Kruiz edited
Your Happiness
Thursday of Lent 5
21 March 2018
Who would not be happy to be a sheep of the Good Shepherd? Good question. I am amazed at the number of people who are displeased with their situation as sheep of the Good Shepherd. How unhappy they make themselves by straining against the Good Shepherd's careful and loving leadership. They want to go their own way.
Unfortunately, the myth of our culture is about power and personal autonomy. Autonomy means the freedom to do whatever I want no matter how hurtful it is to me or to others. As Sinatra sang, "I did it my way!" We wield whatever power we can grasp so that we can do as we please or force others to do as we please. Modern literary study among our cultural elites is about language as enforcement of power. Schopenhauer and Nietzsche are the evil geniuses of our philosophical pantheon. Language then only becomes a way of forcing or enticing others to do what we want. Truth and beauty had better be ready to take a back seat in the universe of meaning created by postmodern literary studies.
We wonder why politicians are incapable of telling the truth these days. When they are caught doing so, it is perceived to be a campaign gaff. The answer is embedded in the presupposition that language is not capable of conveying either truth or beauty, but is used purely for the politicians' ability to remain in power. We should not be blind to or discount the mischief that has been worked over a couple of centuries of literary and philosophical studies that have given rise to early twenty-first-century skepticism over the truthfulness of words or the existence of any such thing as truth. It is as though Pilate's cynical question, "What is truth?" (Jn 18:38) has itself become the truth. However, literary and philosophical skepticism is falsified by its own principle of doubt, for it claims that it is the truth that there is no truth. This is like claiming to renovate a house with a wrecking ball. It is self-defeating. If there is "no truth," then even that claim is itself false.
The modern person is stuck interpreting the speech of Jesus within the vaguely understood terms and interpretive filters that are floating around in the culture. This is a kind of "trickle down" theory of cultural formation. What the elites dictate the average person drinks from the poisoned wells of our culture without realizing that it is a deadly elixir of antichristian cultural myths. A culture's myths tell people what things mean. They blind people to some things and alert them to others. Right now, our culture's blinders very tightly block our vision of all things religious, claiming that they are in the realm of opinion, superstition, that they are dividing, that they are the cause of conflict, neurosis, and psychological unhappiness. It is though if we could just free people from this horrible, repressive burden they would be free to do "their own thing." But that has become its own meaningless straightjacket, tying people up in knots with convoluted efforts to establish who they are, what they need, and what their eternal disposition will be without reference to any certainties. Today, so much of "finding myself" is losing not only ourselves, but our community, and our God. This is why people are so easily the prey of self-serving politicians and cultural elites. They have lost themselves through being lost to God. We will only find ourselves and true happiness when we have known God in Christ, the Good Shepherd. Only Christ can be guarantor of happiness.
Is it any surprise that in the midst of such aggressive desire to find happiness in all the latest pleasures, gadgetry, and power over others, people express such depressive unhappiness? They have not set their hearts where the true joys may be found (Mt 6:21). How tragic that so many now understand the true and truthful source of happiness to be their enemy! No wonder Paul should speak of the tragedy of the human fall this way: "you were dead in trespasses and sins" (Eph 2:1).
If Christ, the faithful Shepherd, is the true source of happiness, what could ever thwart our joy and happiness? Our hide and seek game of finding happiness has been ended from the outside when Christ becomes our Shepherd. He changes how we look at everything. Everything then, whatever befalls, is a source of true happiness and joy, even though tears accompany the joy. In the end, if we give ourselves up to the Good Shepherd as only a sheep can, then we shall be rescued by Him from ourselves and our indeterminacy and rest happily in His care for us. There is no reason to be unhappy, if Christ is your happiness.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Martin Luther
"It is the function of a faithful shepherd not only to supply his sheep with good pasture and other related things, but also to keep them from suffering harm. Moreover, he takes good care not to lose any of them. But if one of them should go astray, he goes after it, seeks it, and brings it back (Lk 15:4). He looks after the young, the weak and the sick very carefully, waits on them, lifts them up and carries them in his arms (Is 40:11) until they are grown, strong, and well.
"Just so it is in spiritual shepherding, that is, in Christendom. As little as a natural sheep can feed, direct, guide itself, or guard and protect itself against danger and misfortune, for it is a weak and quite defenseless little animal, just so little can we poor, weak, miserable people feed and guide ourselves spiritually, walk and remain on the right path, or by our own power protect ourselves against all evil and gain help and comfort for ourselves in anxiety and distress.
"How shall a man be able to govern himself in a God-pleasing manner when he knows nothing of God, is born and conceived in sin (Ps 51:5), as we all are, and is by nature a child of wrath (Eph 2:3) and an enemy of God? How shall we find the right path and stay on it when, as Isaiah says (Is 53:6), we cannot do otherwise than go astray? How is it possible for us to defend ourselves against the devil, who is a prince and ruler of this world and whose captives we all are, when with all our strength and power we cannot keep even a little leaf from hurting us or even command a weak fly? Why should we poor, miserable people desire to boast loudly of great comfort, help, and counsel against the judgments of God, the wrath of God, and eternal death, when every day and every hour we experience in ourselves and in others that even in trivial, bodily needs we can neither counsel and help ourselves nor seek comfort?
"Let us therefore conclude freely that as little as a natural sheep can help itself in even the slightest degree but must simply depend on its shepherd for all benefits, just so little-and much less-can a man govern himself and find comfort, help, and counsel in himself in the things that pertain to his salvation. He must depend on God, his Shepherd, for all of that. And God is a thousand times more willing and ready to do everything that is to be done for His sheep than is any faithful human shepherd.
"This Shepherd, of whom the prophet foretold so long before, is Christ, our dear Lord, who is a shepherd much different from Moses. Moses is harsh and unfriendly toward his sheep. He drives them away into the desert, where they will find neither pasture nor water but only want (Ex 3:1). Christ, however, is the good,friendly Shepherd, who goes after famished and lost sheep in the wilderness, seeks it there, and, when He has found it, lays it on His shoulder rejoicing (Lk 15:4). He even 'lays down His life for His sheep' (Jn 10:11). He is a friendly Shepherd. Who would not be happy to be His sheep?" 

Martin Luther, Psalm 23, 23.1
Matthew 9:36-10:8

When [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest."
And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, "Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And proclaim as you go, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons." 
Lord Jesus Christ, You are the Good Shepherd who assures true happiness to the sheep of Your pasture. Steer us clear of the poisoned waters of our unbelieving and pagan culture, that we might drink only of the pure and limpid waters of Your Word, where true joys are to be found. Help us to show forth the happiness You vouchsafe to us by Your care. Send Your Holy Spirit to us that we might share that joy with others who so need to be rescued from the deadly and false happiness of pagan cultural ideals. Amen.
For Memorial Lutheran School, that it might continue to proclaim Christ as Lord and Savior
For those who are slaves to the cultural myths that lead them away from Christ, who is our freedom, that the church would boldly proclaim that He is the way, the truth, and the life
For Helen Weaver, that the Lord Christ might be her fortress and strength, a very present help in trouble
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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