2022-05-08 Easter 4
Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Dr. James Dobson from Focus on the Family once told a story about his son Ryan when he was a small baby. It had been a terrible day for Dr. Dobson’s wife Shirley because Ryan had been quite sick and had been crying non-stop all day long. Shirley had been quite patient and lovingly took care of him. However, at one point during the day, Shirley was changing Ryan’s diapers when the phone rang. She reached for the phone to answer it before she had fastened up his diapers. It was at that precise moment that Ryan had an attack of explosive diarrhea!! After she had hung up the phone and cleaned up the horrible mess, she put him in clean, sweet-smelling baby fresh clothes. Then she took him to the living room to feed him. As she was burping him, he suddenly threw up all over himself, and her and the couch too. Dobson said, “when I came home I could smell the aroma of motherhood everywhere!” Shirley looked at him and cried out, “I don’t remember any of this being in my contract!”
Happy Mother’s Day!! … I am supremely confident that all of the mothers here this morning have similar tales to this one! But my question is, if you knew then what you know now, would you still have done it?! I’m sure you would have for the joys and rewards of motherhood far outweigh the challenges, stress and aromas! Mother’s Day isn’t a church holiday or festival but it is exceedingly appropriate for us to commemorate God’s supreme gift of Mothers. In fact, Martin Luther, in his Large Catechism spoke very highly of Mother’s and the respect due to them. “Honour requires not only that parents be addressed kindly and with reverence, but also that, both in the heart and with the body we demonstrate that we value them very highly, and that, next to God, we regard them as the very highest!”
Motherhood is one of the highest callings in the land to be sure. No one else out there has greater influence upon kids and communities and even the whole world! I think especially of Paul’s words to Timothy “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure dwells in you as well” (2 Tim 1:5). This has always been an intriguing verse to me because despite the idea that the Father is to be the Spiritual head of the house, how many countless Mothers out there have been the ones to pass on the faith when Dad was found faithless? Or I think of the time when I was in Ukraine and you saw all of those little Babushkas – Grandmothers who kept the faith alive when Communism sought to kill the Word of God. They were the heroins of the faith who passed the Word on to future generations.
It was a very shepherdly task, tending their flocks in faithfulness. But as all moms know, tending children is more like herding cats! And this is my sheepish segue as today is also Good Shepherd Sunday. It is every year on the 4th Sunday in the Easter season. It is a popular image of God, one that is wonderful, compassionate, loving, and caring. It’s clean and cute and marketable. Now contrast this to a stricken, smitten, and afflicted hunk of bleeding flesh on the Cross where Jesus the lamb of God was slaughtered for the sins of the world! It’s a harsh and glaring contrast. Yet both images are one and the same God! However this image of the Good Shepherd is a great Easter image of Jesus that has been distilled down for us and for all Christians throughout the ages. This same God has done many amazing miracles, yet the greatest of these would be the Good Shepherd who laid down His own life on the Cross for us and for our forgiveness and then rose again triumphant from the grave! Indeed, Jesus is our Good Shepherd who looks after the sheep.
Can we get any better promise from God? It is a wonderful gift by faith alone that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, would be our Good Shepherd. We are sheep who hear His voice, that is, who hear His Word and keep it. We live in grace for the forgiveness of our sins and now His commandments guide our life. Our Good Shepherd knows us. He knows who we are better than anyone. He created us, He died for our sins and sanctifies us! He is a God who can relate to us in every way. He knows our pains, hurts and struggles and everything else that lies before us. And the best part is that He bears them for us and with us. As a result of that love, we follow our Good Shepherd. If you’ve ever noticed, on a cattle drive the cowboys drive the cattle from behind the heard – but sheep follow the shepherd. I can’t help but think of Psalm 23, which was our opening prayer this morning. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” Our Good Shepherd does all of these things for us because He is rich in mercy and compassion.
Christians are the only people of faith which have such a promise. God is the One who seeks us and leads us and does what is best for us! Faith is based totally upon what He does for us! All other false gods and false religions are based on what we do for God to try and manipulate or bargain with God to some how get our own way. This is the cardinal difference with Christianity. Instead of that pagan approach, we rest easy knowing it is our Good Shepherd Who leads us and does what is best for us. The 23rd Psalm spells it out clearly: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” Our Good Shepherd is with us! What an amazing promise from a loving God. He is always there to take care of us, protect us with His rod and staff, guide us and give us His gifts. Why?! Because He looks down at us, just as a Mother of a Father would and He loves us! He loves us and forgives us even when we sin.
Such a message is more than just simply comforting. It is more than just a nice, cozy warm image of a nice Shepherd holding a nice little lamb on His shoulders. It is the very message of salvation! Such a message makes hearers into messengers and proclaimers! Think about it this way. If you go to a dealership and buy a car and you like the salesperson, the store, the deal they gave you and everything is positive, well you tell people about it. “Good old Leonard down at Moose Jaw Volvo is a great salesman! What a deal!” This should be the same with our faith. If we listen to God’s voice, the voice that created us and called us to eternal life, this same voice now sends. It sends us right into the valley of death which is this sick ol’ world of sin – a world that hasn’t heard of the Good Shepherd and has no hope and no salvation! You get to be part of that mission. Our Good Shepherd leads us on!
When you consider the early Christian church in our readings from Acts this Easter season, it is truly awesome! It is amazing to watch how the church goes from 12 men to 2.38 Billion people world wide, with countless other white-robed saints already before the Lamb’s throne! The church exploded with growth and God prospered it. But note how Paul and the Apostles and every day Christians proclaimed the message of salvation! They showed it. They lived it in thought, word and deed. We too are baptized into this same faith and our Good Shepherd chooses you and chooses to work through you too. But how often we don’t follow our shepherd on this one! How often are we sent – but won’t go. How often do we not let our light shine. How often do we place the fear of what other people might think about us and the awkward feelings before sharing the news of our Good Shepherd?!
But our Good Shepherd forgave such the denial of Peter and told him to “Feed my sheep” (JN 21:17). He forgives us too. His amazing grace picks us up, dusts us off and keeps us moving forward, proclaiming the Word of God. This is good news for us and especially for Moms on Mother’s Day. When there is so much societal pressure to be the ‘perfect Facebook mom’ who has everything together and the ducks in a row and the kids herded up, smack dab in the middle of the aroma of motherhood, there is our Good Shepherd. It is Jesus our Good Shepherd who comforts us by His grace and who guides and leads us by His Spirit. He prepares a table before us, even in the presence of our enemies. It is there at the table that the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for the sheep gives us the eternal life in His own Body and Blood. With Jesus as our Good Shepherd, we shall not want. Amen! Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed, Alleluia!