There is something strangely familiar about you
I’m nervous. I have only done this once before and that was 13 years ago. I’m finding it difficult to find my footing. Everything is so strange here.The city is strange. I don’t know where anything is and even if I did I wouldn’t know how to get there. The streets here remind me of a wild game trail, they seem to meander hither and yon. The only thing that changes more often than their direction is their name. Is it Pleasant Hill Road or State Bridge Road or Old Milton Pkwy or Rucker Road? It’s strange is what it is.
I am grateful that I am able to find my way to church. But when I arrive I find that even the church is strange to me. My desk, my chair, and my book shelves are all strange. I suspect your last pastor was a great deal more intellectual than I am because I don’t have nearly enough books to fill all the shelves of those bookcases. I’m half tempted to order a set of the encyclopedia Britannica just to fill the space. My pulpit is strange. It’s on the opposite side of the chancel than I am used too. I am positive your last pastor was taller than me because the first time I stepped behind this pulpit I couldn’t see over the top of it. I was fixen to go looking for a step stool but then I noticed it is adjustable. It’s nice, but strange.
But the strangest thing of all is… you. You are strange to me. I don’t mean to be ugly. You have been nothing but kind and generous and welcoming to me and my entire family. You seem like wonderful people, you really do. But I don’t know you. I don’t know your names (although I am starting to suspect that most of you are Fedkes). I don’t know where you live, I don’t know what you do, what your hobbies are, what you are passionate about. I don’t know your fears or weaknesses. I don’t know your strengths and abilities. I am used to knowing a great deal about the people sitting in the pews in front of me. I am used to knowing what those people need to hear and I am typically confident that I know how to communicate with them. But you, you are strange to me.
In many ways you are strange to me, but in chapter five verse two of our text for this morning Saint Peter reminds me there is also something familiar about you. There Saint Peter writes, “2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care.” You are God’s flock.
The Lord God has been describing His people as a flock for thousands of years. Through the prophet Jeremiah, He describes a people who tend to wander away and are vulnerable to attack. And when you read your Old Testament that is exactly what you see. You see a people who are constantly rebelling against God and eventually end up in Babylonian captivity. This description lives on in the New Testament as well. Saint Matthew describes a people who are like sheep among wolves and are easily scattered. And let’s be honest, wandering and rebellious sheep is still a pretty good description for God’s people. I must admit that I have not as of yet witnessed specific sinful acts from any of you. (I suspect that is only because we are all on our best behavior right now.) But regardless of what I see, there is wandering and rebellion among you, isn’t there. God sees it. In 1 Kings 8:46 He tells us "there is no one who does not sin" In Psalm 14:3 He says, "there is no one who does good, not even one." In Romans 3:23 He says, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Sadly, wandering and rebellious sheep is something I’m familiar with.
Thankfully, God does not only describe His people as a flock because they tend to wander and are prone to rebellion. Through King David, God uses this description to describe how much He cares for and loves His people. God provides His people with green pastures and quiet waters. From the hand of God goodness and love follow His flock all the days of their lives. God protects His people. Even though they walk through the valley of the shadow of death they fear no evil for God is with them. Again, this description lives on in the New Testament. Indeed, you might even say it is magnified in the New Testament. Throughout the gospels we read about Jesus, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (including yours and mine). We read about a God who so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son to forgive us our sinful wandering and rebellion. Joyfully, sheep who are cared for, loved, and forgiven by their Savior is also something I am familiar with.
So even if there is a great deal about you that is strange to me, whether you are acting like a cranky old goat or a precious little lamb, I recognize you, you are familiar to me. You are God’s flock; the sheep He has placed under my care.
Now it’s your turn to be nervous, isn’t it? After all, you don’t know me any better than I know you. And yet God has placed you; His flock under my care. Now, I am considered strange by people who have known me my entire life. I can only imagine how strange I must be to people who have only known me for a week.
I’m a stranger to you. I am different. I’m different than your last pastor. I have already mentioned our height differences but I am sure there are other ways that I will not measure up to him. My personality is different than his. My experiences are different than his. My gifts are different than his. I am going to do things in a different way than he did them. Not because the way he did things was wrong! But simply because, I’m not pastor Zahn and I never will be. I am pastor Lewis, and try as I might that is all I can be. Now I’m willing to bet that makes you a little nervous. I know If I were you, I would be. After all, a strange man stands before you today.
In many ways I am strange to you, but again in chapter five verse two of our text for this morning Saint Peter reminds you there is also something familiar about me. Let’s take another look. Saint Peter writes, “2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care.” I am one of God’s shepherd.
For as long as God has been describing His people as a flock He has described His pastors as shepherds. I would like to believe it is because we pastors are like the young shepherd boy David who was described as “ruddy” and “handsome”. But I suspect it has much more to do with how God wants His pastors to take care of His sheep. A shepherd’s work was evaluated not on how well he was doing but rather on how well his sheep were doing. Were His sheep being fed? Were they being protected from the predators who sought to harm them? Were they guided to green pastures and still waters? In the same way a shepherd takes care of his sheep, God’s pastors are to take care of God’s people. And that is why you will notice, I pray, there is something strangely familiar about me.
During worship, I will feed you the words of everlasting life and bid you to drink deeply from the streams of living water. I will do my best to set before you each week a spiritual banquet table full of vegetables and fruits; law and gospel. I will not simply tell you what you want to know, I will tell you what you need to know. I will afflict you when you are comfortable but rest assured I will comfort you when you are afflicted. I will invite you to the sacrament of the altar where bread and wine, body and blood are offered for the forgiveness of sins; where you will taste and see that the Lord is good. I will encourage you to bring your children to the font where water and the Word create and strengthen faith. Like the pastor before me, by God’s grace, I will make sure you; God’s flock are being fed.
I will protect you from those who seek to harm you, be they bearers of blatantly blasphemy, harbingers of horrible heresies, or the seducers of our sinful society. I will protect you the way Saint Paul protected the Ephesians. I will help you “put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” Through Bible study we will learn how to keep that belt of truth buckled around our waist and breastplate of righteousness in its place. We will take up that shield of faith and put on the helmet of salvation and we will wield the sword of the Spirit. Like the pastor before me, by God’s grace, I will make sure you; God’s flock are protected.
And I will guide you. I will do my best to serve as an example of godly living, but honestly you can do so much better than that. More often than I care to admit I will be an example of what not to do. That is why I will show you Jesus instead. After all Jesus is the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Jesus. Jesus is our guide in life. Jesus is our guide to salvation. Jesus is the only one who can lead us to those green pastures and quiet waters. Like the pastor before me, by God’s grace, I will make sure you; God’s flock are being guided by Jesus.
I know I am a stranger to you. But I pray in time you will recognize that there is also something familiar about me. I pray you see a shepherd who feeds, protects, and guides the flock that has been entrusted to his care.
I have to admit, I’m still a bit nervous, aren’t you? I suppose it is only natural. It is going to take us some time to get to know each other. But saint Peter made me feel better this morning when he reminded me that you are God’s flock. And I pray Saint Peter made you feel better as well by reminding you that I am one of God’s Shepherd. I pray that we all are comforted by the fact that there is something strangely familiar about us. Amen