Misericordias Domini, the 2nd Sunday after Easter + Psalm 33:5b + April 30, 2017

THE EARTH || is full of the goodness of the | Lord. | - *
            By the word of the Lord the heav- | ens | were | made. (Psalm 33:5b–6a)
|| Rejoice in the Lord, O you | right- | eous! *
            For praise from the upright is | beau- | ti- | ful.
|| Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who | fear | Him, *
            On those who hope in | His | mer- | cy.
|| To deliver their soul from | death, | - *
            And to keep them alive | in | fa- | mine.
|| Our soul waits for the | Lord; | - *
            He is our help | and | our | shield. (Psalm 33:1, 18–20)
|| The earth is full of the goodness of the | Lord. | - *
            By the word of the Lord the heav- | ens | were | made. (Psalm 33:5b–6a)

Collect for Misericordias Domini, the 2nd Sunday after Easter
God, Who by the humiliation of Thy Son didst raise up the fallen world, grant unto Thy faithful ones perpetual gladness, and those whom Thou hast delivered from the danger of everlasting death do Thou make partakers of eternal joys; through the same Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.   

Ezekiel 34:11-16
1 Peter 2:21-25
St. John 10:11-16 

Sermon on The Introit (Psalm 33:5b)

Grace and Peace be unto you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

1)         The earth is full of the goodness of the LORD,” says the Psalmist. This is certainly true. Looking out upon the world in which we live we see the goodness of the Lord, the “Misericordia Domini,” all around us. The world in which we live and move and have our being was created “good” in the beginning and God said so. The Lord God built creation specifically as a home for humanity, which is why He built up the world in the order which He did. The creation of each day, the separating everything according to its different kinds, the entire cosmos was ordained to be a suitable dwelling place for man and woman, which He created on the sixth day. Moses then writes, “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good” (Gen 1:31). Even though sin has terribly marred the world, in spite of the fact that “the creation was subjected to futility” because of man’s disobedience (Rom 8:20), the creation is still “very good” as God declared it to be on the sixth day of the world. We are still able to look out at the sunrise, the river, the trees coming to life again, and see the goodness of the Lord all around us. Paul tells the pagans of Lystra that the true God “did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” Though the world has turned from God and forged new gods that reflect the image of man, the Lord God still provides daily bread to the believer and the heathen, alike, for “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt 5:45). Looking at the creation we can confess with the Psalmist, “The earth is full of the goodness of the LORD.

2)         But we must not think that because the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord, what we experience in the world is the fullness of God’s goodness. Since the fall into sin this is precisely what so many have done through the course of history. They imagine that all God’s goodness is wrapped up in the creation and because of that, they can commune God in nature. Surely you’ve heard people piously say that they see God in the sunset, experience Him on the shoreline, and walk with Him in their gardens. The perennial problem in the heart of man is that because of our inborn sin, we look to creation and imagine that it is the fullness of God’s revelation to humanity, that everything God tells us He tells us through creation. But this isn’t the case. We can look at the creation and assume that God must love us if He built such a nice place for us life, but no more. St. Paul says the chiefly the creation tells us about the attributes of God. He writes in Romans 1:20 that “since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” It’s as if Paul had said, “Looking at the creation shows us that God is almighty and all-power to create and sustain this world in which we live. The creation shows testifies to all that there is a Creator of all things so that no one has the excuse of saying ‘there is no proof for God’s existence.’” That’s all the natural knowledge of God tell us: there is an all-powerful God who created all things but it tells us no more than that. While the creation is full of the goodness of God, we cannot imagine that the fullness of God’s goodness is revealed to us in creation.

