By: LCMS NJ District President Dr. Steinbronn
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
The text for this week’s devotional thought is the Gospel lesson from the April 25th lectionary – John 10:11-18.
In these words, Jesus helps disciples of every age and place to understand their way of living as one of His disciples – that is, what are the distinctive practices of a disciple:
+. a disciple knows the voice of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ…and he or she is a lifetime student of God’s Word and is ever growing in his or her knowledge of the Scriptures
+. a disciple not only knows the Word, he or she lives the Word by conforming one’s life so that it reflects the image of Jesus – the result is that people can see that they have been with Jesus and that the words of Jesus norm their daily living – the early disciples where known as “followers of the Way”
+. a disciple genuinely cares for, and loves, other people from the heart
+. a disciple knows, and is known by, other people – one of my favorite sayings from John Stott in his book “Between Two Worlds” is “a wise old owl, lived in an oak; the more he saw, the less he spoke; the less he spoke, the more he heard; why can’t we all be like that bird!” – this is especially true if we are interested in knowing another person and their life’s story
+. a disciple has a ministry of witness and evangelism to those who are not part of His sheepfold “for God wants all people to be saved” and to come of the knowledge of their salvation in Jesus Christ
When I have preached on this text at the installation service of a pastor, I like to close with several stories – two of my favorites are these:
+. be yourself yet be like everyone else
+. back in the summer of 1982, four local softball teams would spend a Friday evening taking turns playing each other in St. Edward, Nebraska
+. during one of those games I happened to drive a nice line drive to left-center field for an easy single but thought I should stretch it into a double...plus, at 250 pounds, it was a lot easier to just keep on making my way to 2nd base after I made the turn
+. on that summer evening, though, the other team had a young kid playing in left field who made a great play on my line drive and threw a rocket to 2nd base…and my only hope of being safe was to do a “Pete Rose” headfirst slide into 2nd
+. well, I barely beat the tag and, as I was dusting myself off, the 2nd baseman said to me: "you know something Pastor, you're normal!"
+. it is important to be yourself and not somebody else…there is no one else on this entire planet who is like you – and that is part of His plan and purposing
+. in his own way that 2nd baseman was saying that I was like him...that I was someone that he could identify with...that I was normal…and it is important that disciples be able to identify with other people, and be viewed as one of them, so that genuine relationships and conversations can take place
+. take the time to celebrate friendships…and to remember that your life is a blessing to others
+. every now and then I wonder if this calling that I have embraced has been worth it…and when I am living in “that kind of moment” I remember Ed and Helen Mountz and a special Saturday morning when we were together in their living room back in 1992
+. Ed made a living painting residential homes…and he also served as the chair of our stewardship committee
+. I remember the last time that we were together, three days before Ed died of pancreatic cancer
+. I had come over to bring him communion and to visit with him one more time...his two children were there along with the grandchildren...plus Helen, his wife of over fifty years
+. it was 11:30 a.m. and I was getting ready to go in order to get back home to have lunch with Carol and the kids…as I started to get up, Ed shouted out to Helen, who was in the kitchen, for her to bring him a couple of Budweisers
+. “Ed,” Helen exclaimed, “it is too early in the day to be drinking”
+. and this was Ed’s reply: “I have never had a beer with Pastor and I have always had a beer with my friends!”
+. that morning Ed and I enjoyed the best Budweiser that I ever drank – celebrating our friendship over a beer
These past several weeks we have experienced limitations placed upon our ability to be with our special friends in life…yet soon these limitations will be rescinded and we will be able to have greater scope in the number of people that we can see each day…and when these restrictions have been lifted, it will be a time to celebrate friendships and treasure the company of others once again…so that we might bless, and be blessed
The king of love my shepherd is…whose goodness faileth never;
I nothing lack if I am His and He is mine forever.
Perverse and foolish oft I strayed…but yet in love He sought me
And on His shoulder gently laid and home rejoicing brought me.
In death’s dark vale I fear no ill…with Thee, dear Lord, beside me,
Thy rod and staff my comfort still…Thy cross before to guide me.
And so through all the length of days…Thy goodness faileth never;
Good Shepherd, may I sing Thy praise…within Thy house forever.
In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.