SERMON FOR THE 3RD SUNDAY OF EASTER, 4-15-2018
LUTHER MEMORIAL CHAPEL, SHOREWOOD, WI
Rev. Michael Larson
There is a fairy tale “Little Red Riding Hood.” It’s about a girl on journey to go to granny’s house to deliver her some bread and wine. Before little Red riding hood ventures out into the dark woods she is warned by her mother to stay on path.
But she scarcely enters the woods when she comes face to face with a big bad wolf. The wolf is crafty, and even seems friendly, and soon little red riding hood makes the mistake of giving the wolf granny’s address. The wolf goes on ahead to granny’s house, gulps her down, and then lies in wait for little red riding hood to show up at the door.
When Little Red Riding Hood sees the wolf in her grammas clothing, she cries out “Oh grandmother, what big ears to you. Oh grandmother, what big eyes you have. Oh grandmother, was a terrible big mouth you have!” And with that the wolf jumped out and swallowed up little red riding hood.
It’s a story to teach girls and boys to listen closely to their mothers. It’s a warning to stay on the right path and to be aware your own vulnerability. It’s a warning to be on guard for wolves, child predators, and other dangerous animals because we all know the world is a very dangerous place. The scriptures teach us that Satan is the prince of this world, and that he prowls about like a roaring lion (like a wolf) seeking someone to devour.
Maybe you’re all grown up now, don’t much believe in fairy tales, and maybe you’re not that concerned about the old infernal wolf. But beware! Little Red riding hood didn’t recognize him either until it was too late. Let’s face it, you too have not heeded all the warnings of your mother. None have stayed on the proper path. All like sheep have gone astray. You’ve flirted with disaster. You’ve sinned – tried to make friends with the devil – you’ve considered your sins to be harmless but they are not. They’re destructive, dangerous, and deadly. Like little red riding hood, your own folly has come home to roost.
Pornography invites demons into the home. Anger can poison the soul. Grudges against the household of faith or family can damn to hell. Greed and stinginess can destroy the faith of Christians. Even anxiety and despair threaten to separate us from the love of God.
Today confess that you have not heeded the counsel of your mothers or of God. You are like sheep, like little red riding hood who went astray. You too have been foolish like sheep each one going his own way. You have left the path that God desires for us. And you are no match for the wolf, who lies in wait to consume his pray - no match for the devil.
We confess that we need a Shepherd – one stronger than us – one who can defend us, fight for us, and save us from our sins. One who can rescue us from the belly of the wolf. Save us from the jaws of hell and everlasting death.
With little red riding hood, I actually didn’t finish the story. After the wolf had his meal a huntsman, a shepherd, came along, heard the wolf snoring, sliced open the wolf’s stomach, and out slipped granny and little red riding hood. Alive, resurrected, safe and sound.
There is a huntsman, named Jesus Christ, and he is no fairy tale! This huntsmen Jesus Christ, put the wolf in his crosshairs. He says I am the Good Shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. You see, the wolf had a right to take you. He had a rightful claim. You were gullible. You sinned, wandered, and disobeyed God. You chose death over life. And yet, He sent forth his son, born of a woman to save us. He loved you chiefly by dying – by being cursed with the punishment you rightfully deserved.
Now, instead of you, instead of granny, or little red riding hood being harmed - the Good Shepherd inserted himself into the jaws of death – he was eaten, devoured, consumed by death itself on the cross. He was laid in the belly of the earth.
But the belly of death had to be cut open. The grave opened its mouth and was forced to release its prey. Death could not hold him and by his resurrection he has destroyed the power of sin, the grave, and the infernal wolf.
The wolf who thought you were an easy target, has at last met his match. The belly of the wolf – death itself is opened by the empty tomb on Easter morning. The grave is sliced open. The stone rolled aside. And you, granny, and red riding hood escape, unmolested, unharmed, safe-and sound, with all the children of the resurrection.
Jesus says My sheep hear my voice; I know them and they follow me. I know my own and my own know me. This is why we pray The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want. Ye though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I shall fear no evil. For thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
You have the huntsmen to protect you. A crucified, and resurrected huntsman. A good shepherd, who loves defenseless sheep. So listen to his voice. Let him lead you to greener pastures. Hear his words - He who says - I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in me will never die.
Little red riding hood was bringing bread and wine to granny for her health, but you receive something even better – the very body and blood of your savior, the Good Shepherd – Jesus Christ. Food and drink that forgives sin, and places you back on the right path.
So even if you have wandered, be comforted. For you, who were straying like sheep, have no returned to the Shepherd, and Bishop of your souls. Again, make your way to the king of love enthroned on the altar now. A good and tender shepherd who welcomes us through the forgiveness of sins into his kingdom – where pastures are most certainly greener on the other side. A kingdom where love reigns supreme, and death itself is no more, and our homecoming is most certainly joyful. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Prayer of the Church
Let us pray for the whole Church of God in Christ Jesus and for all people according to their needs.
For all baptized children of God, that they would remain in the green pastures of the Holy Church, where their Good Shepherd ever cares for them, providing for their every spiritual need, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For all pastors in Christ, especially Michael, our pastor, and Dr. Lane and Dr. German, that the voice of our Good Shepherd, in whose stead and by whose command they serve, would be heard and received through them, in faithful teaching and peaching, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For the members of this parish and all Christians everywhere, that we would follow in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake, receive strength to resist sin and temptation in our lives, and cling in repentance and faith to the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls, knowing that, by His wounds, we have been healed, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For our friends and missionaries serving oversees, especially Rev. Jacob Gaugert, Rev. Micah Wildauer, the Cortrights, the Christiansens, and the Sovitzky family, that the love of God would be made known to those who do not yet know Him, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For those whom God has placed in authority over us, especially Donald, our president and all who make, administer and judge our laws, that they would steer clear of pride and greed, serving not their own interests but the interests of our country’s citizens, promoting peace and the common good for all – that God would watch over are armed forces – and that conflict in Syria would come to an end – and peace flourish, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For our homebound members, including Carol, Dorothea, Betty, Doris, Cliff and Carol, Teresa, Ethel, Paul, Maude, and Lou, that they would be well cared for and restored to health, or given grace to accept their time of tribulation with courage and hope, knowing that they always remain in their Good Shepherd’s loving arms, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For Frederick Lane, who has been examined and absolved, and now partakes of the Most Holy Supper of Our Lord Jesus Christ, that his ongoing catechesis and instruction in God’s Word, would sanctify and bless him so he may live a holy life by faith in the Gospel – and love his neighbor as himself, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For goodness and mercy to follow us all the days of our lives, that we would, together with the saints who have gone before us, dwell in the house of the Lord forever, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
Into Your hands, O Lord, we commend all for whom we pray, trusting in Your mercy, through Your Son, Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for us, and who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.