3)         The fullness of God’s goodness is revealed to us in one place: Christ Jesus. The goodness of the Lord shines forth brighter than the created sun in the person of Christ. Paul called Him “the brightness of the Father’s glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power” (Heb 1:3). If the creation is full of the goodness of the Lord, then how much more goodness do we find in the One who upholds all creation with the power of His Word? Christ Jesus shows us the full goodness of God toward mankind when He says of Himself in today’s Gospel reading, “I am the Good Shepherd.” What makes Christ the Good Shepherd? He says, “The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). What makes Christ the fullness of God’s goodness to mankind isn’t that He is the creator, nor it is in His almighty power to keep the world spinning along with everything else in it. What makes Jesus the fullness of God’s goodness is His love for sinners that led Him to give His life for the sheep. The prophet Isaiah said, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Is 53:6). Because of our sin, because our straying from the pasture of His Word and making our own way, the Shepherd gives His life to pay for the sins of the sheep. The Shepherd dies bearing the iniquities of us all, as St. Peter writes in today’s Epistle, he “bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness -- by whose stripes you were healed” (1 Pet 2:24). Christ is the Good Shepherd first and foremost because He gives His life for you, His beloved lamb.

4)         But Christ is not dead. His resurrection from the dead testifies to us the goodness of the Lord. Jesus says, “Therefore My Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father” (John 10:17-18). Christ not only lays His life down to atone for our sins, He takes it back up. The one who upholds all things by His might power also has the power to rise from the grace as He says here. He claims this power for Himself also in John 2 when He says to His adversaries, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). “But He was speaking of the temple of His body” (John 2:21). Christ shows the goodness of God toward sinners by atoning for their sins and by destroying the power of death by rising on the third day! The Lord is not content to atone for the sins of the sheep and allow them to still die. He wants to raise them to everlasting life on the last day so He conquers death and strips it of its power. His resurrection is a guarantee to us that all who repent of their sins and believe in Christ’s atoning death for their sins will also rise again, for your Lord tells you, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26). By His death and resurrection Chris shows us the fullness of the love of God the Father, for the command to give His life and take it back up was received from His Father. God the Father loves the world so gave His only begotten son into death and resurrection.

5)         Christ your Good Shepherd lives so that He might provide for you everything you need for this body and life. This is why you say with David, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1), for Christ has promised to give you your daily bread. He has promised to give you good things, bread instead of stones and fish instead of snakes. Your Good shepherd won’t give you anything that is evil or bad for you. When you receive things from His loving hand that don’t seem so good but seem evil and bad for you, remember that He is the Good Shepherd and He gives no evil thing to His children, but gives you what you need when you need it. He is your Good Shepherd so He makes you to lie down in green pastures. He leads you beside the still waters. Your Good Shepherd leads you the green pastures of His Word, for that is where He feeds you and strengthens your faith in Him so that no trial or trouble will move you in the day of adversity. He leads you beside the still waters of His Gospel. Drinking deeply from the Gospel strengthens us against the adversary, the devil and His temptations and accusations. He is your Good Shepherd who leads you daily back to the still waters of your baptism, pointing you to that water combined with His Word by which He washed you, sanctified you, clothed you with His own righteousness and adopted you as a son of the heavenly Father. By taking you daily back to the green pastures of His Word and Sacrament He restores you soul and lead you in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

6)         As your Good Shepherd He walks with you through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, not just at the moment of death but every day, for in the midst of life we are always in death. He comforts you with His rod and staff, which remind you that He is mighty to save and deliver you from all the power of the devil and to defend you from all the enemy’s fiery darts. He prepares His table before us each Lord’s Day, by which He nourishes our souls with His very own body and blood offered up on the cross for our sins. He attends us daily as our Good Shepherd and gives us every good gift and every perfect gift so that we are able to say, even in adversity, “my cup runneth over” (Psalm 23:5). We confess with David, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” (Psalm 23:6), because Christ is the fullness of God’s goodness toward us and He is always with us, for He has said, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). “The earth is full of the goodness of the LORD,” and we enjoy the goodness of the Lord that we experience in the creation. But we rejoice all the more that the goodness of the Lord and His mercy follows us each day and into eternity through faith in Christ. He is the Good Shepherd. He has laid down His life to pay for our sins. He has taken it back up again in the resurrection so that we might have everlasting life. He leads us to His Word, feeds us with His Sacraments, and give us all that we need. The earth is full of the goodness of Lord and in Christ Jesus we see just how good the goodness of the Lord truly is. Amen.

May the peace of God which passes all human understanding guard your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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