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Light of the Valley Lutheran Church
Shining the Light of Jesus in the Layton area and beyond!
Shining the Light of Jesus in the Layton area and beyond!

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"He Even Calls My by My Name"
Sermon video from Sunday, May 7, 2017 based on John 10:1-10.

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He Even Calls Me by My Name
Sermon from Sunday, May 7, 2017

John 10:1-10 (CSB)
1 “Truly I tell you, anyone who doesn’t enter the sheep pen by the gate but climbs in some other way is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought all his own outside, he goes ahead of them. The sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 They will never follow a stranger; instead they will run away from him, because they don’t know the voice of strangers.” 6 Jesus gave them this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them. 7 Jesus said again, “Truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep didn’t listen to them. 9 I am the gate. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10 A thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” That’s probably the most famous quote from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The point of Juliet’s dialogue is to show how irrational it is to hate someone just because they belong to a certain family or bloodline, as Juliet’s father is wont to hate Romeo since Romeo is a Montague while he and his daughter Juliet are Capulets. What’s really in a name? Even if you called someone by a different name, wouldn’t they still be the same person? Then I think of a Simpsons quote (basically the complete opposite of Shakespeare) and remember when Lisa quoted this famous line “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” and then her brother, Bart, wittily responded, “Not if you call them stenchblossoms.”

The name by which things and people are called matters. Doesn’t it annoy you just a bit when Starbucks totally butchers your name on your drink order or when the customer service rep pronounces your name in such an unrecognizable way that you aren’t even sure if they are talking to you? Personally, I notice this most when people call me “Jonathan” instead of “Jon.” When they use my formal first name, I know that they don’t know me well enough to use my preferred first name. When the wrong name is used, the connection between people weakens, the interaction becomes less personable, and you may even wonder if the person knows anything about you.
What’s in a name? Quite a bit, actually. If you go around calling people by other names or even “Hey, you!”, you will get different reactions or you may get no reaction at all because they don’t know who you’re addressing. When you use someone’s name, you are setting the tone of the conversation and the relationship you have with that person. The name you use to address someone will show how well you know them.

In our Gospel reading for today, Jesus begins building a figure of speech about sheep, sheep pens, shepherds, and the like. Jesus had just healed an adult man who had been born blind, but he did this on the Sabbath day, the Jewish day of rest and worship. This infuriated the Pharisees, a strict sect of the Jewish faith. They had denounced Jesus for doing this miracle and had tried to even convince the man whom Jesus had healed that Jesus was a sinner. The Pharisees, who should have been promoting Jesus and supporting him and worshiping him as their God were trying to make sure that people didn’t believe in him. They were trying to steal Jesus’ sheep.

This is why Jesus starts out by saying, “Truly I tell you, anyone who doesn’t enter the sheep pen by the gate but climbs in some other way is a thief and a robber.” (verse 1) Anyone can recognize a thief or robber. They don’t try to get in to the sheep pen legitimately. They have to do it in secret, but their intention is only to take sheep away from the shepherd. Jesus tells us, “A thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” (verse 10) They are not coming to get wealth for themselves. They aren’t coming to get food. They are sneaking into the sheep pen purely to deprive the shepherd of his sheep.

The thieves and robbers are at a very big disadvantage. They don’t know the sheep. They don’t know the sheep’s names. You can picture them as they try to coax the sheep towards them. “Come here, little sheep.” “Here sheepy, sheepy, sheepy.” “I got a treat for you.” “Come on over this way, sheep.” There’s no prior connection, no relationship that the sheep should trust these strangers.

Now, when Jesus gave the Pharisees this figure of speech, they did not understand it. Jesus was referring to them, to these people who should be trying to protect the sheep and keep them with the shepherd, but instead they were intent on destroying the sheep that belonged to the shepherd, as they wanted to get rid of this formerly blind man who wanted to follow Jesus, his shepherd. They wanted to see this man robbed of his faith and destroyed by being condemned to hell instead of entrusted to Jesus.

Who are the thieves and robbers who try to steal us away from our Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ? Is it a person from another religion, another faith, someone who tries to gently coax you away from God and His Word, away from your church? Do they appeal to you with promises of how their church or their philosophy is better, has more to offer? Do they appeal to your emotions, that you will feel better at their church so that must make it the right church? Could the thief or robber be someone within our own family, someone who scoffs at your faith, pokes fun at it, who makes it hard for you to go to church on Sunday mornings by giving you grief for taking time away from them to do this church thing? Are we the thieves and robbers, that the things we do, the things we say, push people away from the Good Shepherd, away from God? Do I make people feel unwelcome, as if they shouldn’t be here? Do we sometimes talk ourselves into wandering off, doing something else other than following the voice of our Good Shepherd?

