Sermon / Pr. Ted Giese / Sunday May 7th 2017 - / Psalm 23 / I shall not want
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday May 7th: Easter 2017 / Psalm 23 "I shall not want"
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for His name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. “Were they to take our house, goods, honour, child, or spouse, though life be wrenched away, they cannot win the day. The Kingdom's ours forever.” That’s the end of verse four of A Mighty Fortress is Our God. What does it mean? It means that true contentment is found in Christ Jesus and in Him alone. This Jesus is your Good Shepherd.
Psalm 23 begins with the words, “The LORD is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” But the World wants you to want all sorts of things and the World wants you to put them, to put those things, above Jesus, to make your house and all your goods, your stuff more important than Him. The World wants you to put your honour above the honour of Christ Jesus, the World want you to put your love for your children, and your spouse above your love for Jesus; the World wants you to love your life more than you love Christ: To put yourself first. And if you dislike something about your house, your goods, your spouse well then buy a better house, get better stuff, get a divorce and find a different wife or husband. Generally speaking we’re pretty much stuck with our kids, for now, but if you’re pregnant and your child might in some way be an inconvenience well then the World will try to convince you to get an abortion and have a baby when you want to have a baby, maybe have one that you might like better. Even still there are folks who will abandon their children, or simply cut them off and stop seeing them or even talk to them, even neglect, abuse or murder their children. And why would a parent do such evil things? Well because they are selfish and ill content with themselves and everything around them. They do it because sin is very real, an ever present danger, a blight on humanity. But the World almost always tries to hide the fact that wanting what isn’t yours to want is sin: The World almost always tries to hide the fact that selfishness is sin.
Jesus gets short shrift from the World. The World won’t direct you back to your Good Shepherd. The World instead directs you to yourself, the World says, “If your life is the pits fix it get some self help books and blog posts and fix it! Learn to forgive yourself; learn to love yourself, because you need to be number one!” Yes, the World wants you to be trapped on a merry-go-round circling around and around between obsessive desire and dissatisfaction. It is fuelled by discontentment and pridefulness. The World for years and years has been working and re-working its better mousetrap, or maybe I should say sheep-trap, and the World schemes with all its black heart to catch you in a trap of coveting, of wanting with reckless abandon, a wicked trap that the World says is good.
These Holy Spirit inspired words of King David from Psalm 23 are powerful words, they break the trap of coveting and greed, and obsessive desires, they break the trap of pridefulness, “The LORD is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” These words, they are faithful to the First Commandment: “You shall have no other gods. What does this mean? We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things” The whole of Psalm 23 is a prayer of trust, of respectful/fear, and love towards God, towards the Good Shepherd. Psalm 23 puts God first and says that with God first, with all your trust in Him life is contentment … “The LORD is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” I shall want for nothing. If I have nice things I will live in contentment and thank God for them. If I have nothing I will live in contentment and thank God for what I do have. I will live in contemned because the good life, the righteous life does not consist of things and it does not consist of what the World says is good. In fact one day “someone in the crowd said to [Jesus], “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” …. But [Jesus said to the crowd], “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Therefore be content.
Yet living in contentment is hard, God knows that it is. In the Ten Commandments God both reveals the gift of house, goods, honour, child, and spouse and with these same Ten Commandments He also builds a fence, a hedge, around these things in order to protect them for you, and to help us keep them, these gifts, in perspective: to help us from making the gift into a little “god” that we worship in place of the true God, the actual giver of the gifts.
In terms of contentment God says, You shall not covet your neighbour’s house … He continues to say You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour. In terms of the things we are gifted to have as property and goods God says You shall not steal. In terms of the body, the physical body that you have as a gift, God says, You shall not murder and You shall not commit adultery. In terms of honour God says, Honour your father and your mother and You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour. Yes you are not to want your neighbour’s house more than your own, or their spouse more than your own, or anything that belongs to them. You are not to want to take your neighbour’s life, you are not to plot their death, and you are not to dishonour your parents by bad conduct or dishonour any other neighbour’s good name and reputation by lies and slanders. In fact to that same end God in the Second Commandment say: You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God. As a Christian we are not to want to do any of these things, we are to want for nothing but Jesus only, we are to want Him to be first in our lives and all other things we are to see as secondary blessings behind the first and foremost best blessing of all: Jesus and His life, death, resurrection, and ascension for us. We are to call upon our Good Shepherd in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks to Him in all things.
It is His voice that we, His sheep, are to listen too, it is He that we are to follow, not the voice of the World, we are not to follow after every rabbit trail the World scatters in front of us, we are not to follow every fad or popular idea, we as Christians are to follow Jesus. Dear ones the Book of Hebrews provides this solid advice when it says, “Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace.” Listen to the voice of Jesus, the voice of your Good Shepherd. Where do I hear His voice? In His Holy Word, in the Bible that brings His trustworthy graceful teachings to you, where He teaches you to pray, in faithful preaching and teaching; in all these places, in all these ways, listen to Him. Hear Him. Follow Him. Listen to Him when He says to you, “In the World you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the World.”
In John’s Gospel we heard this morning that, “the sheep hear [the] voice [of their shepherd], and He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out [of the sheep pen]. When He has brought out all His own, He goes before them, and the sheep follow Him, for they know His voice.” Psalm 23 talks of being led by the Shepherd, of being made to lay down and take rest, of having the Shepherd with you in dangerous places like the valley of the shadow of death. With Jesus there with you, you truly are free to want for nothing. Even in the face of death you need not fear for Jesus went on ahead of His sheep, He has gone on ahead of you. In fact at the cross, in His crucifixion, in His innocent sufferings and death Jesus broke the trap that the World sets for you. Stretched out upon the wood of the cross Jesus defeated the World.
On that mountain of Golgotha Jesus swallowed up in His very body every sin that the World entices you to commit, He nailed there every sin you fell prey to, every sin you willfully committed out of envy, out of covetousness out of sinful want. He took it all upon Himself and in His death all that sin, died too. It stayed dead. The World lay defeated. And on that first Easter morning these things remained dead and buried in the tomb even as Jesus, the Lord of Life, your Good Shepherd walked out of that same tomb alive, resurrected from the grave. And now you a sheep of His sheep fold, a lamb of His own flock, a sinner of His own redeeming are being led out of the World into the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Jesus’ heavenly Father. So “Were they to take our house, goods, honour, child, or spouse, though life be wrenched away, they cannot win the day. The Kingdom's ours forever.” Jesus your Good Shepherd has prepared a table for you, where friend and foes in forgiveness can come and eat together; He anoints your head with oil; He makes your cup overflow.
And as you look back through your life, from your baptism to this day, as you look ahead to the life which is to come, you can say with King David and the words of Psalm 23: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” Yes it is Jesus, your Good Shepherd, who is Goodness and Mercy who has followed you all the days of your life. He is behind you, beside you, leading ahead of you, bringing you, with His rod and His staff comforting you, all the way to His Father’s house, shepherding you to your eternal life. To your heavenly home, were you free from sinning will truly and completely want for nothing.
Today if you are mired in the sin of coveting, of wanting what is not yours to want, if you chronically put the stuff of this life, the stuff of the World above Jesus, if you’ve trusted in the voice of strangers, if you’ve gone after the World – there is forgiveness for you. Ask your Good Shepherd for His forgiveness and it is yours. Put your trust in Him, listen to His voice. Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 “A Mighty Fortress is Our God,” Lutheran Service Book, Concordia Publishing House, 2006. Hymn # 657.
 Luke 12:13-15
 Hebrews 13:7-9
 John 16:33
 John 10:3-4