Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Protection of the Fold

Fourth Sunday of Easter
Sunday, April 29, 2007
John 10:22-30

How does it feel when you find out you’re not what you thought you were? When, in fact, you’re the opposite of what you thought you were?

This happened to a group of shepherds one time. They were out in their fields doing what shepherds do, taking care of their sheep. Next thing they knew they were being told about some baby that was just born and before they knew it they were standing before Him.

This is when they found out that they weren’t shepherds at all. They were in fact the opposite of what they had thought for their whole career. They were actually what they had been taking care of—they were sheep.

And that little baby they were seeing was what they thought they were—He was a shepherd. But not just any shepherd. Not one who would eventually find Himself in a field taking care of woolly animals.

The Shepherd. The Good Shepherd.

What do you do when you find out you’re the opposite of what you thought you were? When you look beyond your Good Shepherd and gaze on greener pastures elsewhere. When you’re faced with difficult decisions in your life: your health, the health of your loved one who can’t take care of themselves, your job, your relationships. Maybe being a sheep in God’s fold isn’t all its cracked up to be. Maybe I’m not getting enough guidance from the Church because I don’t always know what’s right when I’m having to make these difficult decisions.

When you’re reading or studying the Bible and you realize something must be wrong because you’re taught in Church that the Bible makes things clearer for us but you’re really just getting more confused. When you’re told that you should pray more and that God listens to our prayers but it really seems like nothing is being accomplished because it doesn’t seem like He’s hearing you at all.

If you could just get over to those greener pastures, where worship, your daily Christian life, your personal devotions, are lively and fulfilling. If only you could be released from you’re your confines so there’s no more struggles with temptation and your sinful flesh.

But what do you do when you find out who you really are? How does it affect you when you see who your Good Shepherd is? When you see that you’re really just a sheep in Jesus’ fold you’re going to find out exactly what Jesus thinks of you. You will see why those shepherds bowed before the tiny baby, the true Shepherd, because they just guided around bleating animals.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He has brought you into His fold. What does the Good Shepherd do when one of His sheep breaks for “greener” pastures? He leaves the rest behind. He Himself goes out from the fold and searches for that one searching for something better but is really in unsafe territory.

It’s in the protection of the fold you find out who you really are. You are a child in the Heavenly Kingdom. A member of the holy eternal Church of the triune God. You hear the voice of your Savior, your Shepherd and keeper. You gaze out now and then. Those pastures out there look awfully green and lush. But you hear the voice of your Shepherd. He may not seem to be attending to your every need, but He knows you and you follow Him.

He gave you a long cool drink when He brought you into His fold. In the waters of Baptism your soul’s thirst was quenched. Since then you’ve gone back to the well of your Baptism, repenting of your sins, drinking in that cool refreshing forgiveness He loves to satisfy you with.

He gives you eternal life. Drinking from His well, you will never perish. He brought you into His fold to protect you. No one can snatch you out of His hand. Satan can’t do it. The world can’t do it. Your sinful flesh is constantly longing for those greener pastures, but you hear the voice of your Shepherd. You hear that Gospel coming into your ears as the sweet message that your Good Shepherd has laid down His life for His sheep.

You drink deeply from His well. But you still seem a bit dry? Being in His fold means you are under the care of your of Your Good Shepherd. He gives you to drink and He sustains you with His Heavenly food. What shepherd do you know of that gives himself as food for his sheep to eat? There’s only one—the Good Shepherd, the one who laid down His life for His sheep and gives Himself, His body and blood, for us to be strengthened.

There’s protection in the fold. This is where your Good Shepherd feeds you and sustains you. With His Word, in the refreshing waters of your Baptism, in His very Body and Blood. Hear His voice. He knows you. He will never let you go. No one can snatch you away. He gave His life for you so that you may be in His fold forever.

He protects you and keeps you. Here is where you need to be. In His fold. In His loving care and protection. Where you hear His voice. Where you hear Him call you by name. You are not what you were. Your sins are forgiven. You are His forever. Amen.


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