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“Sermons in Stained Glass: Good Shepherd”
Mark 6:34


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Fifth Sunday after Pentecost—July 1, 2012

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

For our summer sermon series this year we are looking at the stained-glass windows of our church.  So far we have looked at the five windows at the front of our sanctuary that have been designed and crafted for us by Bovard Studio, Fairfield, Iowa. 

For our meditation this morning you will need to look at the front cover of your bulletin.  This beautiful window of Christ the Good Shepherd is not located in our sanctuary, but above the entrance to our Educational Wing.  It was designed and crafted for us by Jim Berberich of Sioux City.  Mr. Berberich has worked for several different stained-glass firms, specializing in the fine detail painting of areas such as faces.   Because that is his specialty, he lovingly crafted this window with an unusual level of fine detail painting rarely found in modern stained-glass, not just in the faces, but throughout this window.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”  When King David wrote those famous words from Psalm 23 some 3,000 years ago the people he was originally writing for knew all about sheep and shepherds.  Shepherding was their #1 occupation, and King David himself started out as a shepherd boy.

Very few of us today in 21st century America have ever had close contact with sheep or shepherds.  But, we’ve heard Psalm 23 and all the other biblical references to sheep and shepherds so often that for us too they have become some of the most familiar, beloved, and comforting parts of the Bible.

But, there is also a judgmental aspect to this familiar symbolism.  Our window depicts cuddly, docile sheep, nuzzling up against the Good Shepherd and the two children at his side.  But, Isaiah says, “We all like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.”  One reason the Lord uses sheep as symbolic for us is that sheep are notorious for being not cuddly and docile, but rebellious and recalcitrant, not nuzzling up close to their shepherd, but straying, wandering from the right path.

“We all like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.”  Like lost sheep, we in our sinfulness have strayed from our Good Shepherd and wandered away from his paths of righteousness.  Peter tells us the fearful fate of sheep who stray from their shepherd: “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”  That is what we all deserve on account of our sins, to be devoured by the devil eternally in hell.

Today’s Gospel Reading says, “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.”  That’s talking literally, about Jesus landing on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.  But, it could also be taken figuratively, about Jesus “landing” on the shores of this earth, when he came down from heaven and was made man.  All of humanity was “like sheep without a shepherd,” and he came down and had compassion on us.

The Lord promises in today’s Old Testament Reading, “I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep.  I will rescue them . . .  I myself will tend my sheep . . .  I will search for the lost and bring back the strays.”  That promise came to fulfillment when God’s Son Jesus Christ had compassion on us and came down from heaven and was made man for us and our salvation.  “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” 

“Greater love has no man than this,” Jesus declares, “That he lay down his life . . .  I am the Good Shepherd . . . and I lay down my life for the sheep.”  Your Good Shepherd Jesus shows his love and compassion for you by laying down his life for you, dying in your place as a sacrifice to pay for your sins. 

Paul says in today’s Epistle Reading, “Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.”  Because of the sacrifice of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection your sins are all forgiven.   Trust in him as your Savior, for your Good Shepherd Jesus has fulfilled for you the Lord’s promise in today’s Old Testament Reading, “I will rescue them . . . I will search for the lost and bring back the strays.”

Our Good Shepherd window illustrates the verse from Isaiah that is also printed on the cover of today’s bulletin: “He tends his flock like a shepherd; he gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart.”  The two children beside the Good Shepherd represent all the children of our congregation and community who pass through the doors of our Educational Wing, for Sunday School, Confirmation classes, preschool, after school care, Vacation Bible School, and many other activities and events.  They are the little lambs of the Good Shepherd’s flock, whom he gathers into his arms and carries close to his heart.

We installed this window before our new sanctuary was built or even planned, while the Fellowship Hall was still serving as our temporary sanctuary.  The windows that were in the Fellowship Hall were moved the baptistery in our new sanctuary, but it was always intended that this window would stay above the entrance to what is now our Educational Wing.  It serves as a beautiful reminder of the purpose of our Educational Wing, and all our congregation’s educational efforts: “He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart.”

There are quite a few churches in our area that have preschools or day cares in their buildings, but often they’re not actually run by the congregations as Christian preschools and daycares.  In many cases the churches simply rent space to someone else, who may or may not have a Christian emphasis.  For over 15 years Holy Cross preschool and after school care have actually been operated by Holy Cross as a ministry to the children of our congregation and community.  Our Holy Cross Board of Education puts a lot of effort into operating our preschool and after school care.  This window above the entry serves as a beautiful testimony to the parents and children that here Christ the Good Shepherd is lovingly caring for his little lambs through this ministry of our congregation.

Today on your way out of church or some other time go and take a good look at this beautiful window.  You will notice it not only has an extraordinary level of fine detail painting.  It also has a amazing assortment of different glasses that actually make up much of the design.  The grass and trees are composed of different shades of green glass, reminiscent of Psalm 23, “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.”  Different shades of blue make up the beautiful flowing river, as Psalm 23 says, “He leadeth me beside the still waters.”

The beautiful blue waters in this window have another symbolism.  Since ancient times that verse from Psalm 23 has been interpreted as a reference to Holy Baptism, and Christ the Good Shepherd has been pictured by streams of water as a symbol of the Sacrament: “He leadeth me beside the still waters.  He restoreth my soul.”  Christ the Good Shepherd restored your soul through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, made you born again as God’s child and his precious lamb.

“My sheep listen to my voice,” Jesus says.  “I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.”  Our Good Shepherd window beautifully illustrates the comforting promise that Jesus is your Good Shepherd, watching over and guiding you throughout your life, and you are his own precious lamb.  As Peter says, “You were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

Amen.

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