1 Peter 2:21-25
For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.
Sermon for Misericordias Domini 5/01/22
Follow the Shepherd
My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
The life of a Christian is easily described. Living it is a challenge that confronts us every day, but it can be described in very few words; Follow the Shepherd. Sometimes this is presented in a light and airy way that makes it sound pleasant and admirable. There are things about following Christ that are delightful, but not everything. Much of what it takes to follow the Shepherd is painful, unwanted, unpleasant and objectionable. That is the part Jesus spoke of when He said, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me." We refer to it as "bearing the cross". That is the part that Peter focuses on in our Epistle lesson this morning. Our theme is, "Follow the Shepherd."
Our Epistle seems to start in mid-thought. "For you have been called for this purpose," It doesn't specify what "this purpose" is. We are to get that information from the context. The context before the Epistle begins is that If when you do what is right and suffer for it, you endure this suffering patiently, this finds favor with God. The context immediately following is the phrase, "since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps". It would appear, therefore, that the purpose for which you have been called is to bear the cross, and suffer - even if innocently - and to bear such suffering with patient endurance.
That is the example of the Shepherd. Peter even details some of what the example teaches us: "WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously". This is how and where we are to follow the Shepherd. We, too, are to be holy, be honest, and never curse or cuss or complain, but simply trust God, trusting that He is still with us, still guiding us, and that things are happening in accord with His good and gracious will.
To be honest, most of us are willing to suffer for Christ, but it has to be like in the movies - grand and glorious and inspiring. This nitty-gritty, day-to-day stuff that we face in our lives is all wrong. Give the big stuff, where it is crystal clear that it is glorious suffering for a great and glorious end. I want to hear the background music! I want it to make sense to me and the world around me to see it and gush at my devotion and courage. This un-glorious and boring doing without, having nagging troubles, struggling with budgets and rude people around me is no fun. The crosses that God appoints for me are not inspiring or majestic – they are just painful and so ordinary seeming. My suffering is not the stuff people sing about or write really interesting stories about. It is just being ignored, doing without, and pain without really good press-coverage.
Most people are willing to suffer in theory and in imagination. It is only the suffering of real life and the day-to-day grind that we find objectionable. But that is the sort of cross we are called upon to bear – the real ones that strike our budgets, take our precious spare time, and niggle at us constantly. The truth is that the glorious suffering of the heroes of the faith was not all that glorious for them. The luster of glory that descends on them comes from time and space between us and them. For them, it was the pain of the moment, and the ache that was happening right then. There was nothing of glory or fame or pleasure about it while they endured it. That stuff came later, in the eyes of others who recognized what it was that these heroes had done, and why they had endured.
The cross of Christ was not all majestic and glorious to endure. It was pain and nails and sweat and humiliation and burning agony inside and out. Then it was death. That is what the price was for your salvation. By His stripes you are healed! Your sins have been forgiven for Christ's sake. Now He has been made Shepherd of your soul. Now we are called to follow the Shepherd.
Luther described it like this: Therefore St. Peter says: "To this you have been called." To what? To suffer wrong, as Christ did. It is as if he were saying: "If you want to follow Christ, you dare not argue and complain much when you are wronged; but you must suffer it and be forgiving, since Christ suffered everything without any guilt on His part. He did not appeal to justice when He stood before the judge. Therefore you must tread justice underfoot and say: ‘Thank God, I have been called to suffer injustice. For why should I complain when my Lord did not complain?' "
Furthermore, He surely had the power and the right to avenge Himself. Yet He permitted Himself to be reviled, scorned, blasphemed, and even killed; and He never opened His mouth. Why, then, should you, too, not suffer this, since you are nothing but sin? You should praise and thank God for being worthy of becoming like Christ. You should not murmur or be impatient when you are wronged, since the Lord neither reviled nor threatened but even prayed for His enemies.
So you might say: "Do you mean to say that I should justify those who wrong me and say: ‘They have done well?' " Answer: No. But you should say: "I will suffer this very willingly, even though I have not deserved it and you are doing me an injustice. I will suffer it for my Lord's sake. He also suffered injustice for me." You should leave the matter to God, just as Christ leaves it to His heavenly Father. God is a just Judge. He will reward it richly.
I hope you noticed that Luther points out that we are to endure what is unfair and what we do not deserve with patience. We don't do it because it is right for others to abuse us, or because it makes us holy, somehow. We endure it with patience and forgiveness for two reasons. First we endure it patiently because Christ gave us the example. If He suffered, so can we - and to the degree we do suffer unjustly, we can mark it as a sign of Christ's favor - or that He is clearly seen in us, for the world to hate and attack.
The second reason we endure such outrages and affronts - as Luther might describe them - with patience and forgiveness is because we know God, and we trust Him. We know that He is with us, and He knows what we are suffering. He will keep us and bring us through everything. And He knows who is abusing us and will deal with them with perfect justice. That is what Peter meant when he wrote that Jesus kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously. Just trust God, and He will take care of it.
[A]nd He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. When we suffer, we need to and we want to keep in mind the blessed outcome of the sufferings of Jesus. His sufferings, which are far worse than ours will be, bought us life and immortality and eternal glory. By His wounds you were healed. While we endure the troubles of life and cross which may come to us, we may be tempted to think of them as just pain, just trouble, just sorrow. But we want to remember that we are the Lord's and it is because He went through these pains first that we can know that He understands, and He has compassion, and He will bless us and guide us and protect us and bring us through.
Whether we sense it or not, it is God's revealed truth. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls. Now we have a Shepherd. He leads us faithfully and for our blessing. And the path through which He leads is difficult and often painful, and usually frightening or depressing to us - unless we keep the Shepherd in sight and trust Him to lead us. He is both Shepherd AND Guardian of our souls. We are always in His care.
I have often quoted ‘The Weaver' to you, about how God has a pattern for our lives. On the backside of that tract is a poem that our text reminds me of. I will close the sermon today by quoting that poem for you.
My Father's way may twist and turn,
My heart may throb and ache,
But in my soul I'm glad I know,
He maketh no mistake.
My cherished plans may go astray,
My hopes may fade away,
But still I'll trust my Lord to lead
For He doth know the way.
Though night be dark and it may seem
That day will never break;
I'll pin my faith, my all on Him,
He maketh no mistake.
There's so much now I cannot see,
My eyesight's far too dim;
But come what may I'll simply trust
And leave it all to Him.
For by and by the mist will lift
and plain it all He'll make.
Through all the way, though dark to me,
He made not one mistake.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
(Let the people say Amen)
Sunday, May 01, 2022
Follow the Shepherd
1 Peter 2:21-25