Friday, July 18, 2014

“What Do You Want?” (Psalm 23:1b)

S-1440 5SAP/3A 7/13/2014 Hymns: (O) #740; (S) #710; LS. #618; #625(C) #790 vv. 1,3,5 LSB

Texts: Isaiah 55:10-13; Romans 8:12-17; Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

Theme: “What Do You Want?” (Psalm 23:1b)

Question: “What is one thing you want?” 2nd in sermon series on Psalm 23

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia! The text is from the 23 Psalm: The Lord is My shepherd, I shall not want.” (Psalm 23:1b).

Precious little lambs let me ask you: Have you ever been in jail? I don’t mean to visit but behind closed bars. It is an eerie feeling when you hear the door click shut behind you and there is no way out.

Today, I invite you to come with me and visit one of the largest and most inhumane prisons on the face of the planet—the Gaza Strip and West Bank. There are no metal bars, but there is a sea on one hand and the Israeli soldiers on the other. There are checkpoints and a huge wall that keeps the populations inside. Though they have cars and busses to travel, they can’t leave. Though they have beds and houses to sleep and eat in, they do it with fear and trepidation. Life for these prisoners is harsh and difficult.

But as bad as this prison is, there is a worse one with a higher population—of over 7 billion inmates. It is overcrowded, the conditions are terrible and it is a lifelong sentence. Which prison is it you ask? It is the prison of Want. From the moment a person is born he enters this prison wall seeking only what he wants. No matter how old or young the person is, there is always a want.

Every prisoner is always crying “I WANT!” A baby wants to be fed, a young child wants another toy, a teen wants a car, an adult wants a job and an elderly wants enough funds to retire. The prison of want is as real as it gets. We want something—something bigger, faster, nicer, and shinier. None-the-less we want something.

We often want one thing more: One more job, one more promotion, one more vacation, one more outing, one new car, one new house, one more dollar, one more meal, and one new spouse. Our appetite is greedy. Just one more thing will satisfy us; or so we think.

David, the author of the text declares: “The Lord is My Shepherd, I shall not want.” But we say it this way: “The Lord is my Shepherd and I still WANT!” We can’t deny this truth. No matter who we are, what is our vocation and what is our station in life, we want more. I remember few years back while on my Holy Land Nour Tour, we stopped at the Sea level for a camel ride. The man who owns the camel is nice and kind. While he and I were visiting, he whispers in my ear: “Pastor, do you have a woman on the bus that I could marry?” I responded, “I thought you are married!” He smiled and said, “Oh, I am married! I have three (3) wives, but I want one more!” Just one more thing!

Again, beloved, no matter where you are in life, or where you live the prison of want is as real as it gets. It affects all people throughout the whole world, whether poor or rich, male or female. Few years back a missionary came home on furlough from Africa’s bush country. During the Q/A session, a person asked the missionary “What is the biggest challenge the people you witness to have?” The missionary responded, “Greed.” The man said, “How can it be, they have nothing?” The missionary answered, “If they have a straw roof hut they want a wooden roof.” PAUSE.

It is indeed a travesty that we are all in this prison of want. Oh, don’t misunderstand me. We do get out occasionally when we get what we want. But as soon as the newness wears off, we go back to jail again. We want something different. The human appetite is never satisfied.

Even when we are attempting to live the Christian life by praying, our prayers are still the prayers of want. More often our prayers are like this: Lord, give me success, a new job, a new car, a new bike. And if you have been following the World Cup, you have seen the players and fans praying for their team to win. However, we don’t often pray Father use me to spread Your kingdom. Lord Jesus, help me to seek the lost. Holy Spirit, equip me to be about the Mission work of the Church by sharing the Good News. This is the life of the prisoners of want.

You see it is not only humans who are prisoners of want but even the animals and the world we live in wants more. In the book of Proverbs the author highlights these wants: “The leech has two daughters. ‘Give! Give!’ they cry. “There are three things that are never satisfied, four that never say, ‘Enough!’: the grave, the barren womb, land, which is never satisfied with water, and fire, which never says, ‘Enough!’” (Proverbs 30:15-16).

We are all guilty of this. How often we go to other pastures and follow other shepherds. Even Paul, the author of the Epistle lesson struggled with the desire of want saying: “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me” (Romans 7:18-20). Oh the challenge of being prisoners. We all go to the pastures of want and shepherds of desire. And the cycle starts all over. The cycle continues. It begins again, from age to age and day to day. Still we stay, still we seek other pastures and other shepherds—the pastures of want and shepherds of desire. PAUSE.

Beloved in the Lord, I have good news for you. Though we are all prisoners of WANT, there is someone who has freed us from this prison cell. David teaches us today, this absolute truth: “The Lord is My Shepherd, I shall not want.” The Lord who is our Good Shepherd is the One who frees us from the bondage of this prison. The faithful Shepherd is the One who opens the gates of the prison and sets us free. He did it as He swapped places with us—He became the prisoner and we became free men. He died a cruel death to make this swap a reality and remove once and for all the bars and chains that hold us captives. On the cross of Calvary after Jesus had taken all our sins of want and greed into His sinless flesh He was crucified. Our wants were crucified too! They died with Him even as we die with Him in the waters of Holy Baptism. When Jesus said “It is finished” it was as if His powerful voice exclaimed ENOUGH! In Christ we have all we can ever want or need. The call of faith is a call to contentment.

David learned the art of being content. When He announced to the world that “The Lord is My Shepherd, I shall not want,” he meant it. When Jesus is the anchor of your soul, you will be content. When Jesus is the hope of your life there is hopefulness and there is salvation. When Jesus is Your Savior, then You have a God who will supply your EVERY need. You have a God who listens to every plea for mercy. You have a God who answers your every prayer with His grace. You have a God who opens the gates of heaven for you.

What David is teaching us is that when Jesus is YOUR Shepherd, you have grace for every sin, direction for every turn, a light for the path and an anchor for every storm. When you have Jesus you have everything.

Paul learned that too as he wrote to the Philippians congregation saying: “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” (Phil. 4:11). Like Paul, when we keep our eyes on the Good Shepherd who died for us and rose again, we have life and have it abundantly.

Beloved in the Lord, the people of the Gaza and West Bank want freedom from oppression. The camel owner wants another wife, the African people want a wooden roof hut; and we want more of the world’s goods—stuff. But know this truth. All of these are given us in the One whom David said, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.”

But did you know dear friends that God also has a WANT list? Paul put it this way: “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4). And in His Son, the faithful Good Shepherd we have come to know the God as the One who gets us out of the prison of want and into the blessed life of His green pasture unto an eternity with Him. Amen.

Now the peace…


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