The Fourth Sunday of Easter

Good Shepherd Sunday

May 3, 2020

 

SERVICE OF THE WORD

This service offers the congregation a form of worship that focuses on the proclamation of God’s Word.  Believers respond to this divine gift with prayer, praise, and thanksgiving.  The service begins on page 38 in the front of the hymnal.

 

M:       He is risen!

C:       He is risen indeed!

All:     Alleluia!

 

M:       The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you.

C:        And also with you.

 

Confession of Sins

 M:       We have come into the presence of God, who created us to love and serve Him as His dear children.  But we have disobeyed Him and deserve only His wrath and punishment.  Therefore, let us confess our sins to Him and plead for His mercy.

C:        Merciful Father in heaven, I am altogether sinful from birth.  In countless ways I have sinned against you and do not deserve to be called your child.  But trusting in Jesus, my Savior, I pray:  Have mercy on me according to your unfailing love.  Cleanse me from my sin, and take away my guilt.

M:       God, our heavenly Father has forgiven all your sins.  By the perfect life and innocent death of our Lord Jesus Christ, He has removed your guilt forever.  You are His own dear child.  May God give you strength to live according to His will.

C:        Amen.

Prayer and Praise

M:       In the peace of forgiveness, let us praise the Lord.

OH, TASTE AND SEE

C:        Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good.  Blessed are they who take refuge in Him.  Your Word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.  Your faithfulness continues forever.  Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good.  Blessed are they who take refuge in Him.

 

PRAYER OF THE DAY

M:       Let us pray.

The minister says the Prayer of the Day.

 

O Lord Jesus Christ, you are the Good Shepherd who laid down your life for the sheep.  Lead us now to the still waters of your life-giving Word that we may abide in your Father’s house forever; for you live and reign with Him and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

C:        Amen.

The Word

 

FIRST LESSON – Acts 6:1-9; 7:2a, 51-60

The cost of being a disciple of Jesus Christ is sometimes great.  Stephen confessed Jesus as his Lord and it cost him his earthly life.

 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.  So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables.  Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom.  We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”  This proposal pleased the whole group.  They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism.  They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.  So the word of God spread.  The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.  Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.  Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia.  These men began to argue with Stephen, …To this he replied:  “Brothers and fathers, listen to me! …”You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears!  You are just like your fathers:  You always resist the Holy Spirit!  Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute?  They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One.  And now you have betrayed and murdered him—you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it.”  When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him.  But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.  “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”  At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him.  Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.  While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”  Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”  When he had said this, he fell asleep.  (NIV1984)

 

PSALM OF THE DAY – Psalm 23

The LORD is my shepherd,

I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures;

He leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul;

He leadeth me in paths of righteousness

for His name’s sake.

Yea though I walk through the valley

of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,

for Thou art with me;

Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies,

Thou anointest my head with oil;

my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

all the days of my life,

and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever

Glory be to the Father and to the Son

                        and to the Holy Spirit,

            as it was in the beginning,

                        is now, and will be forever.  Amen

 

SECOND LESSON – 1 Peter 2:19-25eba

Following Jesus may bring suffering to our life, but Jesus promises to care for each of us individually.

 For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God.  But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it?  But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.  To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.  “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”  When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats.  Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.  He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.  For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.   (NIV1984)

 

VERSE OF THE DAY

Alleluia.  Alleluia.  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia.  I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.  Alleluia.  (John 10:14)

 

CAlleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!  These words are written that we may believe that Jesus is

       the Christ, the Son of God.  Alleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!

 

GOSPEL LESSON – John 10:1-10 (Sermon Text)

As our Good Shepherd, Jesus protects and cares for us as we follow His voice and walk in His ways.

 “I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.  The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep.  The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice.  He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.  But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”  Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them.  Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep.  All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.  I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.  He will come in and go out, and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  (NIV1984)

 C:        Praise be to you, O Christ!

SERMON  Sharing the Shepherd with His Lambs

 

Dear fellow worshipers of our living Lord and Savior,

 

He is risen!  He is risen indeed!

 

Have you ever been a procrastinator— even for just a little bit?  Have you ever put off doing something because either:  a) you figure you have “plenty of time to do it;” or, b) it’s something you don’t really want to do?  Perhaps you now need to be involved in “distance learning” which means that there are still school assignments you need to do, but school assignments you may not want to do.  Perhaps there are projects around the house that you have been putting off for some time, but now that everyone is under a Shelter-in-Place order you have no more excuses for not getting it done.  Perhaps the check engine light on your car has been on since long before this quarantine took place.

 

Have you ever procrastinated about doing something— until it was too late?  Perhaps you planned on using a coupon that has now expired.  Perhaps you planned on purchasing something that you need while it was on sale, but now the sale is over.  Perhaps you planned on visiting someone that you have been promising to visit, but now their health has declined to the point that they are no longer able to visit with you.

