Devotion for Tuesday, May 5, 2020
Lectionary Readings for Fourth Sunday of Easter:
1 Peter 2:19-25
Collect of the Day: Almighty God, merciful Father, since You have wakened from death the Shepherd of Your sheep, grant us Your Holy Spirit that when we hear the voice of our Shepherd we may know Him who calls us each by name and follow where He leads; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Hymn of the Day: The King of Love My Shepherd Is (LSB 709)
Despite the fact that the sermon I sent out for Sunday didn’t mention it once, this past Sunday was Good Shepherd Sunday. That’s the danger of a sermon series, you sometimes miss the main theme of the individual day to talk about a specific overarching theme. As I mentioned two Sundays ago, I will be using this Easter Season and her readings to teach a bit about the Divine Service, and so, unfortunately, the theme of the Good Shepherd took a backseat to the topic of prayer and its importance to us as Jesus’ little lambs.
Today I’m faced with a similar conflict. Since today is the 5th of May, I wanted to talk about it, and draw parallels to our lives as Christians, but I also feel I should do as I promised, and talk about one of the lessons from this previous Sunday…maybe even our Good Shepherd. So, I decided to do both…together.
So, how do ‘Cinco de Mayo’ and the ‘Good Shepherd’ relate? How can I talk about the two together? Let’s see…and hope that I don’t fail miserably in the process.
First, what is Cinco de Mayo? Yes, literally translated it means the Fifth of May, but what is the celebration all about? Turning to the most trusted and never incorrect source of Wikipedia, we can read that: “Cinco de Mayo is an annual celebration held on May 5. The date is observed to commemorate the Mexican Army’s victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla, on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza. The victory of the smaller Mexican force against a larger French force was a boost to morale for the Mexicans.” It goes on to say a little later that: “More popularly celebrated in the United States than Mexico, the date has become associated with the celebration of Mexican-American culture. These celebrations began in California, where they have been observed annually since 1863. The day gained nationwide popularity in the 1980s thanks especially to advertising campaigns by beer and wine companies. Today, Cinco de Mayo generates beer sales on par with the Super Bowl.” For the purpose of this reflection, I’m going to focus on the first part. Maybe you can see some of those parallels I mentioned before now.
With the help of a capable leader, a much smaller force was able to repel the assaults of a much larger and better trained foe. We too find ourselves in a similar, yet significantly different situation.
We too are faced with a more powerful foe than ourselves, one who has had many, many years of experience tempting people to turn from their beliefs and leading them away, promising things that are pleasing. This foe tempts us with greener pastures, and cooler waters. They tempt us with bigger accounts and more entertaining leisure. The devil, the world and our own sinful nature are cunning foes who come against us where they are most likely to be successful, where they know we are prone to wander. The worse part is that they would always win those fights too…that is, if we didn’t have any outside help.
Enter our Good Shepherd. Our Good Shepherd defeated that foe time, and time, and time again while He lived His life here on earth, teaching and leading His flock. Now here’s where we differ from the Mexican people at that time, our Shepherd didn’t gather us together, prepare us, equip us and then send us out to fight the battle – instead, He went out and fought it by Himself.
Our leader faced the enemy and defeated him, once, for all. Unlike the Mexican people, who after the death of their leader were defeated less than a year later by a larger force, we can never be defeated, as the passage form Psalm 23 reminds us: “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.” This is because our Good Shepherd never leaves us; He is walking with us every step of the way, every day of the year – yes, even on the 5th of May.
The Church has a Cinco de Mayo celebration of its own every year, though we don’t seem to generate the same beer sales. We call it Easter. Have you ever wondered why Good Shepherd Sunday is in the Easter Season? Partially because the celebration of Easter is the Festival of the Son, and so we have the focus on Jesus Himself already, but primarily because of the role of the shepherd in the lives of his sheep.
-A shepherd is responsible for the safety and well-being of his sheep.
-A shepherd feeds, waters, and protects his sheep.
-A shepherd is, in many ways, the identify of his sheep – they recognize his voice and follow him anywhere, identifying themselves as a part of his group, as a member of his herd.
So too our Good Shepherd.
-Jesus continues to care for us to this day, interceding for us at God the Father’s right hand, coming to us in His Word and through the working of the Holy Spirit, cleansing us every time we ask it of Him.
-Jesus feeds and waters us in the Sacraments – Baptism and the Lord’s Supper – calling us out regularly to partake of them. Through these Means of Grace, His Word and Sacraments, we are spiritually fed and nourished, forgiven/cleansed of our sins and taught what it means to be His sheep.
-Jesus is also our identity. When someone asks you what you are, do you not think “Christian”? Sure, depending on the context you may say Canadian, or one of your other identifying jobs or responsibilities, but underlying it all, dictating how you do all your other jobs, and how you see the world around you, your most rudimentary identity is that of a child of God, as one of the sheep in His flock. From this position we form our view of the world around us: right and wrong, how we interact with others, what are responsibilities are to our neighbours, the way we act and speak, all this comes out of the fact that we believe in the Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and we are His just as He is ours.
On Easter Sunday, this is what we are celebrating – being Jesus’ little lambs. This is what we’re celebrating every Sunday, just as every Sunday is a mini Easter, every Sunday we celebrate Jesus’ headship over us, and rejoice in in the gift of forgiveness that He gives us – the gift that flows out of His sacrifice on our behalf. This is what we gather to celebrate and receive on a regular basis, because it is who we are, not just what we do on Sunday mornings.
My fellow lambs, happy Cinco de Mayo, but more importantly, Happy Easter! He is Risen! (He is risen indeed. Alleluia.)
Lord God, heavenly Father, we pray that you would be with us this day, and every day. That you would guide us through this life safely, and well fed on Your Holy Word, that when the night comes, we would be happily gathered into Your heavenly home. Give us strength and peace as we continue to struggle in this life, especially now with this continued quarantine. While we can now see the light at the end of the tunnel, we pray that you would continue to keep us safe, and not overreact that in all things people would see You in our words and action. All this we ask in the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, our Good Shepherd. Amen.
In Christ and His service,