Thieves and robbers in whatever form they take only want to steal, kill, and destroy. They want us to keep us away from our Good Shepherd and lead us instead to our death. We need our Shepherd. We need him to protect us and save us from these thieves and robbers.

Jesus is our Shepherd. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him because he knows the shepherd. The shepherd calls to us, his sheep. He doesn’t try to coax us saying, “Here, sheepy, sheepy, sheepy.” He doesn’t send sheepdogs in to growl and bark and nip at us to get us to come to him. The Bible is not a tool to beat you over the head and into submission to believe in God. No, his Word is here to call to you. Our Good Shepherd “calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” (verse 3) “Jon, Wendy, William, James, come this way.” “Eric, Andy, I’ll lead you out.” “Steve and Gail, I’m here for you.” “June & Glen, I’ll protect you.” “Becky, Mary, Jeanette, Nova, let me take you someplace safe and nice.” “Larry and Theresa, follow me. Marlys, Carol, Joyce, I’ll lead you to green pastures.” “Allan and Alicia, don’t be afraid.” “I’m here for you, Sue, John, Mark, and Mara.”

Jesus, the Good Shepherd, calls each of his sheep by name, calls each of us by name. Who even takes the time to name sheep? If you have a couple of animals, it makes sense, but we are talking thousands, millions, billions, and more! He calls each and every one of his sheep by name because he knows each and every single one of them that thoroughly, that intimately. He knows them and all the things that they go through. He knows exactly who you are and all the things you go through. He calls you by your name and he gets it right.

At our baptism God put his name on us, he adopted us. When he called us to faith through his voice coming through his Word, he got to know us. We now belong to him. He tells us, “Come, follow me. I will take care of you. I will provide for you. I will rescue you from all these thieves and robbers, those who want to steal, kill, and destroy you. They want to take your life, but I will give you life, life in abundance. I will lead you out of danger and instead take you to safe pasture.” By your baptism, by your God-given faith in Jesus, he has become your Good Shepherd. You are a part of God’s flock. This moniker is even more important than our own.

Being a part of God’s flock, we are more to the Good Shepherd than a means of income, a way of living. He doesn’t keep us around for what we give him. No, he shepherds us, serves us, protects us because of what he gives to us: that life in abundance. We have it because our Good Shepherd laid down his life for the sheep to protect us from all these thieves and robbers who wanted to destroy us. Then he took his life back up again, the wonderful truth that we are still celebrating now in the season of Easter. Our Good Shepherd lives! He has conquered death for us!

Because we belong to Jesus, our Good Shepherd, he guides us, calls us over the tumult, telling us not to listen to those thieves and robbers. Anyone who doesn’t know your name, anyone who tries to keep you from following the voice of Jesus, you run away from them. Don’t follow them. They will only lead you to your destruction.
We have followed the voice of Jesus, our Good Shepherd, to be here today. He has called you here that you “may have life and have it in abundance.” (verse 10) When we enter into his sheep pen, his house, he promises us that we “will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture.” (verse 9) So, we gladly say...

I am Jesus' little lamb,
Ever glad at heart I am;
For my Shepherd gently guides me,
Knows my need, and well provides me,
Loves me every day the same,
Even calls me by my name. Amen.
(CW 432:1)

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"Live with a Purpose"
Sermon video from Sunday, April 30, 2017 based on 1 Peter 1:13-21.

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Live with a Purpose
Sermon from Sunday, April 30, 2017

1 Peter 1:13-21 (NIV)
13 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” 17 Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21 Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.

Do you get up in the morning and ask yourself, “Why am I getting up today?” Do you immediately run through your to-do list in your head of the things that have to happen? Do you mentally go through the goals you are setting out to accomplish that day? Is it the exact opposite for you, that you get up in the morning and ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” What’s your answer to that question? What is the meaning a purpose of your life? How do you keep going day in and day out?

Often times we don’t go past the to-do list of life. We’ve been taught and for the most part have accepted that we are here to accomplish things, and when they are done, we have accomplished our purpose for living. Is it even that mentality that got you out of bed this morning, got you to do through the motions of showering, getting dressed, and eating breakfast? “I have things to do. That is my purpose. Let’s get them done.”?

I suppose that we could look at our Christian life and see nothing more than a to-do list. Get up on Sunday morning, get ready and go to church because that’s what I’m supposed to do as a Christian. Pray when I go to bed because that’s what I’m supposed to do as a Christian. Write out a check, set cash aside, put it in the envelope, make sure that the automatic withdrawal is set to give my offering to church because that’s what a Christian is supposed to do. Be nice to people because that’s what a Christian is supposed to do. Act holy and righteous, be a Mr. goodie-two-shoes because that’s what a Christian is supposed to do. Is this why you do these things, because they are something Christian to do? Isn’t that basically what Peter told the Christian back in the first century to do? “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do.” (verses 14-15) Is this the purpose of life, to simply do things to fill up the time we have here on earth?

