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Psalm 23

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. 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. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (ESV)

Call Off the Dogs

Thursday of Pentecost 23 

20 November 2014

Sometimes the shepherd has to call and search long and hard until finally the sheep hears his voice. Sheep just get lost. That's what sheep do. The "lost sheep" is almost redundant. When they are lost how do we best get them back? By setting the dogs on them? Won't such yapping herders drive them farther into the hills and ravines in which they might become easier prey for their enemies? Instead, the shepherd must call gently for them, and persistently seek them. Only then will they be rescued from the pits into which they have been cast down.


Why should we expect the task of leading the flock of God to be any less this kind of patient seeking and saving the lost? When our sheep are led astray by the alluring false teachers they see and hear every day, what makes us think that barking at them will bring them to heal? No, we must seek the lost and speak gently to them (Is 40:2). We must lead them back to the fold. How easily they are seduced by the bold and the beautiful among the preachers today. They seek glory rather than the cross, and that is why they find glory so easily and scorn the cross so regularly. However, the sheep aren't vicious opponents of the cross. They just don't realize that are being seduced into bondage under the law, they do not see the sharp divide between righteousness by works and righteousness through the gospel. The false teachers often display huge churches, great media ministries, and glittering works and lives. This looks good, if we don't look beyond the whitewash of appearance. We must not bark at them because they have been entrapped by the church's enemies.


The Apostle Paul did not give up on the Galatians, constantly holding up before them the Christ and His gospel, that they might be called back to the fold of the church. And although he berated them at points in his famous letter, he also always left the door open to their return to the freedom for which Christ had set them free (Gal 5:1), wooing them back to the grace of God. Although we have no evidence to this effect, I am quite confident that his letter to the Galatians had its desired effect in calling the faithful back to the law-free gospel. The lack of clarity about the gospel among the people of our congregations has much to do with the legalistic ears with which we hear everything, the power of false teaching in our media, and the weakness of catechesis over the years in our churches. How will the Lord call back those who have gotten lost? It must be shepherds who persistently call people back to the truth of the gospel, so that they might be comforted by the only-saving message of Christ. So let's call off the dogs and preach gospel.


Martin Luther


"This is an extraordinary comfort and doctrine, by which Paul teaches how those who have been seduced by wicked teachers are to be rescued from their false persuasions (Gal 5:8). The false apostles were great men, much more impressive in their appearance than Paul was in both doctrine and holiness. The Galatians were deceived by this coat of paint and supposed that they were listening to Christ when they heard them; therefore they determined that their persuasion came from Christ. In opposition to this, Paul indicates subtly and modestly that this persuasion and doctrine had not come from Christ, who had called them in grace, but from the devil; and thus he rescued many of them from this false persuasion. Thus today we call many, who have been led astray by the sectarians, back from their error when we show them that the opinions of the sectarians are fanatical and wicked.


"This comfort applies also to all who, in their affliction and trial, conceive a false opinion about Christ. For the devil is a wondrous persuader; he knows how to inflate the tiniest and often most ridiculous little sin until the one who is tried by it supposes that it is the most atrocious crime, worthy of eternal punishment. Here the troubled soul must be encouraged in the manner in which Paul encouraged the Galatians, namely, by being told that this thought or persuasion does not come from Christ; since it conflicts with the word of the gospel, which portrays Christ, not as an accuser or a hard taskmaster, etc.,but as "gentle and lowly in heart" (Mt 11:29), a merciful Savior and comforter.

Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians, 5.8

Lord Jesus Christ, You have sent shepherds among Your sheep who, with Your gentle voice, call them back from the false messages that continue to blight them. Thwart and hinder those who are leading astray Your sheep who fall into the traps of legalism. Help those who have been called to lead Your sheep to gently call those whom you have placed in their care back to Your grace, that they may be comforted by Your gospel. Amen.


For the Memorial Lutheran Church Thanksgiving Dinner for the homeless, that God's people would find joy in serving those who are in need


For Kim Cheng, that she might fully recover from cancer therapy


For the faculty and staff of Memorial Lutheran Church and School, that they would faithfully confess Christ to parents and children
Art: Crucifixes  Uppsala Cathedral (medieval)

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