1 Peter 2:21-25
In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Life is His super-power, His gift that He gives. He controls life. He can lay down His life. He can take it up again. When He chose to pour out His life He did so taking on the sins of all His sheep, and not only His, but also those who count selves as His enemies, even those who say He doesn’t exist. He took their sins, the sins of all. He took their death, the death of all. He took their love of wolves and of the flattering lies of wolves. He took it all on Himself. He took it all into the black abyss of death. He put death to death. Then He took up His life again for He controls life and death.
So though there are some who know Him, He is not satisfied with that. He has other sheep, those who do not yet know Him, those who do not yet listen to His voice. How will He make them His sheep? He already died for them. Now He just has to introduce His voice to them. His voice does the work. His voice enchants you. It makes you want to believe in Him, makes you want to follow Him, even when you don’t think He exists, or that He is who He claims, or that the wolf’s lies sound better His voice cuts through the clutter, the noise, the babel of life here below.
His voice does it. His voice brings His life and death and new life to bear in you. Those other sheep will hear His voice through those whom He sends. They will recognize it. Despite themselves they will find themselves believing. They will become part of the flock. It will become their home. They will wonder how they ever lived apart from this home. For having come home, they will not want to depart, for they are truly home. One flock with one Shepherd. One family with one Father and one home.
And though this sheepfold, this congregation, is a home away from home you are not quite home yet are you? For there is so much suffering here. Home will be a place of no suffering. Jesus is coming to take us home, to gather us into that one flock. He is coming to be our Shepherd without anymore under-shepherds standing in His stead and by His command. It’s pretty good right now. He comes to us through His under-shepherds. We hear His voice. He leads us from the green pastures of His Word, to the quiet waters of Holy Baptism, to the table He sets in midst of enemies where His Cup runs over with forgiveness. He gives us a home away from home. But right now we are still surrounded by enemies: sin, death, the devil. He watches over us. But that day, there will be no more enemies. No more sin. No more death. No more devil. That day we will know His resurrection fully as our own bodies are raised. It is pretty good right now, but it will be far better on that day when He comes again.
And so on this side of heaven there is much suffering. Sin in us, in the world, in our bodies and bones causes us to long for Him. It causes us to long for home, for forgiveness and reconciliation, for release from shame, for healing from the cancer and heart sickness, old age and genetic maladies that afflict us all in this fallen, broken, sin-flooded world.
He flooded the world with water once to cleanse it. And having died for death, having risen for life, having forgiven you for eternity He floods this world again with water from fonts. Just like the Flood of old it kills. But it also makes alive. Just as the Flood of old swept away the old sin-filled world leaving a new creation for Noah and his family, so the waters of Holy Baptism sweep away sin-filled souls, leaving new life in the Spirit for Christ’s Church, His family. The cross is your ark, your boat, that you got across the flood of Baptism. The cross is your ark, your boat, that will get you through that final flood of death too. For the cross is our safe passage through the flood of death. No iceberg can sink this juggernaut. No devil can stop Him. Jesus the Good Shepherd died to get you across to the shores of paradise.
He is with you now, living in you, especially when you eat Him with your mouth and when you hear Him with your ears. He is our Shepherd, our overseer, our example to follow. He feared not death. He feared not suffering. He took it all for us. For that is the way of God, the way of love, the way of service. And so we fear not death, we fear not suffering, we take it in love for others. For don’t we suffer much everyday for those we love? Don’t we taste death, regularly pouring ourselves out bit by bit in the callings God gives us? Just as Jesus poured Himself out entirely in the calling God the Father gave Him?
We imitate Him in our callings. We die with Him in our callings. We suffer and serve with Him in our callings. And wonder of wonders, when He gives you a calling to serve and to suffer He equips you for it. When your kids revile you, though it makes you angry, how many times has the Lord equipped you that you have not reviled them back? When your parents exasperate you or drive you crazy, causing you to suffer, how many times have you, both young kids and older kids, not threatened them but quietly served them in love? Whether you knew it was love or not the Spirit enables you to imitate your Lord.
In the callings our Shepherd and overseer of our souls gives us He calls us to suffer just as He did. For we were dead in sin, but now we are alive in Him. Alive in His righteousness. His love flows into the world through these callings He gives. This is where we suffer with Him. This is where we live with Him. This is where we must entrust ourselves to His Father who judges rightly. For we are with Jesus. We are in Him. We are His sheep. He is our Shepherd who protects and saves and sees us across death’s raging flood to the world to come.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON