Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Chapel: April 15

Here's my chapel message for Tuesday, April 15:

The text I am using for today’s chapel is taken from John 10: 1-11. It may sound familiar because it was the Gospel lesson from this past Sunday, April 13.

“I tell you the truth, the man who doesn’t come into the sheepfold through the door but climbs over somewhere else, is a thief and a robber. But the one who comes in through the door is the shepherd of the sheep. The doorkeeper opens the door for him and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by their names and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own sheep, he walks ahead of them and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger but will run away from him because they don’t know the voice of strangers.”

This was the illustration Jesus used in talking to them, but they didn’t know what He meant. So Jesus spoke again: I tell you the truth, I am the Door for the sheep. All who came before Me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep didn’t listen to them.

I am the Door. If anyone comes in through Me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came so that they will have life and have it overflowing in them. I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep”

BLOGGER BONUS: Read Paul Kretzman's commentary on these verses. He makes it very clear about the danger of listening to false Shepherds/propehts and the need to study God's Word dilligently so we always recognize the sound of the Good Shepherd's voice. It is this voice of our Savior that grants us forgiveness, salvation and strengthe for this life while we wait for the next.

As our annual father son tradition has it, Aaron and I were camping. Just the two of us, living off the land, off the spoils of nature. Testing our selves to the limits of human endurance…or at least as long as it took for me to blaze a fire and grill up some hot dogs. And maybe we weren’t living off the land but we were sleeping on it. Kind of, I mean the air mattress I was sleeping on was touching the ground. So in a way I was sleeping on the land.

But there we were on one of our annual father son camping trips, this one probably about eight years ago.

First things first when we get to the campsite: I set up the tent, Aaron unpacks the car and loads up the tent. Then I begin preparing dinner in the outdoors, in the wild, just roughing it like men of nature do. So naturally, I begin making macaroni and cheese out of a box. After Aaron finished his task he began scouting the area for wood scraps that we could use for the night’s fire. Keeping one eye on Aaron and the other on the all natural powdered cheese I was about to sprinkle on the macaroni, it happened. I mean it was bound to happen. This wild meal in the wild woods of western Michigan required both eyes on the macaroni. Minutes later I looked for Aaron…Nothing. Now some fathers might have immediately started bellowing, but I didn’t want people around me to know that I had lost my son. I have read about and often mocked these fathers. How could you lose your ten-year-old son? Calmly I began to search around the camp site: no Aaron. Immediately I envisioned sitting in the park ranger’s office explaining, “I looked away for a minute. I mean I couldn’t burn the powdered cheese, and he was gone. I’m a good father, really.”
I snapped back to reality and realized I needed to call for my son, or risk going home without him and that was not an explanation I wanted to run by my wife. So I called.
Bubba, Bubba, Bubba.

I knew that if he was lost he would hear my voice, since it has a tendency to carry, and since Aaron has heard it so often, he would recognize it was me and begin walking toward it. I knew that he would recognize my voice and understand it was time to quit gather campfire wood and come home, or at least back to the tent.

Obviously, the story had a good ending…there he sits. The parallel to our text is similar but the message of the text is more eloquent, more powerful, more condemning and at the same time more eternally comforting.

Sheep can discern the voice of their shepherd, so they will not go to strange voices. There is no stranger voice than a thief who jumps over the fence to gain admission into the sheep pen. Once there the thief must trick the sheep into believing it is the Shepherd. These thieves aren’t stupid, they don’t jump the fence and say, hop in the sheep van to hell and hang on. No, satan the ultimate sheep stealer is more savvy, more crafty, more sly, more deceptive, and certainly more deadly than that. He’ll send in people that sound like the Shepherd, that look like the Shepherd and that seem like the Shepherd. He’ll send in robbers to imitate the Shepherd and get the sheep to follow what they think is the truth, but make no mistake, that eternal thief comes only to, as the text states, “steal and kill and destroy.” And because of satan’s tactics and man’s ignorance, many will be stolen, killed and destroyed. Even Peter warns us of such trickery in I Peter 5:8 “Keep a clear head and watch! Your enemy, the devil, is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” Those he can’t devour immediately he will confuse and wedge his way into the sheep pen by using doubt, fear and guilt.

Listen to all the voices we sheep hear. Look at all the sinful responses we have to those voices. The voice of the eternal thief was so effective that he succeeded in condemning us to hell two ways. The first was his ability to persuade Adam and Eve to eat of the fruit of the tree in the Garden of Eden. That original sin and the penalty of death were passed on to us at birth, as clearly revealed in Psalm 51:5 “I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” The second condemnation is found in our actual sins, our hearts, “Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” As God, through Matthew states in chapter 15 verse 19. Make no mistake the thief has jumped the gate, called to us and we have listened. We have listened and responded in sin with our hate, our lust, our disobedience. That sinful response has separated us from God. That sinful response has made us hostile to God. God’ makes that clear to us in the first book of the Bible, Genesis 8:21 “Every inclination of man’s heart is evil from childhood.” And make no mistake the penalty, the wages for sin is eternal death. It’s what we have earned and, on our own, cannot escape.

But because of Christ, the Good and Gracious Shepherd, it’s not what we receive. Through God’s grace in His son, the Good Shepherd we receive an overflowing of eternal life. “Jesus spoke again: I tell you the truth, I am the Door for the sheep. All who came before Me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the Door. If anyone comes in through Me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came so that they will have life and have it overflowing in them. I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep”

It is clear that we must remain diligent in our study of God’s Word so we can recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd, because it is only through Christ that we have life. Martin Luther comments on the importance of knowing the voice of the true Shepherd: “for as he has said of His office which he carries on through His Word, thus he also says of His sheep, how they behave in His kingdom, namely, when the door is opened to Him, they at once hear his voice and learn to know it well, for it is a truly comforting, cheering voice, by which they, delivered from terror and fear, come to the liberty that they may expect all mercy and comfort of God in Christ. And when they have once accepted this Shepherd they adhere to Him alone with all confidence and hear the teaching of none other.”

The voice of the Good Shepherd has cleansed all our sins. That voice of the Good Shepherd grants us hope and healing through His death and resurrection. That voice of the Good Shepherd has granted us eternal life. And through Christ we have life abundantly. While we have life here on earth, we also have the forgiveness of our sins at our baptism, in the Lord’s Supper, and in His Word. Our eternity with the Creator and Redeemer, is already freely given to us. Our salvation is assured. Our sins are forgiven. Hope in life is found in Life through Christ. As verse four of our hymn states, “Weeping be gone; Sorrow, be silent: Death put asunder and Easter is bright. Cherubim sing: “O grave, be open!” clothe us in wonder, adorn us in light. Jesus is risen and we shall arise. Give God the Glory! Alleluia.!

Lord’s blessings.

1 comment:

RobinK said...

...the sheep van to hell...I'm still chuckling. I wish I were a cartoonist. I would draw the sheep van to hell.