May 4th, 2012

2012年4月29日聖霊降臨後第3主日聖餐礼拝説教”The Good Shepherd” 岸野豊牧師

牧師説教, by admin1.


 “The Good Shepherd”

May God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.  Amen.

This is a pure guess, but two of the most loved Bible verses are the following: the first is from the Gospel of John 3:16, which is “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life”. 

And the other one was written by King David almost 3,000 years ago called Psalm 23 that begins by saying, “The Lord is my Shepherd.  I shall not want.  He makes me to lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside the still waters.  He restores my soul.  He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.  Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will feel no evil for you are with me.” 

This is beautiful English and it almost sounds like a poem, but for me this King James English is difficult to understand.  So every time I have difficulty understanding the Old English Version, I read the translation through either the Bible called– Today’s Revised Standard Version Bible or The Good News Bible.  The following is Psalm 23 by the Good News Bible or another name for this Bible is The Good News for Modern Men.

 Close your eyes and Listen.  “The Lord is my Shepherd; I have everything I need.  He lets me rest in fields of green grass and leads me to quiet pools of fresh water.  He gives me new strength.  He guides me in the right paths, as he has promised.  Even if I go through the deepest darkness, I will not be afraid, Lord, for you are with me.  Your shepherd’s rod and staff protect me.  You prepare a banquet for me, where all my enemies can see me; you welcome me as an honored guest and fill my cup to the brim.  I know that your goodness and love will be with me all my life; and your house will be my home as long as I live.”

Today as well as throughout the years of history , hundreds and millions of people read and have read these Bible verses over and over again, especially when we are in need of comfort and assurance that God is with us, loving us, guiding us and comforting us.  The following story is from my internship experience when I was a seminarian in 1977 in the city of Lebanon, PA which is not too far from the heart of the Pennsylvania Dutch Country.

My supervisor, Pastor Wilson Hoyer, was Pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, the congregation had about one thousand members.   Pastor Hoyer asked me to visit the elderly members 3 days a week and give them communion in their homes and the nursing home. There were about 200 people in this congregation who could not attend Sunday worship due to poor and declining health.  And at any given time there were about one dozen members in the local hospitals who we visited on a regular basis. 

Initially, when I visited these elderly people I was not quite sure how to carry on a conversation with them. Many of them were widows and widowers who were looking forward to having their supportive family members and friends visit them.  However, many of these people had little to no family members visit them.  They were lonely.  Sometimes they were desperately lonely.  So they were glad to have a visitor and to see me, their Student Pastor. But, when I first approached them many did not know what to make of this Japanese Intern Pastor.  Some even told me that they were in the war and they fought with the “Japs”.    A beautiful thing always seemed to happen with each of my visits and that was that conversation just flowed and flowed and time passed so quickly as we got to learn about each other. And at the end of my visit, we would celebrate communion together and before I would leave them I assured them that Jesus truly loved them and that they would never be alone because Jesus was always with them and would never ever leave them.  One old man told me with a loving smile that he would have never guessed that he would be sharing communion with a “Jap” Pastor.  

Throughout my internship year I visited these folks many times, and they would tell me how much they looked so forward to receiving Communion.  I would say–This is the Body of Christ given for you.  This is the Blood of Christ Shed for you.  Then I would often see tears welling up in their eyes.  I was often moved by their simple devotion of the Lord Jesus and I too often would shed my tears with them.  Those who know me well, know that I am a person who can cry easily when I am touched and moved by emotions, and I am not ashamed about this.  That’s just me.

Now…There are two tools that Shepherd’s use while tending to their SHEEP.  The first tool is called a “staff”.  Well. What is a Shepherd’s “Staff”?  It is a wooden stick often made out of the branch of a tree and is shaped like a walking stick but it has a hook, like the letter “C” on the top of it. 

A shepherd lovingly reaches his “staff” down into a hole and slips the staff under the sheep’s leg and gently pulls the sheep out of the hole where the sheep has fallen.  And we, people, are like sheep.  We get into holes during our lives, and God is forever pulling us out of our holes.

