First Lesson: Acts 4: 5-12
Responsive Reading: Psalm 23
Second Lesson: 1 John 3: 16-24
Gospel Lesson: John 10: 11-18
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Let me begin this morning with a story. In 2011, I was going to take a vacation to Las Vegas like most winters, the only difference was this time I was going to side junket to see my Aunt Carol in California. Carol calls me up and says that she is going to invite Grandma to join us for the festivities. You figure a thirty-one-year-old Lutheran minister, his fifty-one-year-old aunt, and eighty-seven-year-old grandma getting together would make for a boring story, you would be wrong.
I leave peaceful Las Vegas to drive to California. Driving rush hour in Los Angeles was going to be the most peaceful part of the rest of the day. I’m supposed to pick Grandma up curbside at LAX with her having no cell-phone. When I finally track her down, she needs help to getting to the bathroom. The following scenario isn’t ideal when you’re curbside at LAX. I help Grandma to the bathroom, rush back to the car hoping it’s not stolen or towed, and then go meet Grandma again to push her out to the car. The only problem was in the franticness of trying to park the car in a large foreign airport, I forgot my way back to the car. I have to spend the next ninety minutes walking parking lots at LAX to try to find a rental car. Once I finally get Grandma into the car, I enter in Aunt Carol’s address into the GPS. The thing about Grandma is she isn’t real good with directions; the problem with this is that she gets agitated when you don’t listen to her. Grandma insists Carol lives north of the airport, rather than south.
So the entire car trip consists of Grandma yelling at the GPS “shut up”, shouting some words that would be defined as “cuss words” and proclaiming how we’re going to end up dead in Mexico before the night is over.
Finally, I try getting Aunt Carol on the phone to calm Grandma down. The following conversation would only agitate the situation. Soon, I’m driving on the 405 San Diego Expressway listening to Aunt Carol and Grandma yelling at each other over my cell phone at the top of each other’s lungs over directions. A few hours in California have turned into the least peaceful vacation of my entire life. Finally, we get to Orange County about ten West Coast time.
I go to bed sometime about two am; I get woken up at four by Aunt Carol and Grandma screaming at each other at the top of their lungs. I don’t even think about getting out of bed. I didn’t care to know the nature of the argument at this point. I just hope it stops soon enough that I can some sleep. When I wake up the next morning, no one acts at all like any of this is outside of normal.
The thing about Grandma and Aunt Carol is this is their relationship. My Aunt and Grandma think nothing of calling each other at 2 AM as Grandma stays in the nursing home with a roommate. They’ll yell at each other, and then think nothing of it five minutes later. They are as close to each other as any mother and daughter could be. What their relationship does though is showcase the myth that all Swedes are afraid to express themselves.
Their relationship like all human relationships it is unique. They have a weird give and take, but it works for them. It seems like whatever comes their way the relationship is never in flux even as the world around them might be pulling them every direction imaginable. These bedrock relationships in the midst of chaos are what we desire in life.
My Aunt and Grandma’ story brings us to today’s Gospel lesson from John 10 where Jesus proclaims to be the Good Shepherd. This proclamation ties into our Psalm for today that we all know for its famous beginning “The Lord is my shepherd”.
What’s noteworthy about this passage is the audience for this passage. Jesus is speaking to the very disciples, who are about to abandon him upon his arrest. Jesus is saying to his disciples that our relationship is not going to be like a normal relationship. You’re going to run away from me, you’re going to ignore my call, and I’m still going to chase after you. Jesus refers to himself as a shepherd because sheep are animals that will inevitability disappoint you. The thing about a good shepherd is that his priority is never on the sheep that stay where they’re supposed to stay; the shepherd’s priority is always to the lost sheep. A shepherd will always put his lost sheep first.
What does this passage have to do with us today? I’ll often hear people talk about their relationship with Jesus being the most important thing in their lives. Such language always sounds good, but I do wonder if it misses the point.
Think of the relationship between the shepherd and the sheep, this is a one sided relationship. The shepherd is the one who gives all good things; the shepherd watches over his sheep as a father watches over his children. The shepherd is ultimately the sheep’s savior once harm comes their way; the sheep are merely the heirs to all the good things that a shepherd may deliver.
Michael Horton a few years ago wrote a book called Christless Christianity in this book; Horton describes the Christian’s relationship with the shepherd.
Horton says, “Everyone has a personal relationship with God already: either as a condemned criminal standing before a righteous judge or as a justified coheir with Christ and adopted child of the Father.”
We stand before God either as a guilty sinner or forgiven saint. There is no potential state of flux. Our relationship with Jesus was not defined within the last week; nor will it be defined within the upcoming week, our relationship was made on a cross.
What makes our relationship with Jesus different than all voluntary human relationships is it is defined by a promise. The observable measure of our faith is what God gives to us in word and sacrament.
