More / Book of the Month / Lorna Marie Kreutz Funeral Sermon - Psalm 23 March 12th 2022 / The LORD Is My Shepherd

Lorna Marie Kreutz Funeral Sermon - Psalm 23 March 12th 2022 / The LORD Is My Shepherd

Lorna Marie Kreutz Funeral Sermon - Psalm 23 March 12th 2022 / The LORD Is My Shepherd

Lorna Marie Kreutz Funeral Sermon / Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Saturday March 12th 2022: Season of Lent / Psalm 23 "The LORD Is My Shepherd" 

          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. Earlier we heard the 23rd Psalm, it is a comforting and familiar Psalm to many, yet sometimes this Bible passage can sweep along poetically concealing the truths hidden in its gentle cadence and warmth. As we gather to burry Lorna today, returning to the place where she was baptised and where she confirmed her faith many long years ago, we do so knowing that her path through life was not green pastures and still waters; more often than not it went through the valley of the shadow of death. In the struggles through the years the question may have come to mind, “Where was God,” “Where was God for Lorna?” “Where was God for me?”  

Psalm 23 starts with the words “The LORD is my Shepherd” and when a person becomes more familiar with the Bible the identity of who that Shepherd is becomes clear. In the Gospel of Saint John Jesus says of Himself, “I am the Good Shepherd. I know My own and My own know Me.”[1] Who then is the Shepherd of Psalm 23? It is the Lord Jesus. He is the one who tends His sheep. Shepherds and sheep show up all over the place in the Bible and when more people lived in the country and the cities weren’t so big people had a closer relationship with tending herds of animals like sheep and the examples of shepherds and sheep perhaps made more sense. But to put it plainly tending sheep is not simple work. It requires dedication and skill. It is true that the barley or wheat farmer doesn’t have as much joy at spraying their fields with fertilizer and pesticides as the shepherd has feeding his sheep but not everything about caring for sheep is joyful.

King David who we hear about in the Old Testament, who wrote Psalm 23, was a shepherd in his young life and he described the dangerous aspects of the work like this “when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered [that little lamb] out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. [I have] struck down both lions and bears.”[2] A lamb in the jaws of a lion or a bear is certainly like one walking in the valley of the shadow of death. Such a lamb is defenceless it can do nothing to save itself. It needs a Good Shepherd to step in and save it. It contributes nothing to salvation except being in peril of death.

Jesus the Good Shepherd once told a parable about a shepherd. Saint Matthew in his Gospel records how “the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear [Jesus]. And the Pharisees and the scribes [well meaning but often puffed up and harsh leaders among the Jewish people] grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

So [Jesus] told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”[3]  The answer most people would give to Jesus’ question of “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?,” is no one would do that, no one would do what this shepherd does in this parable: They would say, “I still have ninety-nine sheep, I will cut my losses … besides if I go after this one lost sheep what will happen to the other 99 I might lose them too!” “Ninety-nine sheep in the hand are worth more than one lost sheep caught in a bush, or bramble, or stuck way down in a craggy crevasse along the side of some shadowy valley of death.” That’s the answer most people would give.  

One of the reasons Psalm 23 is so loved is that it is so personal. Each of us has a relationship with the Good Shepherd and in this Psalm we can see ways in which Jesus takes care of us. Jesus is also the shepherd in the parable that Jesus told about the lost sheep and He is the one who seeks us out when we are lost. Notice who is doing the work in the Psalm it’s the Good Shepherd, the Shepherd leads, restores, comforts, prepares, anoints, and follows. The person who doesn’t fight against this every step of the way is content, well fed, able to live a life without fear. But if you have bolted from the flock and gone off on your own like the lost sheep of the parable He will still follow after you, He will still follow after you with mercy and goodness beyond what you deserve, He will still walk with you through the valley of the shadow of death providing whatever comfort you will take and in the end He will put you on His shoulders and carry you home. This is God’s love for us. As the Good Shepherd Jesus promise to take care of His sheep, He promises to take care of you. Saint Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples, teaches us how it is that, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”[4] You keep hearing this word – Repentance – what does it mean? It means turning back to God: It means turning away from yourself and turning back to God. Sometimes it’s obvious when this happens, when there are outward signs that someone has turned back to God, real observable evidence, but then there are times when this is not so clear, when it is a mystery, when the whole matter is simply in the hands of the Good Shepherd and not in our own hands, when it is not visible for us to see. We are all the same in the end; we are all people who need a Good Shepherd who won’t give up on us, even when we have given up on ourselves. A Good Shepherd who will seek us out when we become lost. A Good Shepherd who will rescue us out of the lions mouth, out of the jaws of death, a Good Shepherd who ultimately won’t let us have our own way: This is the mercy we all need in our lives. 

King David ends Psalm 23 saying “I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever,” but when you think about the rest of the Psalm this is not because of anything he was doing. Even as one who was a shepherd in his youth, even as one who became King of Israel and as King was shepherd to a nation David says, “The LORD is my Shepherd,” he trusts that he is in God’s hands. Lorna is in Jesus’ hands, we are in His hands too. What kind of hands are these? They are the hands that were pierced for our transgressions[5] at the cross of His crucifixion on Good Friday where the Good Shepherd laid down His life for the sheep.[6] And in His Easter Sunday resurrection it became abundantly clear that the hands of Jesus had in fact caught that lion the devil by his beard, caught that bear of death by his beard and struck them down and in the process rescued us from their sharp hungry teeth.

King David’s Son King Solomon wrote down this bit of wisdom saying, “the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.”[7] Dear ones in the end we all return to God. Ultimately the green pastures, and still waters, and restoration of the soul that the Good Shepherd leads us to, under the shadow of His cross and passion, are not found in this life. Whatever green pastures, still waters, and restoration of the soul we experience here in these days is a foretaste of what is to come. No one deserves it based on the way they have lived their life. We receive it based on how Jesus lived His life. He lived His life without fault.

Knowing all of this, even trusting all of this to be true one question remains ‘How should I go about living my life today in the World?’ The World is so messed up. What am I to do? The best way to live is to honour our responsibilities in life, to care for those we are given the duty to care for with all our heart and mind and strength and soul and to love the Lord above all things.[8] Look to Jesus the Good Shepherd as your example of how to love others, and whenever you fail in living up to that example return to Him for your forgiveness. Let Him be your example of how to love and care for others. 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.

[1] John 10:14
[2] 1 Samuel 17:34–36
[3] Luke 15:1–7
[4] 2 Peter 3:9
[5] Isaiah 53:5
[6] John 10:11
[7] Ecclesiastes 12:7
[8] Luke 10:25–37

Photo Credits: Main Photo provided by family and Mount Olive Lutheran Church; Detail sheep from pexels; Detail feeding sheep from pexels; Lion from pexels; Detail shepherd with sheep from unsplash; Detail lambs from pexels; Detail small crucifix from pxhere; Detail of Lion from pxhere; Detail of Jesus the Good Shepherd from pxhere