Christ Lutheran Community Church

Upper Darby

April 17, 2019 Worship Sermon - "Finding Security in Christ, the Shepherd and the Lamb"

Delivered by Rev. Stephen Keiser


Scriptures: Revelation 7:9-17; John 10:22-30

Well, in a week and a half, we in Pennsylvania will finally get a chance to weigh in on the presidential primaries.  If voters in Pennsylvania are anything like the rest of the country, national security will be one of the most important issues on our minds as we cast our ballots.  In 2008 and 2012, people were more concerned about the economy; but with the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernadino our sense of vulnerability to attack has risen and many Americans are looking for a strong leader who can guarantee our safety.  Over the next several months, the candidates will posture and swagger and do everything they can to project that image.

Regardless of how many television ads you are forced to watch this summer, telling you how either of the candidates are soft on security, there’s something you need to know.  There is no such thing as security... at least not the kind of security that these ads are talking about. 

In terms of national security, this is a lesson we should have learned on September 11th.  We can have an arsenal of a thousand of nuclear missiles, an army of millions of well trained soldiers, and the most sophisticated high tech weapons in the world, and yet nineteen men with box cutters can wreak incredible havoc on us all. 

More recently, we saw how insecure life can seem this past week as two earthquakes within two days rocked Japan.

But most of us didn’t need September 11th or an earthquake to teach us this lesson about life’s insecurities.  We’ve all had more than enough experience to teach us this.  Just in the past year, we’ve had a member whose home was destroyed by fire.  We have members whose marriages have been disrupted by divorce, members whose careers have been disrupted by layoffs, members whose health has been disrupted by illness and death. 

I’m not saying we shouldn’t lock our doors or try to stay healthy or screen passengers at the airport.  But to believe that locks and diets and weapons programs can give us complete security in this world is just foolish. 

The book of Revelation describes a world that is insecure to the extreme.  We’ve been reading some beautiful passages from Revelation these past few weeks, passages that have probably sounded familiar because we derive so much of our liturgy from them.  But in between these beautiful hymns to God and the lamb are descriptions of a world that is spinning apart. 

The context for the passage of Revelation that we read this morning is the opening of the seven seals.  Imagine a scroll sealed with seven seals.  Upon this scroll is written the destiny of the universe.  The lamb, who represents Jesus, is breaking open each of these seals, and as each is broken, the world becomes more unstable. 

When the sixth seal is opened, there’s a great earthquake, the sun becomes black, and the moon is the color of blood.  The stars fall from the sky like a fig tree dropping its fruit, the sky is rolled up like a scroll, and the eternal mountains are moved from their place.  All the people of the earth, presidents, kings, generals, the rich and the powerful, as well as the slaves, hide in caves.  They call upon the mountains to fall upon them and shelter them from the wrath of the Lamb, “for who is able to stand before his face?” they ask.

Who is able to stand before the Lamb?  The verses that we just read answer this question.  After the sixth seal was broken, John, the writer of Revelation, saw a whole multitude of people from every tribe and nation and language.  They are all standing before the throne of God and the lamb, praising them with their whole being.

“Who are these people?” the angel asks, and then answers the question himself.  They are the ones who have washed their robes in the blood of the lamb.  While kings and generals are hiding in caves from the cataclysmic events that are taking place in the world, these men and women are praising God.  They don’t need mountains to protect them, because God will shelter them.  The lamb will be their shepherd.  God will guide them to springs of living water and wipe away every tear from their eyes. 

How do we move from being people who seek shelter in caves to people who seek shelter in Christ?  How do we cross over from being people who fear the wrath of the lamb to people who are shepherded by the lamb to springs of living water? 

The first step is to accept the insecurity of life in this world.  Once we accept the insecurity of our lives, we actually start to find security.  This is a paradox.  If we look for security in our jobs or our marriages or our health, we’ll just be insecure because none of these things are guaranteed.  But once we recognize that everything can change tomorrow, there’s actually a kind of peace that we experience in anticipating each new day. 

But there’s more.  We are told that the people who surround the throne are those who have washed their clothes in the blood of the lamb.  What does that mean?  Obviously, the language of this whole passage is dripping with metaphor.  Blood, in the biblical understanding, was life.  When you drain the blood from an animal it dies, so it was believed that our life was actually carried in our blood. 

So to wash our clothes in the blood of the lamb is to live the life of Christ.  Jesus poured out his life on the cross and that life is now available to us.  We can invite Jesus to live in us and through us. 

To wash our clothes in the blood of the lamb is to know true security.  The life we live for ourselves is fleeting, but the life we live in Christ is eternal.  No economic downturns, no terrorist attacks, no calls from the doctor’s office can ever take it away.

But there’s still more to this wonderful passage.  The lamb is our shepherd.  The one who rules over us is someone who suffered, like we suffer.  Jesus understood the insecurity of this world very well.  On Palm Sunday he was hailed as king; six short days later, he was executed as a criminal.  Talk about the lack of job security.  Jesus knows what it’s like to be human.  He can be compassionate. 

It's strange that none of the current presidential candidates has served in the military.  Part of me doesn't like the idea that someone who has never had to fight a war might ask us to go fight a war ourselves.  But that's not something we need to worry about with Christ.  If Jesus is our shepherd, then we have a leader who knows what it is like to live our lives.  And Jesus can lead us to the places where our deepest needs will be met.

The gospel lesson tells us more about this lamb who is a shepherd.  The people asked Jesus, “Are you the messiah?  Tell us plainly!”  When they said messiah, they meant military ruler... someone who could throw out the occupying forces and bring peace and security to Israel.  Instead of answering them plainly, though, Jesus told them to look at his works.  Jesus works don’t look very messiah-like.  He never hunted down any of his enemies; his army was a bunch of cowardly fishermen.  What more evidence did the people need.  How could Jesus have been the messiah?

So why do we call him Christ, which means messiah.  The works that Jesus did were to give hope to an outcast woman, to give bread to five thousand hungry people, to give sight to a blind man.

The messiah we worship in our Lord Jesus, is not someone who brings security with guns and armies, but someone who brings security through works of compassion.  And no one can snatch the sheep out of his hand.  Twice Jesus says that in the gospel reading.  No one can snatch you out of Jesus' hand.  Now that’s true security.  

Christ Lutheran Community Church