Sermon Notes for 2nd Sunday after Easter 30 April 2017 Anno Domini
St Andrew’s Anglican Orthodox Church (Lectionary Gospel Text for Morning Prayer)
2nd Sunday after Easter
ALMIGHTY God, who hast given thine only Son to be unto us both a sacrifice for sin, and also an ensample of godly life; Give us grace that we may always most thankfully receive that his inestimable benefit, and also daily endeavour ourselves to follow the blessed steps of his most holy life; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
1 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. 2 But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. 4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. 5 And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.6 This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them. 7 Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. 9 I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. 10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep (John 10:1-11)
Though today’s Gospel text ends with the 10th verse, I could not bring myself to end there without adding the 11th which fully reveals this gracious Personage described as the Good Shepherd.
The Universe is a closed system as every student of astronomy will admit as scientific fact. Heaven, too, is separate and distinct from the physical universe and is also, itself, a closed system (much like a simple Sheep Fold) and the abode of God. Just as the Universe is a place prepared of God for our temporal existence, so Heaven is a place prepared for the spiritual existence of those who cling to Him as lambs and children. There is an old saying that “nothing happens by accident” and I believe that saying is true as regards the Universe and the heavenlies.
Far greater faith is required to believe that the intricacies of the Universe, of the great organization of galaxies and star systems, of the perfect balance existing upon earth for the support of life, for the amazing structure and continually working intellect that is evident in the human body. To believe that the tiny cell, much less the complex organization of millions of cells of the human body, could happen by accident of nature requires a faith that can only be identified as ridiculous. Of course there is, as even Einstein admitted, a great Intellect behind the perfect balance and structure of the universe – and of life itself. – and that Intellect is God!
In today’s text, Christ makes reference to that closed system of Heaven – the Sheep Fold. The Mind that conceived the organization of interstellar space also is the same Mind that created the natural world as we know it. He created every rose of crimson beauty, and every lily of purest white splendor, the tiny creatures that are unseen to man, the lambs and bears, lions and elephants, and you and me. His Mind is Macro in its enormity to consider the whole Universe and Micro in its meticulous awareness of the tender baby sucking at its mother’s breast. The Divine Creator has endowed man with a special glory and privilege and made him the crowning achievement of His Creative genius. We are compelled to say, along with the psalmist: When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: 7 All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! (Psalms 8:3-9)
Our God is a God, not only of this one-time life on earth, but the God of the Resurrection. Life is continually being resurrected, even in this world of woe, from death. Every stalk of wheat derives its being from that first grain of wheat that fell into the earth at Eden and sprang into newness of life. Every cell of our bodies can trace its primitive DNA back to that of the first man – Adam. So, God, even in the temporal, has place seeds of the eternal. There is, however, a known end to the ways of the world and its supporting planetary accoutrements. This system of death and life is not that which God approves for those He loves. He has sent His only Begotten into the world to redeem us out of that sin of Adam (and our own) which has interrupted His creative plan for eternal life in all things.
As a great and all-knowing scientist speaking to children of the Manse, He leaves off the references that cannot possibly be conceived by a child, and uses vocabulary that is simple, pictorial and imaginative in revealing the great mysteries of the closed system of His Heaven. He speaks of sheep and shepherds, of porters and strangers, of doors and thieves. These mental pictures we can grasp and know. Being the greatest teacher ever to open His mouth, Christ employs the fundamental principle of teaching, known today, as teaching from the KNOWN to the UNKNOWN. Teaching cannot be accomplished in any other way. Unfortunately, the technique used in many of today’s university classrooms is that of teaching from the UNKNOWN to the IMPOSSIBLE!
1 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber Christ begins with the negative – those who attempt to enter “some other way” – precisely because this is the manner in which most will attempt to gain heaven. The loose theologies of man-made truth has crept into churches and corrupted the simplicity and truth of the Gospel. The leaven of the Pharisees is far more prevalent than the pure unleavened Bread of Heaven served in most churches today. How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. (Matt 16:11-12) Our theology of today is more of the WALMART variety than that of Treasures of Heaven.
2 But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. Christ is our Door to Heaven. He is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” and “no one cometh unto the Father but by Him.” We may come up with every self-enriching scheme and call it exalted faith; we may labor our fingers to the bone in doing good; we may sacrifice every of our livestock on the altar of benevolence; but still stands in the foreground and brilliance of Light the single means by which we may enter Heave n – the Lord Jesus Christ. It is He who keeps getting in the way of the builders of a human paradise. If the secular humanists, the Communists, the totalitarians of every stripe could only vanquish this shining figure in the midst, they could then complete their human utopia (which, in reality, is Hell). But “the Stone that the builders rejected has become the chief Corner-Stone of the building thereof.” When they have near-completed their structure, they then may note the troublesome stone at the base around which they had to labor in building their building. It kept getting in the way and causing them to stumble. Now they recognize, after all, that it is the Chief Corner Stone – but too late. As they try to lift it to the crown of their hand-made building, it tumbles back upon them and crushes them to dust. We often build our lives on false premises, too, and discover too late that the foundation is unstable.
