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Sheep do Sheepy Things (Trinity 26)

by ToddPeperkorn ~ November 15th, 2008

Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
Messiah Lutheran Church
Kenosha, Wisconsin
2nd Last Sunday of the Church Year/Trinity 26
November 18, 2007
Matthew 25:31-46

TITLE: “Sheep do Sheepy Things”

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel lesson just read, Christ’s judgment over the sheep and the goats.

Before we get too far into this sermon, let’s get one thing straight: you are a sheep. You are baptized. You sit at the right hand of the Father, on the side with His Son. You have the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ on your lips. You are in Christ, and He has paid the price for your sins by His death on the cross. For the sheep the lamb has bled, as the hymn puts it. Your works, borne out of faith and trust in Him, are holy and precious in His sight, just as a father rejoices in the works and deeds of his own dear children.

So on that last, Great Day when the Son of Man comes again with all His angels in glory, He will come to take you home. Home at last! Home to the Father. Home to be with His whole Church, His beloved, His chosen ones, His sheep. Welcome home, he cries out to you with words of love. I’ve come to take you home.

So what you won’t get in this sermon is any goat talk. You are not a goat, dearly baptized. Your sins are forgiven, you are washed in the blood of the lamb who was slain. You are no goat. If you want a goat sermon, or ten steps to how to avoid acting like a goat, go to a different church. This sermon is about the Lamb, and what the Lamb has come to give to you. How do we know this to be true? Because this is what the text says!

Then the Son of Man will come with all His glory and His holy angels with Him and He will sit on his glorious throne!

Son of Man. What a great phrase. Jesus loves to call Himself the Son of Man. Why? Because that term, Son of Man, means He is in your flesh and blood. God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son….gave Him to what? Gave Him to our flesh and blood! When the angel announced to Joseph and Mary that Mary would have a baby, the Son of Man was on the way. And where the angels are, there you know that God is at work, bringing about the salvation of His people, His sheep.

God joins Himself to man, so that when the Son of Man returns in glory with His angels, we are fully rejoined to God. This is what the angels announced to Joseph and Mary. God and embryo…God and fetus…God and the boy Jesus…God and the Suffering Servant…God, dead on the cross…God, alive when the tomb is empty…the Son of God and Son of Man (the Son of Mary)…coming again in glory with all His angels.

When you hear that phrase, the Son of Man, lift up your hearts, for that means that He has joined Himself to you in a miracle of water and blood and body and Word that is a mystery beyond all understanding. We cannot fathom this unity that is ours by Holy Baptism. It is beyond our comprehension. But it is that unity, born in you in the waters, that will shape how you look at Him and how He looks at you on the Last Day. Because you are baptized, when the Son of Man comes in His glory with all His holy angels, that last day is a day of joy for you. It is a day of redemption. It is a day of vindication, for God will declare once and for all what we already know to be true by Word and water: that you are justified, free and holy in His sight. What a glorious day it will be.

It should not surprise us, then, that on the Last Day, when our Lord gives us the inheritance promised to us before the foundation of the world, that we will not recognize all of these good works that He has given to us to do. Why? Well, because we’re sheep. And sheep do, uh, sheepy things. They listen to the voice of the shepherd. They are intent on that voice. As soon as a sheep starts thinking, I don’t have to be a sheep, I can go out on my own! I can do my own thing! Guess what! That’s not a sheep. That’s a goat. So when at the last day when it is clear that we sheep do sheepy things, it shouldn’t surprise us. Listen to the voice of the Shepherd. That’s all that matters. The rest will take care of itself. This is what St. Paul writes in Ephesians 2:8-10 when he says:

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (Eph. 2:8-10 NKJV)

Now since we know we are only saved by the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son and our redeemer, what is going on with all the sheep and the goats? Where do good works and acts of love fit into the Christian life?
Well, dear friends, it’s like this. The more time you spend fretting about good works, the more goatlike you are acting. On the last day, oh sheep, you will be stunned, stunned at what our Lord looks at and says they are good and holy works in His sight. Why? Because we can’t see them as good works. The things that God looks at He looks at through His Son Jesus Christ. He looks at service to your neighbor, at the most ordinary and unassuming of events that God has given us to do. And it is in these ordinary, everyday things that God is at work, taking care of His world, even using us to teach His Word to our family and neighbors. Martin Luther put it this way:

We conclude, therefore, that a Christian lives not in himself, but in Christ and in his neighbor. Otherwise he is not a Christian. He lives in Christ through faith, in his neighbor through love. By faith he is caught up beyond himself into God. By love he descends beneath himself into his neighbor.”

What this means, dear sheep, is that on the Last Great Day when the Son of Man comes in all His glory to judge the living and the dead, you do not have a thing to worry about. The work is His, the faith is His gift, and your very life is a testimony to the mercy of God in this world. Trust that when He calls you, He is faithful and He will do it. You are a sheep, because you have been baptized into Christ, the Lamb of God who has taken away the sin of the world. The you are a sheep, because the Son of Man has taken on your flesh and blood and paid the price for your redemption. You are a sheep. Listen to the voice of the Shepherd/Lamb. Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

And now may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in true faith, unto life everlasting. Amen.

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