Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
August 7, 2016
Pastor Don Ninmer
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for...By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family...By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going...Instead they were longing for a better country – a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.”
One time someone gave me a book of illustrations. It was filled with little illustrations that could be used in a sermon. I never used that book. You see when you have been in the ministry for over 50 years, you have a lot of illustrations in your head. In fact, I may never use all of the illustrations that I have in my head. Some of them I may never find again.
Today I would like to remind you of something that happened this past June. We were in the city of Beaver Dam. We walked down the street and there was a mallard duck, a mother, running around frantically – on the street, under a car, on the sidewalk. What do you think the problem was? Her babies had fallen down a sewer grate.
We walked over to the grate, and there they were, swimming around in the water that was in the sewer. I don’t know if they knew how much trouble they were in. Maybe they thought, oh this is great – Mom has taken us to a new and different swimming pool. The mother knew that this was a serious problem. If there would have been a hard rain storm, the ducklings would have been washed out of the sewer and been drowned.
We went into a store that was only a short distance from the grate and there was a woman in the store who was frantically running around and making phone calls. She must have been a mother because she was rushing around hoping to find someone to help the mother duck and her babies. You mothers know the feeling, don’t you? She said: They said that someone is on the way. Why don’t they get here?
Finally two police officers arrived and a city maintenance worker. But there was another problem. A car was parked there, with its front tire on the grate. They had to find the owner of that car so the car could be moved and the grate could be removed. Finally the owner moved the car and the grate was lifted out. The mother duck had taken flight and all this time she was circling overhead, so very concerned about her babies.
How do you think that they got the babies out? The police lady had a net – very much like a fish net. She scooped them out and placed them in a box. There were eight of them. The last that we saw of them was the policeman carried them down to the river to release them to the care of the mother.
My wife said to me as we left Beaver Dam that day, there has to be a sermon in there some place. And there is. Do you see anything that we can learn from this illustration? By the way I don’t think that you could find such a dramatic illustration in any book. The lesson that I see is this:
When we were born we were all in a sewer like those baby ducks. That simply means that when we were born, we were born with sin. Ever since Adam and Eve sinned against God, all people are sinners at birth. That also includes every one of us, even though people might have said of us when we were little babies, look at that cute innocent baby. The fact is that at birth we were in a sewer, the sewer of sin and we were headed to the eternal sewer of hell. Hell is much worse than the sewer into which the ducklings fell.
But our heavenly Father would not allow us to perish eternally. He was concerned about us as the lady in the store was concerned about the ducklings. She could not just walk away and do nothing. There were those who walked down the street and then left without doing anything. She called for help. She got those who could help to come.
God would not walk away from us either. Unlike the mother duck, there was something that He could do about it. But it was a big job. He could not call a public works man. He could not call police officers to help. There is only one person who could rescue us from the sewer of eternal damnation. Do you know who that person is?
You are right. The person that rescued us is Jesus. In VBS our children were reminded that the Lord is our Shepherd. We know that Jesus is the only One who could help us. We are like the mother duck who could do nothing to free her babies. We are like the babies who could not get out by themselves. They would have died there. All of the people stood there and looked at that heavy grate with the car parked on top of it. We knew that we could not move the car. We could not lift the heavy grate. Even if we could have, we had nothing to use to fish those ducklings out of the water.
So it is that we are helpless without Jesus. And yes, we are in a sewer. We need Jesus. He is the only One who could save us. For many years God promised that the Savior would come. In Hebrews we hear about God’s promises to Enoch and Noah and Abraham. God’s promises in the Old Testament included the promise that someone was coming to save them. But He did not come right away. Perhaps there were people in the Old Testament who said like the lady did in the store, when is He coming. Isn’t He coming soon?
The writer to the Hebrews tells us why He came: To prepare a better county – a heavenly one for us. That is what David is talking about in Psalm 23: Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Jesus came to get us out of the sewer and to give us eternal life.
But we remember the price that He paid. Jesus Himself said in John chapter 10: I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my
life. The lady in the store did not die for the ducklings. The police officers did not die for the ducklings. The public works man did not die for the ducklings. But Jesus did. He died for us.
Now we are not in the sewer any more. We are the children of God. The Apostle Paul said: So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. Jesus says to us, I am your Good Shepherd. He tells us that we are His sheep. That is true because we believe in Jesus. The writer to the Hebrews tells us: Now faith is the confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
We did not see Jesus die. We have not seen heaven. But we know that it is true. We know that it is true because God tells us in the Bible that it is true. It is there in the Bible that our Lord tells us that without Him we are helpless sheep and we are like ducklings down in the sewer. But He reminds us then, I am the Good Shepherd. We say together, The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.