3 To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. The porter is very like the true ministers of God who open the Door into Christ to his hearers. While living in Iran, the sheep were led out during the warmer part of day from the stone enclosures called sheepfolds in the mountain heights. These were usually semi-caves in the mountainside with a large stone fence erected in an arch around the front. There was an opening that was always guarded by the Shepherd to keep the sheep from escaping into the dangers of winter and the predator-infested mountain slopes. There were often different shepherds whose sheep were sheltered in the fold. The Shepherd would make a unique sound with his voice and his sheep would immediately respond by following him out of the fold. The others would not respond. I found this remarkable and in complete accord with the Words of our Lord. Christ calls out today and many do not heed His Voice because they are not of His Fold.
4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. If we know the Shepherd’s Voice, we will follow Him everywhere, for everywhere He leads will be a place of security – green pastures and still waters. If danger lies ahead, the Shepherd is first to address the danger and will even lay down His life for the sheep. He has laid down His life for YOU.
5 And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. We have many who profess Christ today who are following strangers. If they truly knew Christ, they would not recognize and follow a stranger’s voice. I recently drew several hundred dollars from a bank in which I have a savings account and went to deposit that money in another bank where my personal checking account is maintained. The teller took the bills and ran them through a machine. They all passed muster. She then marked each with a special pen to verify their authenticity. They all passed this test. She then took one of the bills and held it up to the light for quite a while. She then told me that this particular one hundred dollar bill was actually a five dollar bill. Well, I thought this ridiculous for it was clearly a one hundred dollar bill. She told me to hold the bill up to the light and see whose visage was inscribed in the watermark on the right side. It was Lincoln when it should have been Franklin! She told me that a skilled counterfeiter had bleached out a five, and over-stamped with the one hundred. This is why the bank device could not recognize the fake – the paper was Federal stock. Neither would the pen. But the skilled eye of the teller could catch the phony because she was so very familiar with the true money. We may appear to be genuine Christians, and our lifestyles may be moral and above reproach, but what of the watermark that is INSIDE our hearts. Will that expose us as imposters to the knowing eye of the Lord? 6 This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them. He often speaks to us in such simple words that we, too, do not understand. We expect words of greater sophistication and profundity perhaps.
7 Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. When we simply do not ‘get it’, Jesus will speak to us in more direct ways. Many local Christians of the Baptist persuasion wonder why I commit idolatry by displaying the cross and candles above the Lord’s Table. I explain, usually in vain, that the cross is a reminder of who Christ is to us and what He did. I explain that Christ used metaphors to point to Himself. The Cross is one such example of who Christ is and what He did. The candles, I explain, represent both the Light of the Gospels and that of the Epistles which go out to the World in giving Light. I explain that Christ tells us in the second chapter of Revelations (2:5) to the church at Ephesus that if that church forgets from whence they have fallen, Christ will remove their candlestick. I then remind them that the Anglican Church still has its candlestick. This usually ends the dialogue….(*___~) Christ is our DOOR. He meets every specification for a DOOR. He is the only entrance available.
8 All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. Those false prophets who deceived and misled the people are the thieves and robbers. Their kin still dominate the world of theology today. They change biblical meanings and words for profit. They build up the esteem of man, and minimize the truth of God. But those who truly belong to the Shepherd will recognize the phonies, just as the bank teller mentioned.
9 I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. We have a perfect liberty IN Christ. Outside of Christ, there is only bondage and whimpering servitude. The same is true of nations that honor Christ. Those whose constitutions and morality adhere to Christian faith are free and her people live without bondage.
10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. The thief never announces his intentions ahead. His success is due to his cunning and secrecy. Modern false teachers are never going to pronounce that they have no faith at all in God the Father, or His Son Jesus. They begin, as the Serpent in the Garden, with a half-truth and proceed, step-by-step, with a full denunciation of Truth. Lies led to death at Eden, and lies lead to death in the church. But in Christ, we have Life, and that life we have, even on earth, is full, abundant and heavenly.
11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep What other shepherd, bent on profitable gain, will lay down his life for the sheep? But there is One Shepherd, who is the Owner of the Sheep, who does not view them out of a prospect for profit, but loves them fundamentally with a heart love of warmth and kindly beneficence. He loves them as His own family (which they are) and will lay down His very life for the sheep so that THEY may have life. Do you know this Shepherd, and do you hear His Voice today?