A shepherd, his sheep, some goats, and a destiny

Christ in Judgment“, Florence, Italy (1300)

For Sunday, November 20, 2011
Reign of Christ
Proper 29

Are you feeling lost today?  “Lost, ah… no.  Just temporarily disoriented.”  Right…  Well… if you ever do find yourself lost, this week’s readings can be of encouragement.   They are about a shepherd, his sheep, some goats, and a destiny.  

In this week’s first reading, Ezekiel 34:11-24, we read about a God who is intent on serving himself as shepherd who will seek out, find, and provide good pasture for lost sheep:

For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them . . . I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. . . I will tend them in a good pasture.

There is no place I would rather be than under this Shepherd’s care here in this good pasture.  How about you?  

In this week’s second reading, Psalm 100, we find reinforcement for the reality of the people of God as sheep under a good Shepherd in a very good place:

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture (vv. 1-2).

In this week’s third reading, Matthew 25:14-30, we learn what separates the sheep from the goats.  The sheep are the ones that respond to others in need – whether they be thirsty, away from home, sick, or imprisoned.  The goats are those who fail to recognize the face of their Lord in the presence of the needs around them:

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory.  All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people from one another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

The sheep will be the ones that saw the needs around them, saw the face of their King on the pang of the throng, and responded accordingly.  The goats will be the ones that also saw the needs but did nothing but look the other way.  Here is a haunting question: how many of us are counting ourselves among the sheep while merely looking the other way in response the needs around us?  

In this week’s  final reading, Ephesians 1:15-23, we read about sheep who have been empowered by the God who has put their Shepherd at his own right hand.  Hear how the Apostle Paul prays for his dear followers in Ephesus:

I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.  That power is like the working of his might strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but in the age to come (vv. 18-21)

 And why did God do this? . . . all for a bunch of sheep (a.k.a. the church):

And God placed all things under his feet (Jesus’s), and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fill everything in every way (v. 22).

The church in the world is a very good place to be.  May we be in the world what God has called us to be.


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