Sunday, April 15, 2018

Sermon: Misericordias Domini (Easter 3) and Baptism of Anastasia Tindell - 2018

15 April 2018

Text: John 10:11-16 (Ezek 34:11-16, 1 Pet 2:21-25)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

Because of the Gospel reading this week, in which Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd,” this Sunday is often called Good Shepherd Sunday.  Our Old Testament lesson from Ezekiel prophesies that God Himself will shepherd His people (a prophecy fulfilled by Jesus, the Good Shepherd).  Our epistle lesson from St. Peter also follows this theme: “For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

And this is what has happened with little Anastasia this morning, dear friends.  As part of her baptism, you heard these words: “The Word of God also teaches that we are all conceived and born sinful and are under the power of the devil.”  This is what Peter means when he says, “You were straying like sheep.”  That goes for all of us sons of Adam and daughters of Eve – including Anastasia.

We strayed when we listened to the serpent.  We strayed when we disobeyed God.  We strayed with that first murder between brothers.  We strayed when we brought on the worldwide flood.  We strayed when we built the Tower of Babel.  We strayed when we followed after idols instead of the true God.  We strayed when we demanded to have an earthly king rule over us.  We strayed when we mocked the prophets who called us to repent and who faithfully spoke the Word of God to us.  We strayed when we took the Lord’s blessing for granted.

We strayed just by being born into this fallen world in our own sinful flesh, programmed by our broken DNA to be selfish and evil, riddled with sin, and destined for death and hell.

But, dear friends, St. Peter says, “you were straying like sheep.”  He uses the past tense: “you were.”  But now, because you “have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls,” you are now hearing the Good Shepherd as He gathers you into His “one flock” as “one shepherd.”  This is what Holy Baptism is all about.  The Lord Jesus is the Good Shepherd.  He “lays down His life for the sheep.”  He, the Shepherd, is willing to die so that His sheep might live.  He defends His sheep against the wolf.  He doesn’t run away like a “hired hand,” but interposes Himself bodily against the enemy, out of love and devotion for the sheep. 

He is the good shepherd!  He is the “Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” 

And that “your” now includes Anastasia, whose very name is a confession of the Good Shepherd.  Her name is the Biblical Greek word that means “resurrection.”  She is the new birth, born again from death itself, reborn by water and the Spirit, born to live forever according to the promises of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd!

In the baptismal liturgy, we heard that “the apostle Peter has written, “Baptism now saves you.”  This baptism, St. Peter explains, is “an appeal to God for a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”  Anastasia now has a good conscience because of the death and resurrection of the Good Shepherd.  She has been made a disciple and named as one of the Good Shepherd’s little lambs, whom our Shepherd and Overseer specifically knows by name.  And again, that “good conscience” comes “through the resurrection,” that is, the ἀναστάσεως, of Jesus Christ.

Anastasia has been buried with Christ in Holy Baptism.  This means that she has been reborn by resurrection, and she will be resurrected by being reborn.  This is not of her own goodness or works, but rather by the grace of the Good Shepherd.  For “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.  For by His wounds you have been healed.”

Little Anastasia has her whole life ahead of her.  We, her pastor, her brothers and sisters in Christ, her family, her sponsors, and all Christians whom the Lord will bring into her life, are called to teach this little resurrected one, by word and by deed, just what it means to “die to sin and live to righteousness.”  It doesn’t mean that she will be perfect, but she will learn right from wrong.  She will be taught the Ten Commandments.  She will also know of the Gospel and the love and redemption of Christ by being taught the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer.  She will be brought up in the Lord’s House, surrounded by the Word of God and prayer, by worship and praise, by forgiveness and acceptance.  She will, God willing, live a long life of mercy of partaking of the body and blood of the Good Shepherd, and constantly being drawn back to the safety of the flock by the “Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” 

She will know what the cross is: the one that our Lord died on for the forgiveness of sins, by which His blood pleads for our forgiveness and life and salvation, as well as her own cross of life in this fallen world, dealing with pain and disappointment, and death.  But she will also know what it means to be “Anastasia,” to be a child of the resurrection!  She will know both Good Friday and Easter Sunday, and She will know her Good Shepherd! 

But more importantly, her Good Shepherd will know her!  “So will I seek out My sheep, and I will rescue them from all places,” thus says the Lord God.

This is why we sheep of the Good Shepherd have been singing our opening hymn for eighteen hundred years:

Shepherd of tender youth,
Guiding in love and truth
Through devious ways;
Christ our triumphant King,
We come Your name to sing
And here our children bring
To join your praise.

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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