 

If this coronavirus pandemic has reminded us anything, it has reminded us that we only have a limited amount of time to do the things that we want/need to do, but we don’t know how much time we have.  We can wake up one morning only to discover that we waited too long to do something.  While that is not usually an insurmountable problem there are indeed times when we deeply regret not doing something while we had the chance.

 

That is the perspective that we are going to use as we study this Good Shepherd Sunday sermon text.  While we know how important it is for us to always share Jesus with others, as we study this portion of Scripture in the midst of this pandemic let’s use it as a powerful reminder of the most important thing we never want to put off doing:   Sharing the Shepherd with His Lambs.  We’ll review two responsibilities today.  First, let’s see that it is our responsibility to make sure that our children, our grandchildren and the children of our congregation learn how to recognize the voice of their Good Shepherd.  Then let’s see that it is our responsibility to make sure that our children, our grandchildren and the children of our congregation know that there is only one “gate” that leads us into Paradise.

 

Our text for today is very closely linked with the events recorded in John chapter nine.  If you have your Bible handy glance at the headings that divide John chapter nine:  Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind; The Pharisees Investigate the Healing; Spiritual Blindness.  The truth that Jesus is the Good Shepherd is a truth that can only be seen with the eyes of faith!  When by the grace and power of the Lord God Himself the “eyes of our heart”  have been “opened” then we will not only understand the words of our text for today but we will also understand why it is so vitally important to share the Good Shepherd with His lambs— beginning with our children, our grandchildren and the children of our congregation.

 

The key point that we want to focus on in the first half of our text is found in verses 3-6.  Jesus says, “The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice.  He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.  But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”

 

There are all different kinds of “voices” that are clamoring to get our children’s attention.  There is the “voice” of the world coming through movies and MP3’s and computer games.  All too often this “voice” both promotes and glamorizes sex, drugs and violence.  There is the “voice” of our child’s own sinful nature.  All too often this “voice” tries to convince our child that they need to focus their life on making lots and lots of money because they deserve to have all of the “things” that everyone else has.  Then, of course, there is the “voice” of Satan himself.  “Did God really say…?” (Genesis 3:1)  “God, I thank you that I am not like other men….” (Luke 18:11)  “Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” (Luke 12:19)  “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25; 18:18)

 

Not only do we have the responsibility to warn our children about the temporal and eternal consequences of listening to these voices, but it is also our responsibility to make sure that our children can recognize the voice of their Good Shepherd.  There is only one way to fulfill that responsibility, my friends.  We must make sure that our children, our grandchildren, and the children of our congregation come into regular contact with the voice of their Good Shepherd as it is heard right here— in God’s holy inspired Word!

 

We need to gather together as a family to read and study our Bibles at home so that when we discipline our children they are able to hear God’s Law and when we comfort our children they are able to hear God’s Gospel.  The fact that we have not been allowed to gather together in God’s house for seven weeks now is a very powerful reminder to us that when all of these restrictions are lifted we need make sure that we bring our children to church and to Sunday school so that they learn to recognize the voice of their Good Shepherd through regular thorough study of His Word.  We also need to talk about the impact that the voice of our Good Shepherd has had on our own hearts and in our own lives— the joy of gathering together to worship our living Lord and Savior, the comfort of receiving Holy Communion, the certainty of everlasting life through faith in what Jesus has done for us.  (Pointing to the cross)  The more we bring our children into contact with God’s holy Word the more God the Holy Spirit will work in their hearts.  The more God the Holy Spirit works in their heart the more our children will learn to “run away” from the voice of a “stranger” and follow only the voice of their Good Shepherd.

 

On way too many occasions I have heard people say that we should not “force” religion on children.  When they are older then they can decide for themselves what they do or do not want to believe.  I have often wondered if that advice holds true for other areas of our children’s lives or just the spiritual aspect of their life.  What I mean is this:  Would the people who hold to that advice offer the same advice when it comes to what a child eats?  What a child wears?  When they go to bed?  What they want to learn in school?  Somehow I do not think they would be consistent with their advice.  The second half of our text emphasizes why— why it is so important for us and for our children to be able to recognize the voice of our Good Shepherd.  Look at verses nine and ten.  Jesus says, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.  He will come in and go out, and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

 

