"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand." John 10:27-28
Welcome to the Shepherd's fold!
What a joy it is to see you assembled here today to hear the voice of our Shepherd on this Sabbath day - a day that is sometimes referred to as Good Shepherd Sunday because of the lessons commonly celebrated within the Divine Service of the church catholic (that is, the ecumenical or universal church in the true sense) on this Fourth Sunday of Easter.
Do you know why our Lord tells us to "Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy?"
Because by keeping the Sabbath day holy, the Sabbath day keeps US holy -- that is, it keeps us for God by keeping us with God.
[Jesus] said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath." Mark 2:27-28
And wherever you see or hear the word "Lord," you would do well to understand it to mean "Shepherd." For in the Sabbath day you hear the Shepherd's voice, the voice that calls you to faith and gives you reason to believe.
As we learn in from Luther's Small Catechism, "We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it" because in holding preaching and God's Word sacred, in gladly hearing and learning it you hear the Lord Himself. In this preaching and His Word the Lord is calling, gathering, enlightening, and making you holy along with the whole Christian church on earth. This is the definition of the ecumenical or catholic church, this is live orthodoxy, where God daily and richly forgives you all of your sins and the sins of all who hear His voice, keeping them with Jesus Christ in The One True Faith.
That is why Paul is bold to proclaim, "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Romans 10:17;
. . . and He is even confident to guarantee with his fellow apostle, Peter and the words recorded in Scripture by the Lord's prophet, Joel, "whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved." Romans 10:13, Acts 2:21
But Paul also asks the obvious question, the one we should ask ourselves -- if we haven't already: "How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?" Romans 10:14
Though posed in the form of a question, Paul is really telling us that no one can be saved unless they are hearing the Word of God that delivers the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This fact is brought clearly into focus for us by Christ Himself in the interchange recorded in today's Gospel text: Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, "How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly."Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father's name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me." John 10:24-27
What does this say about those who rarely, if ever, remember the Sabbath day by hearing the proclamation of God's Word for the forgiveness of sins in Christ Jesus?
You are here today because the Shepherd has called you to hear His voice -- and in order that you can continue to hear His voice throughout the tribulation of your everyday life. You are here today because you have been baptized and washed in the blood of the Lamb just as certainly as those of whom John speaks in our Revelation text:
"These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them." Revelation 7:14
Every time you remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy -- every time you hear preaching and God's Word- that is Christ and Him crucified and risen speaking to you:
Yes, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!" Rom 10:15 -- because such preaching is none other than the voice of your Shepherd calling His sheep home to green pastures, still waters, paths of righteousness, a table where the food never runs out and the cup overflows with goodness and mercy to restore your soul whenever and wherever you hear His voice. Where the Gospel is heard, there the Lamb sits on His throne to dwell with His people and Shepherd them to eternal life.
Can you hear your Shepherd?
Throughout the Divine Service, our Lord is speaking to us and we are speaking to Him. That means He is here with us! And every time you remember the Sabbath during your workaday life by hearing an echo of that Gospel word of Christ from the liturgy, the sermon, a hymn, the Lord's prayer, the Creed - you are hearing the voice of your Shepherd and He is with you.
And when you leave here today, He is sending you out with the Word that lives in you by its hearing to call others that they may hear Him too. For He "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." 1 Timothy 2:4
The less a person hears the Word of God on the Sabbath in the Divine Service, the less likely that person is to remember it day to day, the fainter the Shepherd's voice becomes, and the less chance the person has of remaining in the faith - for again, "how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?"
So you see the Lord, our Shepherd, doesn't call us to "Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy," just because he wants to see how many little automatons He can get to dress up and scurry to one place at one time at His command. It is more like He is ringing the dinner bell for a feast that never ends.
And at this feast you join and are joined by "the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. And you Therefore are [with them] before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among [you also]. [To lead you to that place where you, with them] shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." Revelation 7:13-17
For "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!" -- who is here today to forgive you all your sins and give you eternal life - in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
In der Liebe Christi,
Rev. Kurt Hering, Pastor
Trinity Lutheran ChurchLayton, Utah