EASTER 4, A – May 11,2014

SCRIPTURES – Psalm23; Acts 2:42-47; 1 Peter 2:19-25; John 10:1-10

“He who enters by the door is theshepherd of the sheep… The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep byname and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes beforethem, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” John 10

It’s amazing how songs can bring vivid memories andimages to mind. For instance, whenever I hear the song, “Down in the Boondocks”I see my mom at work in the kitchen, probably preparing a meal. For, I rememberone time when I was a boy being with her in the kitchen and hearing her singalong as that song came on the radio. The song, “Red Rubber Ball” brings tomind the time when I was seven and fell asleep between my brothers in the backseat of our car as dad drove us home from our cousins’ house.

What does Psalm 23 – a beautiful and much-lovedPsalm – bring to your mind? A hospital room and the Pastor praying with aperson who is dying? A funeral Service at church? How about standing alongsidea grave? “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I willfear no evil,” it says, and for this reason it is associated with dyingand funerals and cemeteries.

It’s time we have a better image in mind, the imagethe Psalm begins with: of the Lord as our shepherd. Jesus takes this beautifulimage of God and applies it to Himself: “Thesheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep followhim, for they know his voice… I am the Good Shepherd.” When you think of Ps. 23, think of Jesus. Thinkof Him as your Good Shepherd who is with you always to lead you and keep yousafe.

How we need sucha shepherd in our day! For, things have changed very significantly since the daysof my childhood.

Ø  On Monday the New York-based Satanic Temple willbe staging a black mass on Harvard University’s main campus, at theinvitation of the Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club. Satanic Temple spokesperson Lucien Greaves saidthat nothing diabolical is planned. The mass is simply meant to be educational,and more of a political statement than a religious ritual. “There’s no stronger cultural symbol [than Satan] for the revolt againstthe general idea of arbitrary authority and revolt against ultimate tyranny,” Greavessaid. “There’s no better a construct thatcan act as a narrative for our works and goals.”

Ø  On Friday I attended my daughter’s graduationceremony from Simmons College in Boston. The ceremony began with the singing of“America the Beautiful.” The woman leading it changed the second verse andsang, “America! America! God shed hergrace on thee,” and at this many in the audience burst into cheers.

We live in a day when, more and more, evil is notonly not recognized; it is celebrated! And, what is just as bad – or even worse– we live in a day when, more and more, God Himself is not recognized or known.It is no surprise, then, that evil grows. It reaches into our colleges, highschools, and then our middle schools and grade schools; it reaches into ourhomes through TV and movies; it reaches into our minds and memories throughmusic and the incessant passing along of stories and news and information.

How we need ashepherd to lead and guide and defend us as we go through life in this lost andfallen world! That is precisely what we have in Jesus, the Good Shepherd; our Good Shepherd.

What a blessedword is that word, our. Ittells you that Jesus is no distant Shepherd. “He calls his own sheep by name,”Jesus tells us in John 10. He knows you. He knows your fears and worries. Heknows the day to day struggles and hardships you face. He knows your joys andyour sorrows. He knows the world in which you live and the evils whichconstantly confront you. He knows all this, not only because He is God, butbecause He is your shepherd. As a man our Lord Jesus lived in this world. Heendured its temptations and felt its opposition. But, most of all He knows youbecause He bore your sins. He knows them for He felt them, suffered for them,and died because of them. But, “by His wounds you have been healed”(1 Pet. 2). Jesus has taken you to Himself and put God’s name upon you. You arenow “Hisown sheep,” and He is “the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”He will be with you always, with you in every temptation and in every evil andsuffering you must endure. He will go before you as you face Satan and hisevils, which the world in its foolishness and blindness promotes. He will beyour mighty Shepherd to defend you from every wolf and every evil foe thatwould attack you.

How nice thisall sounds! So, where is He, this great and Good Shepherd and Overseer of oursouls? “The sheep hear his voice,” Jesus says, “and he calls his own sheep byname and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes beforethem, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” Your GoodShepherd Jesus is in His voice, in the words of Scripture which you hear andhave proclaimed to you week after week. If you want to have your Good Shepherdwith you to guide and protect you in this dangerous, sin-filled world, thenlisten to His voice! I strongly suggest you do two things:

1)   Read yourBibles. Begin your day with the words of your Good Shepherd. Read them, takethem to heart, and follow them, especially when they’re difficult and you’retempted not to do so – and you will be so tempted! A sheep who doesn’t listento his shepherd wanders off and is in great danger, but a sheep who listens to andfollows his shepherd has him by his side and is kept safe.

2)   Join withyour fellow Christians here in the study and discussion of God’s good words,for you will then have more than your own understanding of Jesus and His words.We are told in Acts 2 that the new believers in Jesus “devoted themselves to the apostles’teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe cameupon every soul,… and the Lord added to their number day by day those who werebeing saved.” This is theblessing God gives to those who devote themselves to listening to Jesus’ wordswith their Pastor and their fellow Christians.

As we go throughlife in this increasingly lost and confused world, which is being filled moreand more with evil images and teachings and teachers, let us listen more andmore to our Good Shepherd Jesus. For, we will then be able to say withconfidence: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, andI will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Surely, for by laying down His life for us our Good Shepherdhas healed us of our sins, and by rising to life again He rules forever as Lordover Satan, sin, and every evil and evildoer that would oppose us. Surelyyou and I in Jesus will dwell in the house of the Lord forever! All thanks andpraise be to God, through Jesus Christ, our Good Shepherd!