If a thief broke into your home and you woke up just in time to see them sneaking into your child’s bedroom with a knife raised in the air— what would you do?  We would do whatever was necessary to protect our child’s life, wouldn’t we?  We need to have that same kind of diligence and that same kind of dedication when it comes to protecting our child’s spiritual life as well.  When our child was young we loved them so much that we brought them to the baptismal font so that through the power of the Holy Spirit our beloved child could be adopted as God’s beloved child.  Now we need to strive— with God’s help— to insure that a “thief” does not break in to “steal and kill and destroy’ what God has done for our children!  Anyone who says that Jesus is a tremendous teacher, a powerful prophet and an excellent example to follow but that He is not the eternal Son of God is the thief— the thief who has a knife hidden in their cloak.  Anyone who says that Jesus may be one way to eternal life but not the only gate to heaven is the thief— the thief who has a knife hidden in their cloak.  Even though it might get us labeled as “right wing religious fanatics,” even though it might get us classified as “intolerant,” even though some might describe us as being “wildly conservative,” even though our own children might not yet understand why it is so important to know that Jesus is the only gate to eternal life— we cannot give in and we can not give up!  It is our responsibility as parents, as grandparents and as concerned Christian adults to point our children to the cross (Pointing to the cross) so that they can always hear the voice of their Good Shepherd say to them, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

 

The coronavirus pandemic serves as a very powerful reminder to us that when it comes to the spiritual aspect of our children’s lives we cannot procrastinate.  Why?  Because we do not know how much time we have to help provide our children with the spiritual protection they need.  As parents, as grandparents and as concerned Christian adults we have spent years growing in our understanding of what a precious privilege it is to know that Jesus is our Good Shepherd.  Now let’s strive to make sure that by God’s grace and by God’s power we will dedicate ourselves to sharing the Shepherd with His lambs— especially our children, our grandchildren and the children of our congregation.

 

To God be the glory!

 

Amen

 

APOSTLES’ CREED

I believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.  He descended into hell.  The third day He rose again from the dead.  He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.  From there He will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.  Amen.

 

OFFERING

            During this time of uncertainty we still want to bring our thank offerings to our dear Lord and Savior.  We ask that you continue to set your offerings aside so that when we are able to come together again in God’s House we will be able to place our offerings on His altar.

 

PRAYER OF THE CHURCH

Dearest Jesus, our risen Lord and Savior, truly you are our Good Shepherd, for you gave your life for us, your sheep.  Surely it was your great love for us sinners, who were lost and straying, that moved you to come into this world to live and to die and to rise again all so that we might have the life that does not end.  Good Shepherd, we owe you heartfelt thanks and praise as well as our continual love and devotion for all that you have done and still do to insure our earthly and eternal welfare.

 

It is true, we have become your sheep by trusting that you are our Savior and God.  Nevertheless we must confess that we still have an old sinful nature that is stubborn and rebellious and continually tries to lead us astray.  Therefore we need your loving patience as our Good Shepherd to deliver us from our sinful ways, to protect us from our own foolishness and to forgive our many sins.  We need you to take the evils and dangers that beset us and turn them to our good.  We need you to hear and answer our prayers.  And we need to hear and heed the sound of your voice as you speak to us in your holy Word.  Do not on account of our sins and stubbornness ever turn away from us.

 

Our Shepherd, by your continual presence comfort and cheer us in every journey we must make through the dark, shadowy valleys of this life.  Satisfy us with the green pastures of your holy Word and Sacraments and use them to nourish our faith.  Quench our thirst for righteousness with the refreshing streams of salvation.  When we are oppressed on every hand by troubles, distress, temptations, sickness, sin and heartache— yes, when life seems too difficult to endure— teach us to turn our eyes of faith to you, our Good Shepherd, and to cast all our cares upon you.  Answer our anxious cries, for only you know what is best for us.  Refresh us with your help and guidance, with your protection and healing.

 

Especially when we walk through the valley of death itself, be with us, dear Shepherd and Overseer of our souls.  Dispel the gloom that surrounds us with the bright promise of salvation, filling us with joy and confidence as one by one we journey from this life to heaven.  Cause goodness and mercy to follow us all the days of our lives.  Hear us, merciful Savior and loving Shepherd.

 

O Lord God, thou Lord of life and death, who turns man to destruction and says, “Return, O children of men,” we give you thanks for all the mercies which during his life you did bestow upon our beloved brother Dan Kirk, who has now fallen asleep in your arms.  Especially do we bless you for having given him the gift of saving faith in your dear Son Jesus Christ.  We pray that you will comfort the survivors with your everlasting comfort and cheer them with the sweet hope of a blessed reunion in heaven.  Grant to the lifeless body rest in the bosom of the earth and hereafter, together with us all, a joyful resurrection to life everlasting.  Teach us all to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom and be saved; through Jesus Christ, your beloved Son, our Lord and Savior.

 

 

LORD’S PRAYER

C:        Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever.  Amen.

 

M:       O Lord God, our heavenly Father, pour out the Holy Spirit on your faithful people.  Keep us strong in your grace and truth, protect and comfort us in all temptation, and bestow on us your saving peace, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

C:        Amen.

 

M:       Brothers and sisters, go in peace.  Live in harmony with one another.  Serve the Lord with gladness.

The Lord bless you and keep you.  The Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you.  The Lord look on you with favor and give you peace.

 

C:        Amen.