The Shepherd Serves
Friday after Easter
6 April 2018
God's good pleasure is that He should gather all His sheep into the sheepfold of the church, where He sees to her needs by feeding her on the green pastures of His holy Word. God's pleasure is that He should serve us in the good Shepherd. How different the divine pleasure is from our own, sunk as we are in sin and depravity. God's pleasure is that He should provide service to us. We think that it is true pleasure to receive service. When we are forced to serve others, we demand to be paid or honored in return. No one would ever offer service, cleaning toilets or changing diapers, for the pure joy of it. H0w many pastors have heard from members about their service to the church this complaint, "But pastor, all I wanted was a little thanks!" We never want to serve for the sheer joy of serving.
Yet our heavenly Father has sent His dearest treasure to offer a service far more painful and full of suffering than anything we could imagine. He has been clothed with human flesh that He might undergo humiliation and degradation because of our sins. Though He Himself had done no wrong and in His pristine virgin-born flesh there was no sin, yet for our sakes He became sin. For that sin He was splayed upon the cross of Calvary that He might take away that burden and destroy it. This was God's good pleasure.
The sign of the cross with its suffering is planted firmly in the midst of the green pastures of the divine Word. The deadwood of the cross transfers the fertilizer of life through the blood of the Lamb to the green pastures of the church's preaching. Rivulets of nourishment run through the splintered grain so that what once brought death, now carried life. What ran down from the cross is now consumed by who are fed on the Word according to God's good pleasure. It is no wonder that the early church fathers called the cross the lignum vitae, wood of life.
If the church preaches this cross, suffering, death, and the Christ who bore it, then it truly provides the sheep with the life-giving pasture. If she does not, then she provides not life but death to the sheep. Those who preach nothing but legalisms, our own efforts, offerings, life, or "walk," do not give life and do not feed the sheep. Such preaching only reintroduces Moses to the church and dismantles the cross from the church's pastures. Death is the ministry of the law (2Co 3:7). Only the gospel gives life. Only the cross is God's good pleasure. So it is that God's pleasure is to provide service to the world in Christ, the good Shepherd. The good Shepherd serves the sheep.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Martin Luther
"David calls God's people and the Holy Christian Church a 'green pasture,' for it is God's pleasure ground, decorated and adorned with all kinds of spiritual gifts. The pasture, however, or the grass in it, is God's Word, with which our consciences are strengthened and restored. Into this green pasture our Lord God gathers His sheep, feeds them in it with precious grass, and restores them with fresh water. By doing this He commits to the Holy Christian Church the office of a shepherd, entrusts and gives to it the holy gospel and the sacraments, so that by means of these it may care for and watch over His sheep and so that these sheep may be richly provided with instruction, comfort, strength, and protection against all evil. But those who preach the law of Moses or the ordinances of men do not feed the sheep in a green pasture but in the desert, where they famish, and lead them to foul, smelly water, which will cause them to decay and die.
"By means of the allegory of the green pasture, however, the prophet wants to indicate the great abundance and the riches of the holy gospel and of the knowledge of Christ among the believers. For just as the grass in a green pasture stands very thick and full and grows more and more, so it is with the believers. They not only have God's Word richly, but the more they use and apply it, the more it increases and grows among them. Therefore the psalmist expresses himself very plainly. He does not say, 'He leads me once, or often, in a green pasture,' but: 'He leads me in them without ceasing, so that in the grass and in the pasture I may lie, rest, and dwell securely and never suffer hunger or any other want.' The word that he uses here means 'lie' and 'rest,' as a four-footed animal lies and rests. In the same manner Solomon also speaks in Psalm 72, where he prophesies that the kingdom of God and the Gospel will prevail with might and go to all places, and says, 'May there be abundance of grain in the land; on the tops of the mountains may it wave; may its fruit be like Lebanon; and may people blossom in the cities like the grass of the field!' (Ps 72:16). David shows that he is speaking of the Gospel also in this psalm when he says later: 'He restores my soul' (Ps 23:3); and 'your rod and your staff, they comfort me.' (Ps 23:4).
"This, then, is the first fruit of the dear Word: that the Christians are instructed through it so that they grow in faith and hope, learn to commit all their doings and ways unto God, and hope in Him for everything they need in soul and body." 

Martin Luther, Psalm 23, 23:2
Psalm 72

Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to the royal son! May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice! Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness! May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the children of the needy, and crush the oppressor! May they fear you while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations! May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth! In his days may the righteous flourish, and peace abound, till the moon be no more! May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth! May desert tribes bow down before him and his enemies lick the dust! May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands render him tribute; may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts! May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him! For he delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who has no helper. He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy. From oppression and violence he redeems their life, and precious is their blood in his sight. Long may he live; may gold of Sheba be given to him! May prayer be made for him continually, and blessings invoked for him all the day! May there be abundance of grain in the land; on the tops of the mountains may it wave; may its fruit be like Lebanon; and may people blossom in the cities like the grass of the field! May his name endure forever, his fame continue as long as the sun! May people be blessed in him, all nations call him blessed! Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things. Blessed be his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory! Amen and Amen! (ESV)
Dear Shepherd, Your good pleasure was fulfilled by Your suffering and death, that we Your sheep might live in the quiet pasture of Your Word. Keep us from despising the gospel preaching. Free us from the legalistic preaching that often perverts the church's message. Always send faithful proclaimers that we might not seek what itching ears desire, but only what You want us to have in Your Word. Amen.
For pastors who are leading the sheep into the Paschal mystery in these Easter days, that they would be encouraged and built up in their labors
For Christopher Atsinger, that the good Physician would watch over him to strengthen and encourage him in the holy faith
For those suffering inclement weather, that the Lord would bring them pleasant weather and thus give them the good fruit of the earth in their due season
Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias,  Resurrection (c. 1515)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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