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Shepherding Toward FAITH

July 22, 2018

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Pentecost 9                                              Trinity Lutheran Church

22 July 2018                                             Murdock, NE

 

+ Jesu Juva +

 

Jeremiah 23:1-6

 

Israel’s kings and pastors did not shepherd. They lived to be served NOT TO SERVE. They did not properly distinguish between the law and the gospel. Therefore, they did not proclaim the Lord’s promise of salvation so that Israel would live by FAITH. They claimed they had better words than the Lord. Old Adamic idolatrous words. That’s always disastrous. Hellaciously so. Faithful preachers of God’s Word were mocked, hated, persecuted and even murdered. Therefore, FAITH in God’s salvific promise was like the T-Rex in Israel. The highest worship of God, FAITH, was quite rare.

 

Sound familiar? We live in similar times. A parallel universe, if you will. All seems lost. It’s not easy to find a faithful congregation let alone a faithful preacher of God’s Word. The faithful Christians and pastors are ridiculed. Laughed at as hayseed hicks. Neanderthals. Dangerous doofuses. Considered by most of the powerful Ivy League trained ecclesiastical elites to be responsible for what is called systemic and institutional bigotry, hatred and systemic injustice in the world.

 

You know and believe that the gospel is the forgiveness of sins won by Jesus in His Good Friday death. John the Baptist preached it that way: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (Jn 1:29) It’s what the angel preached to Joseph: “You will give him the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.” (Mt. 1:21) One more for good measure. It’s in today’s Epistle. “In [Jesus] we have redemption, through His blood, the forgiveness of sins … But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ … so making peace … and reconciling us both to God in one body through the cross.” (Eph. 1:7; 2:13, 16)

 

However, today’s preachers argue that they have better words. It goes like this. Sin? Oh, we don’t talk about that. We don’t judge. Church is a judgment free zone. Where does this lead? Jesus is no longer the Savior of sinners. Jesus gets divorced from sinners. Again, to repeat. For the big shots in charge of the church the gospel is no longer the forgiveness of sins Good Friday-ly won by Jesus’ death on the cross for sinners. The so-called theological experts and pundits call the Good Friday death of Jesus for sinners divine child abuse and they categorically forbid it. So faith in Jesus as the Savior of sinners – the highest worship of Jesus – is on the verge of extinction.

 

The temptation, whether you lived in Jeremiah’s day or today, is to despair. To give up. To not trust the Lord and His promises. To not live by FAITH!

 

Do not despair. Do not give up. The Lord arraigns, accuses, and prosecutes the unfaithful kings and preachers. He holds them accountable. “‘Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!’ declares the LORD.” “‘You have scattered my flock and have driven them away and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds.’” Israel was sent packing. To Babylonian exile. Babylonian captivity. As good as dead!

 

Most miraculously. Most wonderfully astonishing. God doesn’t let the wickedness and unfaithfulness of Israel’s kings and pastors frustrate His plan of salvation. He keeps His promise. Like He made to Abraham when He gave the guarantee of the Messiah and that “all the families of the earth” would be salvifically blessed by Messiah Jesus, the descendant of Abraham.

 

For Israel, for the world and FOR YOU His new Israel, God promises to shape the course of world history. First, God promises to bring back a “remnant” from the Babylonian captivity. “Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold and they shall be fruitful and multiply.”   The Lord promises to save Israel from extinction in Babylon and to dwell securely in her homeland once again.

 

But then there’s more molding and working of world history by the Lord. “Behold the days are coming,” when He will establish THE MESSIANIC KINGDOM on the earth! From the root of King David’s family line the Lord will sprout, spring forth, a “Branch” or descendent. And unlike Israel’s kings this royal descendent of King David is “righteous,” holy and perfect in His person. His name? “The LORD is our righteousness!”

 

Well, that’s Jesus! He’s the Lord! And He’s the Savior of sinners. His name, “the LORD is our righteousness” is not for Him but FOR YOU! You derive, by faith in Him, a unique benefit from His Good Friday kingly royal reign. And what benefit is that? His own righteousness! His own perfection! His own holiness! He gives to you what belongs to Him! In exchange, He takes what is yours – all your unholy sin, all its hellacious pollution and impurity – all its damnation as He hangs on the cross. What a salvational miracle! That God would do that FOR YOU!

 

We’re unholy sinners. That’s true. But I’m here to tell you that God declares you righteous for Jesus’ sake. You are forgiven. You are saved. Jesus is your faithful and loving King. He is the Good Shepherd. He came not be served but TO SERVE AND TO GIVE HIS LIFE AS A RANSOM FOR YOU! Salvifically shepherding.

 

Now it makes perfect sense as to what Jesus was up to in today’s Gospel reading. He is the Lord — the Lord our righteousness. In a remote or desolate place – the wilderness of this world – where there is the threat of death and extinction – He “has compassion” on the endangered crowd “because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” Then He “teaches them many things” and feeds them. It’s like Word and sacrament ministry! Cares for them. Shepherds them. He’s having a church of believers. Faith-ers! His hangers on!

 

So too with you. Today, miraculously Good Friday and Easter Sunday Good Shepherd Jesus takes care of you and the entire remnant of the church on the earth numbered most likely in the millions. Shepherds you His flock smack dab in the history of your life and the world. You are very precious to Him! He has raised you from the death of your sin in holy baptism. To live a new life. The life of repentance, faith — faith in Him for salvation – and the desire to live according to His Word to help you neighbor!

 

When it looks like the church is dying or as good as dead – when it appears that you are dying out – the crucified and risen Jesus determines your history and all world history today! How? Well, with His Word! Seriously! He pulls off another salvational miracle. As He FEEDS YOU! So, with the bread and wine He attaches His Word. Good Shepherd Jesus commands: “eat and drink.” Then He promises: “given and shed FOR YOU for the forgiveness of sins.” You don’t have better words than THE LORD IS OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. Faith says: “Thanks Lord. Gift given. Gift received. Amen.”

 

Where there is forgiveness of sins – won on the cross – and delivered in the Lord’s Supper – there is LIFE AND SALVATION! FOR YOU! Through faith in Jesus you are saved from eternal extinction in Babylonian hell and are secured in the homeland of heaven. What joy!

 

In the Name of Jesus.

 

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