The second tool of the Shepherd is the Shepherd’s voice, and his voice is important to the sheep.  Over time, the sheep get to know the shepherd’s voice.  By the way, the sheep of the Bible were not raised for their meat or to be eaten, but they were raised for their wool.  The sheep were part of the family and many lived for twenty to twenty five years. 

The sheep were treated like pets, often had names and became part of the family.  The point is that, sheep had identities and they were all known by the Shepherd—every one of them.  And likewise with you, the Bible guarantees us that we all have a name and God knows each of our names.  Yes, our God, is the Good Shepherd, who knows our very name and our own personal needs.

In the Old Testament, “The Lord is my Shepherd” refers to God.  In the New Testament, “The Lord is my Shepherd” refers to Jesus.

Let’s go onto the next phrase. “The Lord is my Shepherd.  I shall not want.”    King David wrote this Psalm when he was in his old age and when he was no longer wanting for anything.  As a young man today, King David would have wanted the equivalent of our cars, boats, houses, and electric gear and technology.  He wanted all the latest gadgets and things of his time in history.  And that’s the way it is, isn’t it?  We get a house and we fill it up with gadgets, things and junk and then we want even more junk.  How many of us do not have enough room in the storage areas in our homes, or enough room in our closets or in our garages?

Someone said, “You spend the early portion of your life stuffing yourself, your closets, and your garages with things, junk and stuff. Then you reach the middle age of your life and then move into a smaller house and you sell or get rid of some more of your junk.  We call them “garage sales”, but they are really junk sales and you are so glad to unload your junk and get rid of your stuff.

Next, You make another move into a smaller apartment or retirement home.  And perhaps Your children sell or keep some of your stuff and then you give all the rest away to the “Good Will” or you take the leftovers to the dumpster. By the end of our lives we don’t have very much stuff at all. 

At the end of our lives, hopefully, the wealth that we have around us is no longer material things but the wealth of the love from your husband, wife, kids, grandkids, friends and loved ones who are standing gathered around your bed at the last moment of your life on this earth.  Hopefully, by then we have learned that God’s wealth is the wealth of the love of people around us.   This is what we eventually learn from life: We learn that–The TRUE happiness of life does not come from material things but from our human relationships.  Happiness does not come from the accumulation and piles of things but happiness comes from the depth of our relationships.   Isn’t this the lesson that the author of the Psalmist, King David is talking about? 

 Psalm 23 continues on and says that God makes us to lie down in green pastures.  He leads us beside still waters and thereby restores our souls. The first thing the Shepherd does for us is that he makes us to be quiet.  To become quiet can be a very hard thing to do for most of us who lead busy lives.  But this is very important.  God makes us to be quiet and thereby our spirits, our souls, our inner selves can be restored.

I ask:  how many of you rushed to get to church today?  We rush to school and to work.  We rush our kids to soccer games, we rush to the next appointment and to meet clients, and sometimes we become so exhausted.  We must examine our life and our Lifestyle.  God is saying our souls are shriveling up because we don’t take the time to honor our quiet moments and talk with him and pray with him.

Quiet time and stillness is needed in our lives so that we can reflect on God’s love and blessings he has given to each one of us.  You often hear that we are so busy that we do not take enough time to smell the roses.  We don’t take enough time to cultivate the roses and watch them grow.  That is why God is asking each one of us to restore our spiritual lives and to take the time to pray and meditate.  We need to take the time to RENEW OUR SPIRIT. Do you pray with your loved ones, especially with your spouse, do you take the time to pray with your children asking for God’s guidance to be upon their lives?  I am also asking myself this question. 

When we say we believe in God and the Lord Jesus Christ, the greatest way we can love and honor this Good Shepherd is to share our time and our love with our family, friends, and those who still do not know God in Jesus. We also honor the Good Shepherd by the words we speak and by our actions.  Take time TODAY to be still and RENEW YOUR SPIRIT and REFLECT on ALL the WONDERFUL Blessings “THE GOOD SHEPHERD” HAS GIVEN TO EACH ONE OF US.  Amen.




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