Shepherd Search and Rescue
v.11 For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out.
Alleluia! Christ the Lord is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Dear friends in Christ, when traveling Jolene and I usually spend a fair amount of sightseeing. Wherever we go I take my phone with us so that we can use Google Maps, which directs us, unerringly, to whatever destination we desire. Even if I miss a turn, this incredible piece of technology quickly recalculates and redirects me, so that we can get to where we want to go. Pretty amazing stuff. All the maps--of all the world--that fits into your pocket and tells you precisely where to go. No longer do you need to worry about finding your way. Far gone are the days of stopping at the local gas station to ask for directions. Now, with a simple touch of a few buttons on the phone, I can go anywhere, without fear of getting lost.
And if you've ever been lost--if you've ever found yourself on a road, or in the woods, or trail where you weren't quite sure where you were or how to get home--you know how truly comforting something like that can be. Each year government agencies spend millions of dollars on Search and Rescue operations--trying to locate downed plains, ships, or people who have wandered far off the beaten path. It's scary to be lost--to have no idea where you are or how to get home.
Do you know what most SAR experts suggest you do if you find yourself lost in the woods, for example? They tell you to hunker down--stay in one place--and wait for the rescuers to come and find you. When people wander away they are in greater danger of moving farther and farther away from help. In reality, we are supposed to act more like sheep. Sheep tend to get lost quite regularly. But you know what sheep tend to do? When they realize they are lost they stop, sit, and wait. They wait for rescue. They wait for their shepherd to find them. They will not move--they will not seek their own way home--rather, they must be sought after and found. Which is the job of the shepherd, of course.
And here in our text we see our Lord God promising this to His people. You see, they had been abused by their leaders--not just religious leaders, but political leaders as well--their king and princes. They had guided the people to turn away from the one, true God--to chase after false idols--as such, they were scattered from the fold of the Lord. But herein, God comes to His people living in exile--living in distress--believing they are lost and have been abandoned by God--and He speaks to them as their loving Shepherd. "I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out…I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered…I will gather them…I will bring them to their own land…I will feed them…I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord."
What joyous promises! Though we are lost and alone in the wilderness of this world. Though there are ravenous enemies that seek us out--the devil that tempts and accuses us--the sin that entraps and kills us—the world that misleads and threatens us—and death that ends us--yet our Good Shepherd has promised to seek us out and provide us with all that we need for our hope and salvation.
We see Jesus in our Gospel text reveal that He is our Good Shepherd. He says in Luke's Gospel that He has "come to seek and to save the lost." That's you and me! Led astray by the passions of our own sinful flesh--distracted by the lies of the devil and the twisted world that direct us to seek fulfillment in gods of our own making and imagination--teaching us to trust in ourselves--to pursue our own good over that of our neighbour--seeking to be our own gods and in control of our destiny--we have become lost and confused--taken down the path that leads only to death and damnation.
Into the sinfulness and the death of our hearts, souls, bodies, and minds, comes the Good Shepherd. He comes to seek and to save you and me. He comes to gather us into His kingdom through the sheepfold of His church. He brings us into the company of other sheep where we may hear the gentle and comforting voice of our shepherd in His Word. The Word that tells you of His great love for you. The Word that shows you the wounds of Christ that He suffered in your place as He did battle with sin, death, and the devil upon the tree of the cross. The blood that flowed from His wounds has washed you clean and forgiven your sins, fully and completely.
Though you often wander and stray from Christ's fold--still!--yet He binds up your wounds--taking you into His comforting arms--He carries you away from your dread enemies--over and over again--and takes you to be with Him in His kingdom where there is good pasture and pure water. He strengthens you with His Word and Sacraments. You feed richly on the body and blood of the Shepherd in the Sacrament of the Altar. This great gift of God that is given heals the broken and gives life to the dead. For as you eat and drink this simple bread and wine under the Word of the Good Shepherd, you are eating and drinking salvation and life to your soul.
No matter the sins that weigh heavily on your heart--no matter the guilt that bows your head with sorrow and grief--no matter the death that threatens to overtake you--as you partake of this simple meal--you are participating in the fulfillment of this prophecy from Ezekiel. Your sin is removed. Your guilt cast away--as far as the east is from the west--for Christ has borne it all for you in His flesh on the cross and now He gives you His life-giving body and blood to eat and to drink--so that even death is undone! What gift! What love! What mercy!
Beloved, with all the cares and anxieties of this life--it is easy to feel overwhelmed , lost, and afraid. We look at the mess of our personal lives, where our sin has caused so many problems: our infidelity to God and neighbour--our lack of love--the grim reality of disease and death. We look at the mess of our community and nation--we see the corruption of the established government and judicial systems--we feel the growing sense of persecution against us because of our Christian faith--we see the world torn asunder by violence and catastrophe, both natural and man-made, and we wonder. What is going on? Who will save me from this desperate time? Who will rescue me from this body of death?
Thanks be to God in Christ Jesus. He who is your Good Shepherd has braved the perils of this broken world--He has defied the evil one--the usurper, Satan, and He has conquered and overcome our greatest enemy--death itself. All by His own death and glorious resurrection. For He faced it head on and beat it down. Death no longer has any dominion over Him, nor those who follow Him and trust in Him. That is you, dear friends. That is your Jesus--your Good Shepherd--the living One who has set you free with His body and blood. You are the sheep of His pasture and He feeds you unto life eternal. For Alleluia! Christ the Lord is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Thanks be to God in Christ Jesus. Amen.