Kruiz edited
Sheep of the Flock
Friday of Lent 4
16 March 2018
Some of the most comforting words ever heard are "The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want," from the Twenty-third Psalm. We are never in want when God is giving us the pleasant green pastures of His Word upon which we can graze. Our Shepherd Lord is always giving us the very food of life when the Word of God is preached and taught. He is inviting us into the flock that He creates and sustains. God gathers us to Himself when and where His Word is preached in its crystalline purity and nourishing faithfulness.
Today, many have fled the places where God has gathered to Himself His people. Some years ago a man, exasperated at his Christian pastor, simply announced that he would no longer attend church but read his Bible at home by himself. Such a person is fleeing the place where God has so graciously given the food of His Word, thinking that he will find it all by himself at home. But this is an attempt to bypass a number of the wonderful Psalm 23 characteristics of the church. For example, it is hard to be a flock of one person. Because the word "flock" is a collective noun, it is indicative of more than one sheep. If I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever, what would make me think that I alone will dwell there in eternity? Why then should I decline fellowship with the other sheep, with whom I will spend eternity? If the Lord is setting such a sumptuous table, why should I think that He spreads it for me alone? Why should I even want to live in this lonely way, apart from God's fellowship with me and the rest of the sheep for whom He is the Shepherd? No, God calls us into a relation with Him and necessarily with the rest of His flock. If the Lord is my Shepherd, then I am part of His flock or nothing at all.
There is a locatedness to the Word of God. God sets His speaking on the lips of His Son the Good Shepherd (Jn 10:11, 14). He began preaching the Word in His earthly ministry. He continues to preach among His flock (Acts 1:1) through His undershepherds (Acts 20:28). The apostles preached where the Christ sent them, so that the Word of the Lord grew (Acts 19:20). The preached Word gathered the lost sheep into the kingdom of the church where they belonged. The early Christians belonged to God, to God's church, and to each other. There is no unthreading that tapestry of unity under the Word without destroying the flock itself. The church is God's flock.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

  Martin Luther
"We should learn from this psalm (Ps 23) not to despise God's Word. We should hear and learn it, love and respect it, and join the little flock in which we find it. On the other hand, flee and avoid those that revile and persecute it. Wherever this blessed light does not shine, there neither happiness nor salvation can be found, neither strength nor comfort of body or soul, but only dissension, fear, and terror, especially when sorrow, anxiety, and bitter death threaten. As the prophet says (Is 48:22), however, the wicked never have peace, regardless of whether they prosper or fail. For when they prosper, they grow presumptuous, haughty, and proud, and they forget our Lord God. Their only boast and trust is in their power, riches, wisdom, and holiness. They are concerned to keep and increase these while they persecute and suppress those that hinder them. But when their fortunes change, as eventually they surely must, for the tender Virgin Mary is a most truthful singer and she has never missed even a single note in her song (Lk 1:51), then they are the most miserable and sorrowful people, who speedily despair and lose heart. What ails them? They do not know where and how they may seek comfort. They do not have God's Word, which alone can properly teach patience and good cheer in affliction (Rm 15:4).
"This ought to warn and move us to consider nothing on this earth greater and more precious than the blessing of being able to have the dear blessed Word and to be at a place where it may be preached and confessed freely and publicly. As often, therefore, as the Christian who belongs to a church in which God's Word is taught enters this church, he should think of this psalm. With the prophet he should thank God with a happy heart for His inexpressible grace in placing him, as His sheep, into a pleasant green meadow, where there is an abundance of precious grass and fresh water, that is, for being enabled to be at a place where he can hear God's Word, learn it, and draw from it rich comfort for both body and soul.
"Blessed David knew well how dear a treasure it is to have it thus. Therefore he could also glory and sing about it in so masterful a fashion and exalt so great a blessing far above anything that is precious and splendid on earth, as can be seen from this psalm and others. We ought to learn this art from him and follow his example. Not only should we be thankful to God, our dear faithful Shepherd, and praise His inexpressible gift, which He has presented to us purely out of kindness, as David does here in the first five verses; but we should also sincerely pray and ask Him, as he does in the last verse, that we may keep this possession and never fall away from His holy Christian Church." 

 Martin Luther, Psalm 23, 23.1
Psalm 23

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.  (ESV)
Lord Jesus, You are the good Shepherd of Your flock, purchased by Your precious blood. Continue to set us in the green pastures and clear waters of Your Word, that we might always be gathered to You through preaching. Grant that we might never despise the flock which You have called, but share with all the sheep the life You grant to Your church. Amen.
For Charles St-Onge, that the Lord Jesus would be with him as he prepares to proclaim His death and life during Holy Week
For LouAnn Weber, that she would recover fully from her lung biopsy and that the results would be negative
For Anastasia Krumwiede, that the Lord would give her healing following sinus surgery

For Arlene Murray, who has suffered an illness, that she would recover fully 
For Headmaster Pastor Robert W. Paul and the faculty and staff of Memorial Lutheran School, that they might call both children and parents into the flock gathered by the Word of God
For President Don Christian and the faculty and staff of Concordia University Texas, that they might be upheld in every good deed
Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias  Isenheim Altarpiece (c. 1515)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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