Sermon — Pr. Tony Sikora — What Do You Know When You Don’t Know Anything?

Sermon Text: John 10:1-10 (11-18)
May 11, 2014


Christ is risen!  He is risen, indeed!  Alleluia!  Our text for this morning’s sermon is taken from St. John’s gospel account the 10thchapter.

Beloved in the Lord,

What do you Know when you don’t know anything

Steadfast Sermons GraphicWhat do you know when don’t know anything?  What do you know when you don’t know yesterday and you don’t know tomorrow? What do you know when you don’t know your parents or your children or your brothers or your sisters, or your husband or your wife, or your pastor?  What do you know when you don’t know whyyou are where you are?  What do you know when you don’t know?  All you know beloved, is today.  Today is all you know because today is all you remember.  And when today is all you know everyone you meet you meet for the first time.  Everywhere you go you go for the first time.  Everything you hear you hear for the first time.  When today is all you know today is the first day of every day and it can be heaven – full of surprises and joys and reunions – and it can be hell, full of doubts, sorrows, and frustrations.

What do you know beloved?  The world thinks it knows more than it has ever known before – because everything we know is readily available from google, on our desktops, phones, and soon to be released google glasses.  Everything known is revealed and made known digitally.   Yet, in the same breath, this same world goes on to say that no one can really know anything for sure.  What is known now is transient, changing, constantly in flux because humanity continues to know more.  The truth is however, that we don’t know more.  With the advent of television, internet, google and smart phones, we actually know less.  We are dumb and dumber. Everything there is to be known is no longer in our minds or our hearts but now resides in the cloud, cyberspace, out there some where over the rainbow.

Sheep know nothing but wandering

So, what do you know?  In the truest sense of the world, what do you know in the depths of your heart?  What do you know so well that you will never not know it?  In our fallenness, humanity knows nothing but wandering.  Our text this morning names us as sheep. Sheep are stupid. Sheep love to wander off.  Sheep are ignorant – they do not know the dangers of thieves or wolves, or towering cliffs, or slithering serpents.  Sheep are stupid, they know next to nothing.

This is not a complement for us.  When Jesus names his disciples as sheep he reminds us of our depravity, our humiliation as creatures fallen from grace.  Isaiah, says, “all we like sheep have gone astray.  We’ve turned everyone to his own way.”  Sheep stupidly go their own way.  That’s what sin is.  People stupidly going their own way.  Yes, I said it, doing sin is stupid, especially doing sin intentionally.  Scripture likens such intentional sin to a dog returning to its vomit or a sow, having been washed wallowing in the mud (1 Peter 2:22).  Doing sin is doing stupid things that dogs and pigs do.

That’s what sheep do when sheep go their own way. They do stupid things because they’re listening to voice inside of them and neglecting the voice outside of them. When Christians listen to their hearts we are behaving like silly sheep wandering off.  When another’s word is leading or guiding us away from the sheepfold, we are being led into danger.  When you go off and sin, when you lust, commit adultery, steal, lie, gossip, get drunk, hurt or harm someone else, hurt or harm yourself, when chase after money, or sex, or frivolous entertainments, trivial trinkets or fantastical experiences you do stupidly dangerous things that make you unclean like a pig. How’s that for a picture of sin?

When you neglect to lend your ear to your Good Shepherd your ears are inevitably filled by the voice of another, either your own or that of a thief.  Either one is dumb and dangerous.  Every word must be tested by the Word of the One who redeemed you.  If you do not know His Word, you do not know what you are hearing, you do not know why you are doing what you’re doing, and you do not know what it will bring for tomorrow.  When you listen to the words which do not echo the Word of the Living God who do not know anything.

Jesus knows His own – “I know my own and my own know me.”

