26 February 2016

The Shepherd Saves the Sheep

The Lord Jesus calls you to Himself in love to hear His Word and to receive His gifts.  He calls you by His Word and Spirit to draw near to Him.  Not with any righteousness of your own — for you are sinful and unclean — but in repentance: in sorrow and contrition for your sins, but also in the faith and confidence of His mercy.  For He does not condone your sins, but He does forgive you all your sins by His grace alone, by His Word of the Gospel.

So it is that He has sought you out and found you when you were a lost and lonely sheep, far away from God, in danger of death and damnation.  The Lord Jesus is the Man who would do such a thing, who has in fact done so in order to save you from yourself, from sin, death, and the devil.

He has come down from heaven and taken all your sin and guilt upon Himself.  He has borne it in His own Body to the Cross, where He has laid down His life and given Himself for you entirely, shedding His Blood to atone for your sins, to rescue and redeem you from death and the grave.

The Shepherd gives His life and dies for His lost and wandering sheep.  Your Savior dies for you.

And because His innocent suffering and death has made atonement and propitiation for your sins, and He has thereby conquered death and robbed the devil of his power, so has He also risen from the dead and taken up His life again, that you should have abundant life with God in Him.

In His Resurrection and Ascension, He raises you up from the dust of the earth; He lays you upon His own broad shoulders; and He brings you home, rejoicing, to His God and Father in heaven.

All of this He has done, not only for you, but for the life and salvation of all people by His grace.  And as He has called you by the Gospel and brought you into the household and family of His Church, His holy Bride, so do you rejoice with Him over the repentance and forgiveness of your fellow sinners, and you give thanks to God for each and every one of the lost who are thus found.

Not only that, but as a member of His Bride, within your own vocations and stations in life — by the Light of Christ, which is the Word of His Gospel — you also search for the lost in order to bring them into their own place in the household and family of God.  How could you do otherwise?

In particular, if there are those who have been your fellow members of the Body of Christ, who have been baptized and catechized as disciples of the Lord Jesus, who by their sins have drifted or run away and gotten themselves lost, should you not seek them out and call them home again?

With whatever broom is placed into your hands, that is to say, in whatever place the Lord has put you, with whatever skills He has given to you, search out those who are missing and restore them to the life of the Church on earth, that they too might share in the joys and gladness of heaven.

Do not despise your neighbor whom Christ loves.  And do not hold your neighbor’s trespasses against him.  For you also are a sheep who loves to wander.  You also have sinned and drifted into places where you ought not be.  You also would be lost, were it not for the Shepherd’s mercy.

And though He has called you to Himself, you are not immune to temptation and sin even now.  But you abide in the House of God by His Word of the Gospel and by the grace of His Holy Spirit.

So do not be angry, embittered, or harsh with those who are caught by their sins in grave danger.  But first of all, today and every day, repent of your own sins, and by faith give thanks for the grace and mercy of your Good Shepherd.  And rejoicing in His salvation, forgive as you are forgiven.

Draw near to those who are far away, and draw them to Christ by your words and good example.

And as for you, here and now, draw near in this place, at this Altar, to the Man who receives sinners to Himself, including you; who not only eats with them but feeds them with Himself.

For here indeed He gives to you His Body to eat, and He pours out His Blood for you to drink, for the forgiveness of all your sins, unto the life everlasting in Him.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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