Before you read this sermon, understand that parts of it are specific to my home congregation. However the message goes beyond that group. It speaks to all who call themselves Christians.
The LORD spoke his word to me. He said, “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel. Prophesy to these shepherds. Tell them, ‘This is what the Almighty LORD says: How horrible it will be for the shepherds of Israel who have been taking care of only themselves. Shouldn’t shepherds take care of the sheep? You eat the best parts of the sheep, dress in the wool, and butcher the finest sheep. Yet, you don’t take care of the sheep. You have not strengthened those that were weak, healed those that were sick, or bandaged those that were injured. You have not brought back those that strayed away or looked for those that were lost. You have ruled them harshly and violently. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd. When they were scattered, they became food for every wild animal. My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered throughout the whole earth. No one searched or looked for them. “‘So, you shepherds, listen to the word of the LORD. As I live, declares the Almighty LORD, because there is no shepherd, my sheep have become prey. My sheep have become food for every wild animal. My shepherds haven’t searched for my sheep. They have taken care of only themselves, not my sheep. So, you shepherds, listen to the word of the LORD. This is what the Almighty LORD says: I am against the shepherds. I will demand that they hand over my sheep. I won’t let them take care of my sheep anymore, and they will no longer take care of only themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, and my sheep will no longer be their food. “‘This is what the Almighty LORD says: I will search for my sheep myself, and I will look after them. As a shepherd looks after his flock when he is with his scattered sheep, so I will look after my sheep. I will rescue them on a cloudy and gloomy day from every place where they have been scattered. I will bring them out from the nations, gather them from the countries, and bring them to their own land. I will take care of them on the mountains of Israel, by the streams, and in all the inhabited places of the land. I will feed them in good pasture, and they will graze on the mountains of Israel. They will rest on the good land where they graze, and they will feed on the best pastures in the mountains of Israel. I will take care of my sheep and lead them to rest, declares the Almighty LORD. I will look for those that are lost, bring back those that have strayed away, bandage those that are injured, and strengthen those that are sick. I will destroy those that are fat and strong. I will take care of my sheep fairly. “‘As for you, my sheep, this is what the Almighty LORD says: I will judge disputes between one sheep and another, between rams and male goats.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all his angels are with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. The people of every nation will be gathered in front of him. He will separate them as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right but the goats on his left. “Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, my Father has blessed you! Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger, and you took me into your home. I needed clothes, and you gave me something to wear. I was sick, and you took care of me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ “Then the people who have God’s approval will reply to him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you or see you thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you as a stranger and take you into our homes or see you in need of clothes and give you something to wear? When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ “The king will answer them, ‘I can guarantee this truth: Whatever you did for one of my brothers or sisters, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did for me.’ “Then the king will say to those on his left, ‘Get away from me! God has cursed you! Go into everlasting fire that was prepared for the devil and his angels! I was hungry, and you gave me nothing to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me nothing to drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t take me into your homes. I needed clothes, and you didn’t give me anything to wear. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t take care of me.’ “They, too, will ask, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or as a stranger or in need of clothes or sick or in prison and didn’t help you?’ “He will answer them, ‘I can guarantee this truth: Whatever you failed to do for one of my brothers or sisters, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you failed to do for me.’ “These people will go away into eternal punishment, but those with God’s approval will go into eternal life.”
We Are Touching Lives Through Christ By Reaching Out, Bringing In, Lifting Up, Sending Forth.
Well, God is God. Ezekiel is the man God has called on to be his messenger. That’s pretty straight forward. The sheep are lost. It seems clear that these are people that are lost, they are without God. But we’ve got shepherds, who are they?
The shepherds are the leaders. Remember that in that day and age the religious and political leaders were the same people. There was no division of church and state. So these leaders were supposedly men of God, his spokespersons to the people but they are falling down on the job.
In our Gospel reading, Jesus lays out the job description for being the right kind of shepherd.
Now, this congregation does many good things to take care of the sheep. We do protect through various programs such as the blanket bucks,
We feed through programs like the food pantry, the monthly meals at Trinity, the Heifer Project and even the suppers provided through UP kids.
We clothe the naked through our contributions to the Ingathering and yes through the rummage sales.
We visit, pray for and send cards and flowers to the sick
We welcome the stranger that enters our doors.
However, I’m wondering if we doing all that we can to go find the lost sheep that are scattered across the face of the earth. Our church’s mission statement is. We Are Touching Lives Through Christ By Reaching Out, Bringing In, Lifting Up, Sending Forth
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All content (except quotations) ©2011Thomas E. Williams