Despite the stupidity of sheep, our Lord has great affection for His lambs, for you.  It’s for this reason He names Himself as our Good Shepherd.  And it’s for this reason that our Good Shepherd speaks kindly to us.  He desires to save rather than judge, to seek His lost lambs and gather them into His fold, where all is safe and secure, kept so under His watch by His guarding.  In our fallenness we do not know who we are, where we are, or even why we are because we do not know our Good Shepherd.  Ah, but the Great Shepherd of the sheep know us.  “I know my own” He says.  Knowing us, knowing each of you here this morning, He loves you.  He loves you with all your scars, with all your wounds, with all the mud caked up in the woolly selves because of all the stupid sins you’ve done.  He loves you and He draws near to you to deliver you, to wash you, to bind up your wounds and take their burdens upon Himself.  He is the Good Shepherd and the Good Shepherd loves His Sheep.  That’s what makes Him so Good.  He loves His sheep.  And loving His sheep He gives His life for the sheep.  He takes on the thieves, the wolves, the roaring lions prowling about.  He takes on your wounds, your sins, your brokeness your messy, unclean baggage that you’ve earned in your life, your death and your hell- those things which you know and feel in the depths of your hearts, He takes them and He bears them up for you.  He is the Good Shepherd and the Good Shepherd climbs the tree, is nailed to the tree, dies on the tree to redeem you and all the world; poor, little lambs whom He loves with all His heart and all His strength and all His mind and all His heart!

Jesus Makes Himself known through Word and Sacrament

That we may know Jesus as our Good Shepherd, He speaks to us.  Like a shepherd winning the heart of His lambs, He speaks tenderly in our ears.  He does not shout. He points no fingers.  He uses no force, no violence, but in quietness, gentleness and great humility He approaches and speaks His Word.  He knows you makes Himself known to you by His Word and His Sacraments.  This Word happens to you right hear in this sheep pen, this gated community of lambs called Christ’s Church.  Within these hallowed walls the Good Shepherd greets each and every one who enters with His Word given to create and sustain faith in the depths of your heart.  He seeks your heart through your ears by His Word.  Thus, through water and the word He cleanses you of all unrighteousness and makes you pure and white and holy without spot, stain or blemish.  His Word takes away your baggage in the absolution spoken from His under-shepherds, baggage that is deposited in the tomb from which He arose, baggage never again to rise up and accuse you before God. Under the bread and wine the Word which became flesh nourishes lambs with His body and His blood.  The Good Shepherd still gives His life for the sheep, life hidden under and given through the blessed elements, given to you and me and all who eat and drink feasting on Him who is the resurrection and the life.

These are given that you know what you did not know before you knew you were known by Him.  Did you get that?  Jesus gives you His Word and His sacraments so that you know Him, so that you are sure and certain of HIM; His heart toward you, His love for you, His promise of grace and mercy poured out for you, His death for you, His resurrection for you, and the hope of the day when He comes to take you home to be forever and always with Him in eternity!

What do you know when you are Known by Jesus

Beloved in the Lord, what do you know when you don’t know anything?  When you don’t know yesterday or tomorrow?  What do you know when you don’t know the people around you, the people you’ve loved, the people who love you?  What will you know when you get old, when your mind doesn’t work the way it should, when google glasses and smart phones don’t or won’t tell you what you need to know?  What will you know when dementia or Alzheimer’s strikes? What will you know when you don’t know anything?

Beloved, such was a question pondered by a pastor, an under-shepherd, who went to visit one of his shut-ins.   This woman did not know her own family.  She did not know her friends, any of the workers, or the pastor who came once a month.  Not only did she not know, nor did she speak.  For about 6 months this woman could not put together a coherent sentence.  Every month the pastor would visit and this month was extra special, because this month was after Easter.  And Easter is the time when Jesus breaks through sin and death for us and for all.  As usual, pastor introduced himself.  She didn’t know him, but was glad he came to visit.  After chatting a bit, pastor began the service of Holy Communion.  The woman followed along as usual.  Nodding or answering as she was able.  Hearing the absolution brought joy to her face, she visibly reflected what she heard with her ears and knew in her heart.  When it came time for holy communion the pastor asked, Do you believe this is the body of Christ.  She nodded yes.  “Do you believe this is the blood of Christ? Again, she nodded.  Then she ate and she drank.  And then the most amazing thing happened.  As they concluded the service the pastor decided to end with a hymn.  “Jesus Christ is risen today!”  And to his surprise this woman he did not know Him or her family, who did not know anything that happened yesterday or will happentomorrow, who couldn’t even put a sentence together, sang.  She sang every word of every stanza,

