In June of 2015 I traveled to Scotland. I saw hundreds of sheep who were maintained in lush pastures surrounded by low stone walls. In our seven days of driving around the country, I did not see one shepherd.
In Bible times, shepherds tended the flocks. A relationship existed between the sheep and the shepherd. The prophet Ezekiel felt strongly convicted of Israel’s need for a shepherd. Writing at the close of the Babylonian exile, Ezekiel addresses a disheartened people. And God moves from redemption to judgment: “I will save my flock, and they shall no longer be ravaged.” The weak ones are experiencing deprivation. And Ezekiel looks for a person in the Davidic line to shepherd the people according to God’s covenant.
Like the people in Ezekiel’s day, we may feel the need for a shepherd. We may feel pushed and butted at. We may experience a division between the weak and the strong. Thankfully, Christ our Good Shepherd feeds his sheep.
Today I know I shall fail to follow the teachings of the Good Shepherd. I will not be open to the leading that Christ offers through the nudging of the Holy Spirit. I will turn in upon myself and allow my own concerns to preoccupy me.
As believers in Christ we not only follow him but take up our vocation as shepherds for the rich and the poor, the sick and the healthy, the poor and the marginalized, the friend and the foe—neither one to the exclusion of the other. I can be a better shepherd when I take seriously God’s redemptive action that cares for the weak and downtrodden. I shall be intentional in my relationship with the Good Shepherd.
O God, guide me to those who need a shepherd. In the name of Christ, the Good Shepherd. Amen.
The universal rule of God, expressed in Christ the Shepherd-King, is a dominant theme in all the texts assigned for the week. Both Old Testament texts dwell on the nurturing, protecting role of the Shepherd-King, whose people we are. Ezekiel 34 gives the shepherd’s guiding and defending role a political twist by condemning the succession of shepherd-kings who have neglected and exploited the flock. Both New Testament passages celebrate the victory of Christ: the enthroned Son of Man of Matthew 25 separates the flock, and the risen Christ of Ephesians 1 is seated by God “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion.” Christ guarantees God’s completed reign.
• Read Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24. How does it feel to be compared to sheep with God as the shepherd? What would the sheep expect from the shepherd? What would the shepherd expect from the sheep?• Read Psalm 100. How would a total stranger know that your faith in God brings you joy?
• Read Ephesians 1:15-23. Would you say that you love God more with your mind or with your heart?
• Read Matthew 25:31-46. What is required for you to be so attuned to others that you would recognize the Christ in them? How will you ensure that Christ’s kingdom comes on earth as it is in heaven?
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