nullPentecost 9, 2018

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
July 22, 2018
Jeremiah 23:1-6, Psalm 23, Ephesians 2:11-22, Mark 6:30-44

Sermons online: 

Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                            pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com  
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

When I was in college in Northwest Indiana I took a weekend trip up to Merrill, Wisconsin with a college friend.  While I was there I drove to Wausau about 20 miles south to visit some people I had met on the North Carolina servant event which I attended in 1982.  The family I was staying with in Merrill gave me directions to find their cabin on a lake where I was to meet them when I returned.  I was young and dumb at the time (one of those has changed) and I didn’t think it necessary to write down the directions or the address believing I would remember it all just fine.  After returning from Wausau I found myself driving through the woods of Wisconsin without a clue as to where I was, where I was supposed to be, or what to do next.  There were no cell phones, no GPS, no Waze App, just me, alone in my Chevy Citation — lost, confused, regretting that I had not done a better job of getting directions.

It is a terrible feeling to be lost; to look around and not recognize anything; to not know which way to go.  You can be lost and alone.  In life you can lose your sense of which way you should be going.  You can be lost and alone and you can also be lost with a crowd.  You can be with a whole crowd of people and nobody knows which way to go; everybody just goes along doing their own thing their own way.  Everyone is just living for the moment trying to avoid pain and pursue pleasure; worried only about themselves with no concern for others.  You can find yourself a part of a large mass of people with no future; no purpose; no identity; just going through the motions; living for today.  So many folks are lost and wandering and confused; like sheep without a shepherd.

            Sheep without a shepherd are exposed.  The world is a dangerous place for sheep.  There are wolves, and bears, and lions, and thieves all wanting to hurt the sheep, kill the sheep, eat the sheep, steal the sheep.  Sheep without a shepherd are weak and vulnerable.  Sheep without a shepherd are easily led astray; they are easily lost, stolen, injured and killed.

In our Gospel reading today Jesus and the disciples are tired.  They have been run ragged teaching and healing and caring for people.  They have received the news that John the Baptist was beheaded.  It is time for a break; time to take a breather; a little time away.  They head off by boat to a desolate place in order to get away from the people.  But the people don’t want to get away from Jesus.  The people want more Jesus; more healing; more teaching.  And so they see Jesus and His disciples getting into the boat and they follow the boat on shore and when Jesus lands there are thousands of people waiting for Him; so much for rest and relaxation and rejuvenation.  Jesus and the disciples see this big crowd and Jesus could get angry at them for ruining his retreat; his little vacation, but Jesus doesn’t get mad.  Jesus sees the crowds and has compassion on them because they are lost.  They are like sheep without a shepherd.  Jesus’ guts ached for the people because they are at risk from the evil one.

Sheep without a shepherd are exposed.  The world is a dangerous place for sheep.  There are wolves, and bears, and lions, and thieves all wanting to hurt the sheep, kill the sheep, eat the sheep, steal the sheep.  Sheep without a shepherd are weak and vulnerable.  Sheep without a shepherd are easily led astray; they are easily lost, stolen, injured and killed.

The world is a dangerous place for people.  There are thieves and abusers and murderers and false teachers and the devil and his demons all out to lead people astray, hurt them or kill them.  There are so many voices in the world calling out to you to believe them; follow them; support them.  So many persuasive voices are pulling at you from your phone, your computer, your television, the movie screen, your coworkers, your family, your friends.  So many voices are calling out to you to lead you astray.  “Do what you want,” they say.  “You deserve it.  Your happiness is most important.  You are the only one that matters.”  The world is a dangerous place to wander without protection.  1 Peter 5:8 (ESV) Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.[1]

Jesus sees the thousands of people in that desolate place on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and He has compassion because He knows they are weak and vulnerable.  He knows they are easy prey for the evil one and so Jesus puts His plans for rest on hold and spends the day teaching the people; leading them; shepherding them.  The Lord is their Shepherd, they shall not want.

Jesus spends all day teaching the people and it is getting late and the disciples want the people to go away so they can get something to eat.  But Jesus is the Good Shepherd.  Jesus will provide food in this desolate place just like He provided manna in the wilderness for the children of Israel coming out of Egypt.

The disciples find five loaves and two fish; not even enough to feed Jesus and the twelve, but the Good Shepherd multiplies the little they have to be enough for everyone to eat and to have leftovers.  Jesus, the Good Shepherd, has the people sit down in the green pastures beside the waters and provides what they need to overflowing.  The disciples bring Jesus the bread.  He takes the bread, He blesses the bread, He breaks the bread, and He gives the disciples the bread to give to the people.  This foreshadows the last supper where Jesus takes, blesses, breaks and gives the bread to the disciples saying, “This is my body.”

Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is there to care for the people; to heal them, teach them, protect them from the evil one; and to feed them.

Jesus provides for your greatest needs.  In this life in the valley of the shadow of death that is so full of trouble, sin, and uncertainty, you fear no evil because the Good Shepherd is with you to protect you, lead you, guide you.

In this world there are so many voices trying to get you to follow them down the wide and well-travelled path to hell.  It is easy to get lost; to find yourself disoriented, confused, weak and vulnerable.  It is easy to find yourself starting to follow the devil’s ways, the world’s ways, and your own sinful nature’s ways.  It is easy to find yourself wandering around like a sheep without a shepherd.  It is easy to find yourself wandering away from the flock.  It is easy to start to believe that you belong to this world and its ways are your ways.  But that is not your identity.  You are not alone and unprotected.  You do not belong to the world.  You do not belong to the devil.  You do not belong to your own sinful desires.  You are not a sheep without a shepherd.  Jesus knows you are vulnerable to the attacks of the devil that is why He is with you.  You are a sheep with a shepherd.  Jesus is your shepherd and gives you direction and protection.  Jesus gives you His Word of truth in the Bible to show you the way.  Jesus, your Good Shepherd, calls you by name in your baptism and leads you to eternal life in heaven.  Jesus, your Good Shepherd, lays down His life on the cross to redeem you from sin, death and the devil.  Jesus, the Good Shepherd, takes, blesses, breaks and gives you His very Body and Blood in Holy Communion to feed you with the Bread of Life.  Jesus is here to be your Good Shepherd.

You are not lost.  You have been found.  You are a sheep with a shepherd.

Amen.


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

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