Don’t get me wrong. There are things that we have to do every single day. They need to be done. We can’t neglect them. But do we ever step back in life and wonder why am I doing these things? For some people it is enough to do things that they think will improve their life or the lives of others. They find meaning in simply having something to do, a goal to work towards and accomplish. They find meaning in having a check-list of things to do. Many people are content for this to be the meaning of life: completing a to-do list.

What about for us as Christians? Is Christianity just a different check-list than other people? Is Christianity nothing more than work to keep us busy until we do? We do we do those Christian things like going to church, helping out around church, being nice to others, praying, sharing our faith, etc.? Are these things just check-list items to complete? Does doing these things make a better life for ourselves or for other people? Do I do all these Christian things because then I can take this completed to-do list up before God and show him the evidence, the proof, that I am worthy of him, that I did live a holy life, that I deserve to be commended for all the things that I’ve done, for all the church services that I came to, for all the prayers I offered, for all the work that I did around the church, for all the good deeds that I did for my neighbors, for all the times that I served others instead of myself. I did it, God. Look! They’re all done. It’s all checked off.

I actually keep a to-do list on my desk. I print a new one every week. I even keep the old to-do lists by scanning them in. I do this to remember when I did things. It’s proof for me that I did actually do things that I meant to do. But if I were to take these to-do lists and hold them up to God and say, “Look at what I did for you! Do you see all this work, how many hours of my life that I lived for you?” do you think God would be impressed? If we held up big lists of all the things we did for God, would he say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You definitely deserve the best blessings of heaven. In fact, you deserve a nicer life”?

What we do in this life does not impress God. Our completed to-do lists do not give us preferential treatment. They don’t make us worthy before him. In fact, if we held up our lists to him, God would then hold out a much bigger list of all the things that we have left undone. Our accomplishments don’t impress God or make him love us or treat us better. They actually just serve as a reminder of all the things we couldn’t do, failed to do. Our to-do lists condemn us instead of giving us something to boast about. If we live life just to fill out to-do lists, then we are following an empty way of life that will leave us unfulfilled in the end.
Then why listen to Peter? Why stop trying to conform to evil desires? Why be holy in all that we do? Isn’t this just another to-do list? Isn’t there another way to live than just filling our lives with doing things until we die?

So that his people don’t fall into the idea that we should just do things to fill up a list or check off boxes on a to-do list, Peter reminds them that their lives are not defined by our earthly accomplishment. Instead, they are defined instead by what God has done for us. God redeemed you, bought you back “from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors” (verse 18)

God spared no expense when it came to redeeming us from this empty way of life, of living just to fill the hours of the day with doing stuff. He didn’t value your life at the weight of gold or silver in comparison to your accomplishments. He didn’t value it with things that would perish one day no matter how many refinements had taken place or how many projects had been completed. He used something even more precious to give you a purpose in life. He used the blood of his own Son, the blood of Jesus Christ, the lamb without blemish or defect, the one chosen before the creation of the world and then later revealed so that we would all know him and believe in him. He was sacrificed. His blood - blood that could not and cannot be replaced by anyone else’s - is what God used to buy us back for that empty way of life of just living to do stuff.

With the precious blood of Christ, that lamb without blemish or defect, God bought for you a new life, a new birth into a living hope. You are not of this world anymore. You are not here to do what everyone else does or here just to fill the hours of every day with doing stuff. Because God bought you, you are now a foreigner here, working to be obedient to God and be holy like he is not so that you can offer up a big filled out to-do list for him. Your work is to show who you are to the world, to show the value of what God paid for you, to be holy as he has made you by the blood of the Lamb.

We as Christians pray, go to church, help out at church, give offerings, and serve others instead of ourselves because God has given us a purpose to live for. We live knowing that God has already made us worthy of being with him. He doesn’t need my good works, but we do them to show the world that we belong to him, that we love him with every fiber of our being since he spared no expense to give us life now and life everlasting in heaven. He died and rose from the dead to give us purpose, hope, a future. His death and resurrection is what we hold up to God, not what we accomplished, but his work done to save us from the empty life of just doing things to do things, to pass the time with those to-do lists until we die.

With God now having given me value, this is why I want to live my life in such a way so as to not conform to evil desires that I used to. This is why I want to live a holy life, holy like my God is holy. “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” (verses 18-19)

Live not as a person who has to fill their lives with things to do to pass the time until we die. Live as someone who is going to live with God forever. Live as a holy person as God has made you. Live according to the value that God used to redeem you from that empty way of life. Live to show others that you have been saved by the precious blood of Christ. Amen.

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Sermon video from Sunday, April 23, 2017 based on 1 Peter 1:3-9.

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