter. Beloved, in your need, He is here... for you. Drink deeply of the Cup of Blessing...Even so, Amen!

Now the peace...


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