The thing that stands out so much about this passage is the contrasts that it portrays
“He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who doesn't own the sheep, sees the wolf coming, leaves the sheep, and flees,”-John 10:12
This week I was watching a TV show on former LSU Basketball Coach Dale Brown and Shaquille O’Neil. Their story begins with O’Neil living in Germany as a 13-year-old boy. O’Neil stood 6’9 but was unable to dunk a basketball. O’Neil was too weak in the legs. O’ Neil is ready to give up basketball. O’Neil hears that LSU Coach Dale Brown is coming to visit his stepfather’s Army base. O’Neil decides to try to approach Brown for advice. O’Neil despite his size was just as timid and awkward as your average thirteen old. Brown promises O’Neil that once he’s back in Louisiana, he was going to send Shaquille strength drills to get bigger. Brown keeps his word. Brown stays in touch with this uncoordinated thirteen-year-old in Germany. Brown stays in touch throughout O’Neil’s high school career before O’Neil decides to play for Coach Brown at LSU. Brown’s relationship with O’Neil was about much more than just winning games. When O’Neil misses a class, Brown forces him out of bed to run sprints at the track. When O’Neil thinks that he is going to bomb in speech class, Brown helps him by listening to his speech. Years go by; O’Neil leaves LSU becomes the biggest Basketball star in the world. O’Neil makes hundreds of millions of dollars, yet Dale Brown never asks for a thing. O'Neil is still contacted by Dale Brown every week, no different then when he was an awkward thirteen-year-old living in Germany. The shepherd and the sheep’s relationship will not change because of the sheep’s success or lack of success.
‘Shepherds do not come and go willy-nilly out of a sheep’s life. Think of the most important of relationships in your life. Do these people leave you when your hair is either leaving you or going gray? Do these people leave you if you’re carrying a few extra pounds around the midsection? Do these people abandon you after hearing you tell the same boring story time and time again? 
The difference between a hired hand and a shepherd is the difference between one looking to collect a paycheck and someone whose vow to you extends way beyond what you can ever give them in return. The good shepherd promises to stand alongside us during the storms of our life when others go running for shelter.
Let me tell another story. I start to work in Lamberton. I get a call from Pastor Warren Baker in Estherville, Iowa saying that his congregation prayer team is praying for me and that he is going to watch over me in the months ahead. I go meet Warren for lunch at the Embers off I-90 in Jackson, Minnesota a bunch of times over my time down there. Warren’s a colorful character. Warren’s the type of guy that if he meets ten new people, the sheer bluntness of his words will have no one leaving the room unsure how they feel about him for better or worse.
The thing that I admire about Warren is once a person comes into his life there is not one thing that he wouldn’t do for them. He would think nothing of driving 1500 miles to help a small house church in the middle of nowhere Montana figure out their next steps. Warren would think nothing of being on the phone at seven in the morning or eleven at night. Warren would think nothing of driving a hundred miles for a hospital visit. Warren would think nothing of giving money out of his pocket to help someone else down on their luck. Warren has dedication to shepherding his congregation and those outside his congregation like no minister that I’ve ever met.
One day, Warren is sitting down with me when he makes one of the boldest statements that he’ll ever make.
He says, “Stew you’re really lucky if, in life, you have five people that will always be close to you. People that will stand beside you whether you’re successful or a failure. People that will be close to you wherever your ministry will take you. Stew, you have your Father, you have Carl, one day you’ll maybe have a wife that falls into this category, and the last person you have is Warren Baker”.
The brashness of this statement caught me off. Who is this guy to talk to me in such a way? How can he make such a bold promise? I would never say anything like that in return. What Warren was saying is no different than what the good shepherd is saying to the sheep.
The definition of a good shepherd is someone who will go farther for the sheep then makes any real sense. The relationship between a shepherd and a sheep is never one of like for like or trade off for trade off. The relationship between a shepherd and a sheep is one where the shepherd promises to walk alongside side the sheep, sustain the sheep with the gifts of life, while the sheep merely stare at the shepherd confused by it all.
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep, and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.”- John 10:14-15
The point of our passage from today where Jesus promises to be our good shepherd is we do not control our relationship. What we must always do is contrast the relationship between Jesus and Us with every other relationship that we hold in our life.
What the Christian ultimately does or does not do is not where the Christian hope resides. The great hope of the Christian faith is dying to our self; the great hope of the Christian faith is the day that the shepherd returns once again to make all things new. He is the shepherd; we are the sheep. Amen
 Psalm 23:1
 McDavid, Will. “Old Persuasive Words: Seven Common Theology Phrases That Should Be Used More Precisely”. Mockingbird Ministries (MBIRD). 28.Oct.2014. Web. Apr.21.2015
 Kalnajs, Dawn. “It’s Not a Religion, It’s a Relationship”. Real Reality Zone. 18.Jul.2009. Web. Apr.21.2015. Taken from the comments section by Tom made on Oct.3.2009.
 This was an episode of ESPN’s SEC Storied entitled “Shaq&Dale”. 13. Apr. 2015. TV. Apr.24.2015
 Inspired by McLarty, Dr. Phillip. W. “Good Shepherds and Hired Hands”. 2003. Lectionary.org. Web. Apr.21.2015