April 25, 2021: 3rd Sunday after Easter

Let us pray: Dear Savior, thank You for being a Good Shepherd to us!  Thank You for caring enough about us to keep us on the straight and narrow pathway to heaven by leading us away from danger and literally pulling us out of trouble.  May we not resist such care but embrace it in thankfulness.  Amen


TEXT:  John 10: 1-18

Dearly Beloved By Christ: 

          Do you know what a crozier is?  It’s a fancy, church version of a shepherd’s staff.  You sometimes see a bishop walking down a church aisle with his crozier.  And at the top of a crozier is a curved hook, kind of like a giant fishhook.  So, what’s that all about?

          In a verse of the 23rd psalm it’s referred to: “Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”  Sheep are notoriously myopic.  That is, they always seem to have their head down and concentrate on grass right before their eyes.   They are not  hunters who scan the horizon or watch for trouble.  They just happily munch along.  After a bit they may look up and sadly, they have wandered down into a ravine filled with brambles and gotten stuck.  Or maybe a wolf appears licking his chops.  The sheep baahs in terror.  They are helpless.  That’s where the shepherd and his crozier come into play.  He hears the bleeting, runs to the rescue, and either fends off the wolf with a whack or uses the hook end to slip it around the sheep’s neck and pull it to safety.  There is momentary discomfort to the sheep, but it saves their life.  This is how our Good Shepherd saves us on a daily basis.  He yanks us back from the brink with His Law.  It’s also why we learn the 10 commandments in SS and confirmation class.  The Law is His crozier.  Yes, they are stern and demanding.  But better a brief moment of discomfort than a soul-destroying situation.  Since the Good Shepherd isn’t physically with us today, He uses under-shepherds, Pastors, to do this in His stead.  The word Pastor comes from “pastorale” the Latin word for verdant meadows where God’s flock grazes on the Gospel.


          In every flock, sheep or human, there are wayward, headstrong sheep and more docile ones.  Every shepherd soon learns which are which and who will take more scrutiny and work.  I’ve never kept sheep, although I grew up with some on a farm where we had a huge garden. However, I have had dogs—6 and counting—and one candidate was by far the most headstrong.  He was my first dog, Harvey.  A big, handsome West Highland White terrier.  A few of you may remember him, even after 25 years. We welcomed Harvey into our lives at age 3 ½.  He was beautiful and he knew it.  He was fearless against any person or other dog no matter the size.  He would focus like a laser against a perceived foe and then bark, and bark, and bark at them without stopping.  You could cajole him.  You could say and eventually shout: “No bark” at him.  Nothing would work until I dragged him far away.  One day I was so exasperated that I gave him a tap on the top of his head!  It got his attention and he quit barking!  Silence reigned and he listened to my words.  That tap was my version of a crozier.  I dearly loved Harvey and he dearly loved me.  It’s a reminder that dogs, like people, benefit from both Law and Gospel.


          God has put me into the position of shepherd to His flock here at Pinewood.  My tools to keep everyone from wandering off and getting into a lifetime of trouble are: The Law and the Gospel. They are His Words of truth through which the Spirit taps us on the head and comforts us with the news that In Christ our sins are forgiven via His sacrifice on the cross.  Specifically those tools are: baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and His preached and taught Word of truth which “restores our souls.”  Just hearing how Jesus gave His all to save us uplifts our souls. 

          Harvey didn’t enjoy me being tough on him.  People usually don’t either.  We don’t like to hear that we’ve strayed into sin.  We don’t like hearing how we’ve hurt God with our wayward behavior.  No one likes to hear “No” shouted at them.  We always think we’re right, don’t we?  I often think of Christ when I have to have a tough conversation with someone.  Jesus didn’t enjoy it, no one does.  Yet true Christian love, concern for another’s well-being sometimes demands we use our crozier.  And when they respond positively a deeper love and respect are fostered toward the Good Shepherd.

          I believe Harvey thought he was smarter than I am, and at times he probably was right!  However, he, too, had myopic vision.  He couldn’t often see the bigger picture.  Whereas I envisioned large vet bills and the like.  My current flock, you, often don’t see the big picture, either.  You don’t see the extent of Satan the Wolfs temptations and your own spiritual laziness and/or headstrong nature.  So, I need to use both ends of my crozier on a daily basis.  One to nudge you toward walking toward and with God and the other to yank you away from self-destruction.  Yet, I do it for one reason—the same one that moved Jesus to save me: Love.  Not the sappy, sentimental, only during “good times” love, but the deep, lasting,  never-give-up love.  Harvey is buried on the hill back behind the parsonage along with another 3 dogs.  His was the first grave I dug.  It was hard.  But as we held him and he drifted into death after his final shot, his amber eyes burned with fire as he gazed at me.  And they were filled with pure love!  This also is the legacy of the Good  Shepherd as He gazes upon each of you when death comes our way.  Because in our case, “because He lives, we shall live also” with Him, in glory.  Amen

THE peace of God which….

Pastor Thomas H. Fox

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