Jesus Christ is risen today!  Alleluia.
Our triumphant Holy day, Alleluia
Who did once upon the cross, Alleluia
Suffer to redeem our loss.  Alleluia.

Stanza one led into stanzas two and three and the finally the last verse!

She sang beloved because she knew the one who Knows His own.  She knew the voice of her savior, Jesus Christ, who redeemed Her, died for her and is risen for her.  And though she did not know yesterday, she know more about tomorrow than most of us gathered here this morning.  She knew the One who watches over her coming in and her going out today, tomorrow and forever more.  She knewthat day because even when all we know is today, we know that today is the day that the Lord has made, today is the day of salvation, and we shall rejoice and be glad in it today! 


Christ is risen!  He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!


The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your heart and your mind through faith in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!



Sermon — Pr. Tony Sikora — What Do You Know When You Don’t Know Anything? — 6 Comments

  1. The things people memorized when they were children are the last to go. If someone can talk to them about those things, they remember, as the pastor discovered. If people only realized it, one of the benefits of a regular liturgical service is to imprint the basic truths of the faith on our memories, for all our lives. (A bit of fluff that changes every Sunday won’t do that. It’s only now, when people think they know everything, that they really know very little of what matters.)

    I feel very sorry for the generations who’ve been told they “can’t memorize” or don’t need to learn, because they can look things up on their electronic gadgets. What will they have, when today is no different than yesterday and they can’t remember how the gadgets work? [What will they have if a hostile government takes the gadgets away from them or even the books?]

  2. @helen #1 Exactly! I remember reading “The Hiding Place” and the impact that had on my thinking about memorization. If all the Bibles and hymnals are forbidden, what would we retain today to feed our faith? Woefully, I did not have a Christian upbringing so it is more difficult now, but it does not mean that in my old age I should stop trying.

  3. @LadyM #2
    Woefully, I did not have a Christian upbringing so it is more difficult now, but it does not mean that in my old age I should stop trying.

    I did not mean that it was ever too late to learn, but it is harder. God bless your efforts!
    [It’s sad, but many children of Christian parents don’t have a Christian upbringing; hence the “nones”.]

  4. @helen #3
    [It’s sad, but many children of Christian parents don’t have a Christian upbringing; hence the “nones”.] I can always say that the biggest shock to me after I got married and joined the Church was how many of the laity took their blessings of being raised Lutheran for granted. And I couldn’t agree more, it is more difficult for me now to memorize than whenever I was a child. Thank you for the blessing!

  5. Thanks for this sermon. It’s the sermon I was hoping I would hear in my church as I especially love Good Shepherd Sunday.

    Is there any “protocol” for LCMS pastors and sermon topics? Is it alright to deviate from the readings and doing sermons on secular holidays? I can see it if it ties in Law/Gospel, but from what I’ve experienced they rarely do. It’s about paying homage to people, not Christ’s work for sinners.

  6. @Poor Miserable Sinner #5
    Is it alright to deviate from the readings and doing sermons on secular holidays?

    It’s sad! We cheerfully neglect most of the “special” Sundays put out by the IC, too. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t hear the assigned readings most Sundays! [“Mother’s Day”, which I suspect was your pastor’s excuse this week, had its place in a line of the general prayer, here.]
    It was, as you say, Good Shepherd Sunday.

    A friend of mine, [who keeps ‘the line in the general prayer’ short, when he’s at home], was visiting his mother, and at her church, endured the “whole nine yards”: strolling preacher; lady lectors, and a CG performance all ’round.

    Lord, have mercy!

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