Sunday, May 3, 2009

Step Right Up!

Fourth Sunday of Easter
May 3, 2009
John 10:11-18

It’s as if you’re at a carnival. Step right up! Get yer chance to win a fabulous prize! Try your luck! Show your girlfriend what you can do and win her a cute stuffed animal.

Everywhere you go, it seems someone is hawking something. They’ve got the answer to inner peace. They’ll clean your carpet better than anyone else because they use a specially formulated deep cleaning. They’ll help you figure out the pathway to financial independence. They can show you how in three simple steps to add ten years to your life. They’ll offer you a better working environment and benefits package than the other company. They’re the candidate who will work for the poor.

And it goes on and on. Everywhere you go, someone’s attempting to sell you on their product, their idea, their religion. You hear all the claims. You ignore many. You’re intrigued by some. You’re angered by some, surprised by some, and confused by some. Some may not apply to you. Some you thought hadn’t applied to you, but now from the pitch you realize they do. Some you may ignore because it’s the same old thing you hear and you already know what you need.

Now Jesus is no salesman. He’s not hawking anything. But He does offer you something. Is it new? It it exciting? Will it change your life? Is it the best and the greatest? Is it far and away better than what the others offer?

All those people out there “selling” you on what they’ve got to offer, they all think that what they’re offering is the best and what you need. So to many what Jesus offers is just one more salesman hawking his stuff.

But Jesus isn’t offering to make your life better. He’s not selling you on how you can make your life better. He’s not convincing you that what He’s got is the latest and greatest.

What He’s offering is actually very simple. Himself. His life. He’s offering it to you in this way: He’s willing to lay it down for you. He’s powerful to take it up again. He won’t bamboozle you. He won’t twist your arm. He won’t hawk His blessings. He’ll simply give them to you. That’s what He does. That’s who He is. He’s the Good Shepherd.

There are many religions out there. They’re run by hired hands. They want you to step right up and give it your best shot. Because if you do God will be pleased with you and you’ll be blessed. This kind of carnival-like thinking infects the Christian Church as well. The people God has called are sinners just like the people they serve. And so though they’ve been called not to be salesmen, but servants, they sometimes prefer their own safety and contentment rather than the care of the people of God. These religious leaders who do this are hired hands. They don’t own the sheep. They care about themselves. And so they’ll try to sell you on things that will only leave you out in the open, where there are spiritual dangers.

What they offer is compelling. You need to live a moral life, the way God intended you to. You can be happier, if you just apply simple basic Biblical principles in your life. You shouldn’t have to go through life always being emotionally beaten down by others, you can live the victorious Christian life God has chosen for you if you change your thinking. And it goes on and on. If you really listen to it, it’s just another bunch of salesmen hawking, not Christianity, but anything and everything that has nothing to do with Christ.

Whereas Jesus simply gives you Himself. He doesn’t call you to strive for greater purpose, but to be crucified with Him in a death like His in Baptism. He doesn’t sell you on notions of greater happiness or contentment, but offers you His Body and His Blood in His Supper for the forgiveness of your sins. He’s no hired hand.

He’s the farthest thing from a salesman. He’s the opposite of a hired hand. But not in the way we might think. When He says the hired hands don’t own the sheep and therefore don’t care about the sheep, He doesn’t compare Himself to them by saying that He does own them. No, He says He knows His sheep. Does He own them? Well, yeah, He’s their Creator. But He’s not interested in compelling you to follow Him because He owns you. He wants you to know that He knows you and that you know Him.

The apostles in the first reading were no salesmen; they were no hired hands. They were undershepherds, shepherds under the Good Shepherd. They simply laid it out for the people: Jesus is the one who laid down His life on the cross and took it up again in the Resurrection. This is exactly what Jesus is saying in the Gospel reading. You can’t be sold on this. You can’t be convinced of it. It’s a gift. And the gift is not a better way, it’s a person. It’s God Himself. It’s Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, given up and given for you. He stepped up to the cross. He willingly laid down His life for you. He mocked death as if it could have any hold on Him, the Author of life.

You might wonder what Jesus has to offer you. Maybe it’ll get you a bigger paycheck, or inner peace, or less stress in your home. Or maybe you can simply see Him for who He is. Not as one among many, but one apart from all the rest. The one who alone went to the cross and moseyed on out of that tomb He had been in. You may hear the voice of your Good Shepherd not as one voice among many, but as the only voice that calls you home—to eternal rest in Him.

That doesn’t mean you have to wait until you die to receive comfort. Even now, even as you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, your Lord prepares a Table for you. It’s His Table. He’s not selling goods, He’s feeding you. He’s giving you Himself, which is what He always does. He gives His life for you. He conquers the grave for you. He Baptizes you and washes away all of your sins. He feeds you with His Body and Blood. So step right up to His Table and partake of the Meal of Immortality. The eternal God is the one who laid down His life for you and took it up again, with the promise that He will take you to heaven. As you await that day and as you serve Him in sharing Jesus with others, He will nourish and strengthen you. Amen.


1 comment:

Jeff Caithamer said...

Nicely written Paul! Your sermon flowed nicely and it all came together well! Not to mention the message was comforting indeed. Our Savior sure does stand out from the crowd. There is none like him, no not one!