Easter III – Good Shepherd Sunday
“One Flock, One Shepherd”
Seminarian Andrew Keller, Vicar
St. John 10.11-16
26 April 2020
Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
The image of sheep out to pasture is easy to picture even if you have not seen it. Sheep are gathered into the flock by the shepherd and listen to his voice. While the flock always stays under the shepherd’s care, occasionally, a single sheep strays from the fold and puts itself at risk. It could fall off a slope, get stuck in a hole or bramble, or, in the worst-case scenario, become prey for a prowling wolf or lion. The shepherd’s job is to protect the sheep, lead them to pasture, and herd them up for safekeeping, that they might remain one flock under one shepherd.
You might feel like you are a scattered flock right now. The viral outbreak has isolated the nation, planting fear of illness and death into our hearts. The news perpetuates the panic with contrasting reports so that no one knows what is true and who to believe. Authority figures preach isolation to be the best measure and deem many who depend on their jobs to be “non-essential.” Since church doors are locked after the quota is hit, with some doors being closed altogether, it is easy to feel like wandering sheep, as if the flock has been scattered. Has it?
Once, you were wandering sheep. You were scattered. Prior to your baptism, you were born under the reign of sin, an enemy of God in thought, word and deed. Even as baptized children of God, we still allow ourselves to wander in sin, as the prophet Isaiah spoke, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned-every one-to his own way.” Rather than following the good and gracious will of God, we follow what is good and pleasing in our own sight, whether we are at home, where no one is watching, or even at church. The Old Adam would listen to Satan’s sly words, which question, “Did God really say…?” He tempts us to disbelieve God and His promises. He would have us believe the suffering and fear from this virus are proof that God does not care for His sheep. Instead of remaining safely in the arms of Christ, we sometimes wander into the jaws of Satan, who wants nothing more than to lead us away from the flock.
Yet, through the Good Shepherd, we remain one flock under one shepherd. Remember what Jesus said in the Gospel reading for this morning, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” Jesus has not forgotten us in our time of need. Though temptation, fear of death, and uncertainty of the future weigh heavily on our minds, they will never triumph. To quote the prophet Isaiah again, “the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” The Shepherd’s love for the lost sheep is so great; He leaves the 99 sheep in the pasture to go find the lost, that He might bring them back to the flock. Our sin has been put upon Jesus, who laid down His life on the cross to defeat all the evils of this world. Then, He took His life back up again in the resurrection, showing His triumph over that prowling wolf. Since He is risen, you too will share in that triumph. You receive these blessings through baptism, where you were marked as a child of God. Through baptism, all sin and evil desires are daily drowned and die, and a new man emerges to live before God in righteousness and innocence. As He is risen, ascended and reigns at the right hand of the Father, you too will arise again on that last day. For through baptism, you share in the death and resurrection of Christ. The wandering sheep reject this promise and are outside of the fold. However, you hear His voice, you know Him and you follow Him. He has called you through the gospel and has made you His child through the saving waters of baptism. Nothing, not even disease, plague, famine, disaster, no not even death itself, can change that.
The Lord is your Good Shepherd. He provides you with all that you need to support this body and life, so that you will not be in want. He guides your paths and guards your ways, leading you in the path of righteousness. Though we are in the valley of the shadow of death because of this viral outbreak, though we cannot gather in one place, we do not fear. We are still one flock under the Good Shepherd, who protects you with His mighty arm and cares for your needs of both body and soul. Soon, dear Christians, both here and worshipping at home, He will end this time of isolation. Imagine the joy of that day when we are no longer separated, but can come together once more. Soon we will all come together again to eat and drink at the table, where the Lord has prepared His body and blood, given and shed for the forgiveness of our sins. How wonderful will that day be?
Even more so will be that day when the Lord gathers His flock on the Last Day. On that day, all your fears and worries will subside. You will no longer fret about sickness, Satan, or death, for Christ will cast them away forever. He will gather you as He promised, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them from my hand.” On that Last Day, we will have the unimaginable joy of being brought together with all believers in Christ into one flock under the Good Shepherd, where we will dwell in His house forever. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.