Fourth Sunday of Easter — April 17, 2016 — Sermon starts at 26:10
IGNORANT SHEEP CAN’T STOP THE GOOD SHEPHERD
Have you ever had a well-meaning but uninformed person do something that complicated your plans? An incident that comes to mind for me was the 2004 convention of our WELS Arizona-California District. It has been my job at these biannual conventions to arrange worship, and this was the first convention that I had this job, so I really wanted everything to go smoothly. We were celebrating the district’s fiftieth anniversary with a special service held at the convention center. Since the service was not at a church, we had to make arrangements to make the convention hall look like and operate like a church. One of the arrangements we made was to rent a digital organ to provide the main music for the service. The organ was supposed to arrive several hours before the service. We told the company that we needed it there at 3:00 p.m. to make sure it was set up properly and to rehearse with other instrumentalists and with the choir. As it turned out, the company we rented the instrument from called the resort to find out when they could deliver the organ. But when they called, some well-meaning but uninformed employee of the resort said that the service was at 7:00 p.m. so they didn’t have to deliver it during the afternoon since that would be a little early. Needless to say, that threw off our plans quite a bit. Everything was fine in the end, but a 3:00 p.m. planned delivery would have been much more helpful than a late arrival after 5:00 p.m.!
I’m sure many of you have your own versions of that story—a time when some well-meaning but uninformed person did something that altered your plans and caused you a concern that you would have preferred to avoid. If there was anyone who can relate to this situation, that person is Jesus Christ. Jesus could relate to people trying to thwart his plans. In the Gospel for today’s “Good Shepherd Sunday,” (John 10:22-30), his enemies questioned him. Then, in the verses that follow today’s Gospel, those same enemies attempt to kill him because they didn’t like what he had to say about himself as the Son of God. In the First Lesson for today, the apostle Paul speaks about what was unquestionably the main time that Jesus’ enemies tried to thwart his plans. But as Jesus’ enemies tried to stop him, they didn’t thwart his plans. In fact, their attempts to stop Jesus actually fulfilled Jesus’ plan to rescue the world from sin. And in that situation, we learn this lesson: Ignorant sheep can’t stop the Good Shepherd!
Our First Lesson takes place early in the Apostle Paul’s first missionary journey. He was in the city of Antioch, some 300 miles north of Jerusalem. After he and another missionary named Barnabas were commissioned, they traveled north of the Mediterranean Sea, heading west, and eventually reached another city in a different region that was also named Antioch. As Paul often did, they went to the Jewish synagogue service on the Sabbath Day. Our reading says, “After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the synagogue rulers sent word to them, saying, ‘Brothers, if you have a message of encouragement for the people, please speak.’” It was a common custom in ancient synagogues to invite a qualified guest to deliver the sermon. So after the appointed Scripture selections were read, the synagogue’s leaders invited Paul to be the guest preacher, and he accepted the invitation. Read More…