Tag Archives: Ezekiel

Misericordias Domini

Misericordias Domini, The Second Sunday after Easter

April 18, 2021 AD

Old Testament: Ezekiel 34:11-16

Epistle: 1 Peter 2:21-25

Gospel: John 10:11-16

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Listen to the Service:

Quasimodogeniti

Quasimodogeniti, The First Sunday after Easter

April 11, 2021 AD

Old Testament: Ezekiel 37:1-14

Epistle: 1 John 5:4-10

Gospel: John 20:19-31

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Listen to the service:

Misericordias Domini

Misericordias Domini, The Second Sunday after Easter

April 15, 2018 AD

Old Testament: Ezekiel 34:11-16

Epistle: 1 Peter 2:21-25

Gospel: John 10:11-16

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“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” – Saint John 10:27f

On this second Lord’s Day after Easter Day the Church always draws our attention to the risen Lord as the good shepherd. I doubt that there is any image of Christ more precious to the Christian heart than this image of Jesus the good shepherd of us lost and lonely sheep.

The words just read as our text for this sermon are, like the Gospel read just a few moments ago, only a fragment of Jesus’ teaching about Himself as the good shepherd as we find His words in the tenth chapter of Saint John’s Gospel. It’s of course a firm principle that in order to understand rightly part of Holy Scripture we must pay close attention to the context. And Jesus’ teaching about Himself as the good shepherd immediately follows His healing of a man who had been blind from birth and immediately precedes the raising of His friend Lazarus from the dead. It’s as if Jesus is saying, “This is what’s happening as I restore sight to the blind man and raise Lazarus from the dead.” For in healing the blind man and in calling Lazarus out of the tomb, the good shepherd is seeking his lost and lonely sheep.

There is also this: the man born blind and dead Lazarus are in fact a vivid picture of us all as we in fact are apart from our good shepherd: blind to the wonderful radiance of God’s love, “dead in trespasses and sins,” and doomed to bodily and eternal death. But the good shepherd doesn’t abandon us in our blindness and in our death, He doesn’t leave us lost and wayward sheep to our own devices! He came and He comes seeking us – at the cost of His own life as He said: “The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” Jesus the good shepherd rescues us His sheep by himself becoming a lamb as the prophet Isaiah said: “like a lamb that is led to the slaughter and as a sheep, before its shearers is dumb.” The one true and eternal Shepherd becomes a little lamb – born of the lowly Virgin Mary; dying He destroys death and rising tom the dead opens the way to eternal life for all who hear and follow Him. He has overcome the devouring grave, for as the author of the Letter to the Hebrews writes: “the God of peace has [indeed] brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep,” the Lord Jesus who says, “My sheep hear My voice and I know them and they follow Me; and I give them eternal life and they shall never perish and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.”

The man who’d been born blind hears the voice of the good shepherd and receives his sight, Jesus’ friend Lazarus – a full four days dead in the tomb! – hears the voice of the good shepherd calling him and comes out of the tomb. The blind man and Lazarus hear the voice of their good shepherd, but those who chose to be Jesus’ enemies don’t. For they see no need for such a shepherd, they’re content to live and manage things as they see fit, and can only see in Jesus a disturbing presence who challenges their beliefs and plans, and threatens their power over the people. And so they do not hear!

As so often happens in Saint John’s Gospel, seemingly insignificant details are fraught with meaning. For example, Saint John tells us that when Judas left the last supper “it was night,” night, not only in the sense that the sun’s light no longer shone but also in the sense that all the powers of darkness were in that moment gathering together to destroy Him who is the radiant brightness of the Father’s face, the true Light of the whole world. Well Saint John tells us that our Lord spoke these words about Himself as the good shepherd during the feast of the dedication of the temple at Jerusalem when – as Saint John writes – “it was winter.” “It was winter” – winter not only in the sense that it was the cold and dreariest of all the year, but also in the sense that the hearts of Jesus’ enemies were wintry: cold to divine love, wandering all unknowingly in a confused and of world, as spiritually dead as the leafless trees and the cold, hard ground.

So how is with you, with me? Are our hearts cold and wintry? Are we blind to the light of love shining from Jesus’ cross and open tomb, therefore “full of [God’s] glory”? Are we like dead men, in the grip of guilt, or bitterness rooted in past hurts, or paralyzed by fear of what the future might hold? Are we just a bit bewildered, like sheep who hear not the familiar voice of their shepherd but the even terrifying voice of a stranger bent on harming them?

If so, there is but one remedy: to listen! To listen to the voice of the good shepherd who came and who comes seeking us as He does again this day in the holy mysteries of His body and blood which tell us with unmistakable clarity that He is indeed our good shepherd who loved us enough to die for us: “My body … given for you…My blood poured out for you… you are mine.” We listen to His voice, calling us from our wayward ways into His way of life and peace. We humbly follow where our shepherd leads until that Day when, by His mercy, we take our place among that great multitude which no man can number, standing before the throne of God and the Lamb, the heavenly flock of the good shepherd, of whom Saint John exiled on Patmos writes: “They shall hunger no more neither thirst any more, the sun shall not strike them nor any scorching heat. For the LAMB in the midst of the throne will be their SHEPHERD, and He will guide them to springs of living water and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”

Amen. The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus unto life everlasting.

Exaudi (2016)

Exaudi

May 8, 2016 AD

Old Testament: Ezekiel 36:22-28

Epistle: 1 Peter 4:7-14

Gospel: John 15:26-16:4
 
 
 
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Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father, and from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

From the fourth chapter of the first letter of St. Peter, the seventh verse:

The end of all things is at hand.

This Sunday, between last Thursday’s feast of the Ascension of our Lord and next Sunday’s feast of Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit, is a kind of “in-between” day in the Christian year. In fact, our whole life as Christians is an “in-between” kind of thing.

It’s a truth so obvious that you might well wonder why a preacher would even bother to mention it. And the truth is this: Earth is not Heaven— although on a perfect spring day earth does come close to suggesting something of that final splendor foreseen and promised in Jesus’ glorious resurrection.

But earth is not heaven. And it is a snare and delusion to imagine that this world will grow better and better until the human race finally succeeds in establishing God’s perfect kingdom here on earth. The Christian worldview is opposed to this kind of naive optimism, this myth of progress, which rests on failure to take seriously just about everything our Lord teaches us in His Word. Christ teaches us that human beings— even Christian human beings— will always remain sinful human beings who as long as we live in this world will have to keep on praying as we do in the prayer Christ Himself taught us, “Forgive us our trespasses,” and will have to go on repenting until our last breath. And since this is so, it’s a terrible delusion to suppose that we will ever be able to create some kind of Golden Age in the world’s history, let alone the perfected kingdom of God! Surely history itself should at least have taught us this much: that every attempt to create some kind of heaven on earth has in fact created a veritable hell on earth. Think of the French Revolution. Think of the so-called “workers’ paradise” of the Soviet Union, China, and other countries controlled by Marxist-Leninist thought.

To be sure, we Christians are called to be a light of hope and joy shining in all earth’s darkness, a leaven of goodness in a cruel and selfish world. In Christ’s Sermon on the Mount He uses the image of Christians as the “salt of the earth” because of salt’s preservative powers. So if we Christians are truly faithful to our calling as Jesus’ disciples, then we can like salt preserve the world from utter rottenness. All of this is blessedly true— and yet! And yet any progress is slow and often painful and any improvement thoroughly provisional— for the time being— always at the mercy of the native sinfulness of all human beings, together with the evil purpose of Satan and his evil minions who never rests in his efforts to subvert everything that is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, excellent, worthy of praise.

But our Lord Jesus Christ has offered the perfect sacrifice for all sin, no matter how dark, no matter how terrible. He has conquered death and the grave and has ascended into heaven to prepare a place for us. Jesus’ glorious ascension into heaven, which took place the 40th day after His resurrection and which we therefore celebrated this past Thursday, is a most necessary reminder that, as Saint Paul writes to the Christians at Philippi, “Our citizenship is in heaven and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will change our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power which enables Him to subject all things unto Himself.”

Our citizenship is in heaven. This earth is not heaven and we Christians therefore remain “strangers and pilgrims” in this present world, people on a journey, a journey through this present life to the heavenly fatherland. Yes, people on a journey. And when we’re on a journey we realize— don’t we?— that everything is only “for the time being”, nothing permanent. And isn’t this a wonderful picture of what it means to live Christianly, as strangers and pilgrims in this world, as citizens of heaven, our true home? Taking pleasure in everything that is interesting and beautiful and amusing. We can relish all the good gifts a truly loving heavenly Father sends into our lives. And we realize that whatever difficulty we meet along the way is only for the time being, it isn’t going to last forever. And so we are on a journey, and we await for journey’s end.

On this Sunday after Ascension Day we remember how at our Lord’s ascension two angels appeared to the disciples and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing into heaven? This same Jesus which was taken up from you into heaven shall come in the same way as you have seen Him go into heaven.” Shall come on that Last and Great Day when the risen and ascended Lord will appear in glory and make all things new. And who in the meantime— all unseen— rules all things for the eternal good of His believing children.

There is also this. During the ten days after Jesus’ ascension the disciples were gathered together in prayer, waiting for the promised coming of the Holy Spirit which took place on that fiftieth day after Jesus’ resurrection, the day of Pentecost. Jesus gave you and gave me the Holy Spirit in our baptism, the Holy Spirit who continually comforts and strengthens us in our journey, the Holy Spirit who brings Christ to us and us to Christ, and whose coming on the Day of Pentecost we shall next Sunday celebrate with great joy.

Yes, this earth is not heaven. But the risen and ascended Lord Jesus will according to His sure promise come again and usher in a kingdom of light and joy that will have no end. Let us therefore pray for the grace to live in true repentance and in true faith in his atoning death that we may without fear behold Him when He shall come to be our Judge and so rejoice to behold His appearing. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! Come quickly! Amen.

And the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. +Amen.