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The Good Shepherd

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Psalm 23
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
3 he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff —
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. (Pause) The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
(Pause)
In our consumer-oriented society, it is extremely difficult to hear the simple but radical message of Psalm 23: God is the only necessity of life! We live in a society and culture that teaches people to want everything. Driven by our greed and wants rather than our needs, we can hardly imagine a life that is based solely on the necessities of life - food, water, shelter, and protection. We are bombarded everyday by clever advertisers who have succeeded in convincing us that what our grandparents and parents considered as luxurious are now our basic necessities of life. We tend to have the attitude to want the next best thing that technology presents: the newest iPhone, the cutting-edge model Tesla that drives itself, or the latest health fad. But what are these to avail toward our lives? (Pause) More greed? (Pause) More obsessions?
(Pause)
In a secular society, we are encouraged to trust ourselves first and to work first to secure our own lives and futures. Psalm 23 thus calls us to affirm with the psalmist: The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. (Pause) To say this means to live humbly and gratefully as a child of God. To be a child at home means that we are inevitably part of some kind of family that we share community around a table. We are led to reflect on what it means to be part of God’s household. We are not alone in this world and we are not on our own to sustain ourselves. We belong to God and to one another in community. Just as the sheep of the pasture who graze with their flock.
(Pause)
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
(Pause)
For sheep, there is an abundance of food. They do not have to go anywhere to find food, it is right in front of them and in abundance: fresh, green, and full of nutrition. (Pause) While traveling the hills of Ireland in May of 2017, I passed by the countryside that was swarmed with sheep. There were literally thousands of sheep everywhere. Mothers with their lambs, content as can be. These sheep had a shepherd that knew where the hills and valleys of abundance were. They were happy, content, and unabashedly grazing to their hearts content.
(Pause)
He leads me beside still waters.
(Pause)
There is something to drink for the sheep. In a desert in ancient Israel, water was harder to come by, it was intentional for the shepherds to herd their flocks to rivers and wells so that they could drink and be refreshed from their thirst.
(Pause)
He restores my soul.
(Pause)
The shepherd will seek the famished and scattered sheep and give his life for them. When the grass on the hillsides have been consumed and dried up, he moves his sheep to a new hillside and shows them the new abundance of grass and water that they can be filled with. Jesus, OUR GOOD SHEPHERD, will gather us and give His life for us, to redeem us from sin, from eternal death, and from the power of the devil. This is the green grass and the fresh water with which the Lord restores our souls.
In the scriptures right before our Gospel text for today, John exclaims that Jesus is the shepherd that leads the sheep (John 10:3), providing food, (John 10:10), and protection (John 10:12-13) for the purpose of sustaining life itself (John 10:10), and Jesus says specifically that, “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11, 14).
(Pause)
He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.
(Pause)
These sheep of the Lord are not only instructed and guided, refreshed, strengthened, and comforted by God’s Word; but they are also continuously kept on the right path, protected in body and soul in all kinds of distress, and finally they conquer and overcome all tribulation and sorrow.
Jesus says in the Gospel of Matthew, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear… But strive for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:25, Matthew 6:33).
(Pause)
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff — they comfort me.
(Pause)
God will provide, and God’s provision is grounded in the reality of God’s reign. If the Lord is my Shepherd and we are His sheep, then we are very well supplied both in body and soul. He will feed us well, protect, and preserve us from misfortune, care for us, help us out of all troubles, comfort us, and strengthen us. He will do for us what a good shepherd can be expected to do. “It is God’s companionship that transforms every situation. It does not mean there are no deathly valleys, [and] no enemies. But they are not capable of hurt, and so the powerful loyalty and solidarity of Yahweh comforts, precisely in situations of threat.” (The Message of the Psalms, Brueggemann, 156)
(Pause)
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
(Pause)
God is the source of all food and drink and security. Because we belong to God’s household first, are needs are met. Like Psalm 23, the Eucharist becomes finally an invitation to live under God’s rule and in solidarity with all God’s children. When we read the psalmists words we cannot help but to see Christ as being the gracious host who prepares a table that reconciles us and offers new life. Jesus’ blessing overflows our souls with gladness because we are refreshed with his body and blood.
(Pause)
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.
(Pause)
In our New Testament reading for today, John says, “For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
(Pause)
As we continue to celebrate our risen Lord in this Easter season, remember that Jesus continues to be our good shepherd, leading us and guiding us to green pastures of abundance and beside still waters. His sacrifice on the cross for our sins allows us to be comforted with a reassurance that he brings us eternal life through his body and blood. Jesus promises to be with us always, to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20).
(Pause)
The Lord is MY shepherd, I shall not want.
Amen.
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