The preaching of God’s Word, administering of God’s Sacraments, and serving others in Jesus’ name are marks of the church and the foundation of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church.  We are a congregation of traditional values that seeks to reach out into the world so others might know the love of our risen savior, Jesus the Christ.  “We believe the church to be the hospital for sinners”...Luther. “We also believe that evangelism is one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread”...Luther.  If you are looking for a church home or just visiting, you are welcomed!   God bless you.  

Pastor Suehr

Sermon by Rev. Dr. Clifton Suehr

To Be Given on April 22nd, 2018

Text Box: Come and Worship...Go and Serve

EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH

OF THE HOLY TRINITY

502 Main Street, Irwin, PA  15642    724-863-7350

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             The image of Jesus as the good shepherd made a lot of sense to the people of his time.  It was a common, everyday image.  In fact, things don't change much for some people in the Holy Land.  To this day in Israel, the Bedouins tend to their flocks grazing along paths that may be as ancient as King David.  When I was in Israel, it was amazing to see the shepherds move their sheep over the hills in the proper direction.   It was like watching a wave of fuzzy, cotton balls blowing across the hillside.  Sometimes the shepherd was in the front of the flock.  Other times, the shepherd was behind the flock.  Some had dogs to help.  Many of the Bedouin shepherds carried the large crooked staff that is familiar to many of us.  It was an impressive sight.  The shepherds did whatever it took to keep their flock safe and together. 

             The title of being the good shepherd meant to be the best or most superior shepherd.  In today's language, we might say good shepherds were the awesomest shepherds.  These superior shepherds took personal interest in their flock.  Tending to sheep was not always an easy job.  Sheep have always been pretty contrary animals.  They often just do their own thing and rebel against their shepherd.  The awesome good shepherds continued to love the sheep despite the contrariness of the sheep. 

             In contrast to these wonderful good shepherds were the hired hands.  Because they were just employees, hired hands often took off when a wolf or lion appeared.  This was because they only worried about taking care of themselves.  They weren't the hireling’s sheep so why risk his own skin for them?  You don't risk your life for something that isn't important to you.  Therefore, a hired hand high tailed it when danger appeared.   It simply wasn’t worth the risk to them.

             Moving from symbols to concrete reality, Jesus is the most awesome good shepherd.  We are the sheep of his pasture and the lambs of his flock.  We are more than just pieces of property.  As the gospel of John points out, "no greater love has any person than to lay down their life for another."  Jesus showed us that greatest love on the cross.  He gave that we might receive new life. 

             Jesus willingness to protect the flock by laying down his life proves that the Lord was much more than just a hired hand.  The cross of Jesus Christ was proof of our God's love and commitment to the world.  Because of his glorious resurrection from the dead, Jesus continues to love the flock through the presence of the Holy Spirit.  In Christ, we know that God cares for us, even when we act like contrary sheep.  Jesus does not give up on his flock!  Truly, we would be right to say that Jesus was and is the awesomest good shepherd ever. 

             Switching to the 23rd Psalm we hear the wonderful news that the Lord is our shepherd and we will have no need.  We will graze in green pastures and drink from the best waters.  We need not fear because the Lord will protect us.  The awesome good Shepherd will care for us.  Our sins are forgiven because of his overwhelming grace.  There is nothing left to do but cling to the promise of the gospel.  Jesus has already died on the cross and risen from tomb.  Jesus is present through the Holy Spirit.  Jesus will bring us to his glorious future in eternity.  In a way, isn't this just like the Bedouin shepherds who were sometimes behind the sheep and at other times in front of the sheep to make sure they were moving in the right direction?  Our Lord will do whatever it takes to lead us home. 

             Too many times we are anxious about things in this world.  We are skittish sheep.  We fret and we worry.  We lack faith in the Lord to provide.  We forget that the Christian life is one of following the Lord's voice.  That voice of Christ reminds us that to be a sheep means we share in Christ's holiness.  To be holy means that we are set apart to serve God and others just like Jesus did.  Our Lord's voice leads us into God's future.  It is a future of love, forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace.  When we hear the Lord's voice, we understand that true living of the gospel is serving God and serving others. 

             Truly, it is not so important from where have we come, but what is extremely important is to where we are headed!  What ultimately defines a person is their present direction - not where they have been.  As Christians that is as God’s sheep we are to hear the voice of the Awesomest Good Shepherd and follow him!

             Jesus, who is the greatest good Shepherd, cares for the flock and unites the flock.  Only the devil and his cohorts, who are wolfs, seek to hurt and scatter the flock.  It is when we listen to the Lord that we will have one heart and one mind.  Careful and committed listening to the Lord will create a stronger community of faith.  Our congregation will be a warm and undivided flock.  This is God's will that we be a caring and united flock. 

             We might ask, “How can we show that we sheep are listening to the greatest of all good shepherds?”  The answer is that we are to be doing the works of Jesus.  We can start by loving, caring, and being tender hearted to others.  With the foundation of love, we can build bridges of understanding and compassion to a world in desperate need.  We have been blessed in order to be a blessing.  Therefore, the good shepherd will both push us from behind and pull us toward God's future.  As his baptized children, God will do this and more.  It is a freely given gift to us.  Indeed, the Lord even counsels us in the present.  Because the good shepherd has defeated sin, death and the evil one, we are free to be the kind of sheep the Lord wants to be.   As we truly listen to the awesomest good shepherd, we will obey and do the good deeds of Christians – not to save us but because we have been saved. 

             Amen