Nov23MonA sermon for the Reign of Christ 2020 November 23, 2020
Today is Christ the King Sunday, or as it is also know,
the Reign of Christ.
But for all the readings today,
you might think of today as the “sheep and goat Sunday”.
Our first reading from the prophet Ezekiel
describes God as both a lowly shepherd,
and also as strong King.
God promises God’s people:
“Like a good shepherd I will seek out my sheep,
rescue them, bring them out,
gather them together [from the countries into our land],
to feed on good pasture”
“I will be their shepherd, I will make them lie down”
“ I will seek the lost, bring back the strayed,
bind up the injured, strengthen the weak. I will save my flock”
Our reading includes two of the most important and popular metaphors
(or images) for God in the Bible:
Shepherd and King
God is like a shepherd
God is like a King
But how can God be Shepherd and at the same time, king?
aren’t these two images contradictory?
Don’t they cancel each other out?
Well, we have to remember that all metaphors, all images,
all words describing God, all language, fails to adequately,
completely describe God.
No human language can correctly explain God.
No image or model can completely give an explanation of God.
That’s just the nature of human language:
compared to God, language is imperfect.
Any image of God can’t be pushed too far,
because then we come up against some problems,
like, if God is a shepherd, then are we just dumb sheep?
Shepherds sell off, eat, shear their sheep,d rink their milk.
Does God sell off, eat, shear us and drink our milk?
I think it’s important to remember also,
that the profession of Shepherd in the ancient world
was a violent profession:
shepherds would often have to do combat with robbers,
and fight off vicious predators like lions, bears and wolves.
Being a shepherd was not just that romantic picture
of playing pan-pipes under an olive tree.
Shepherds were nomads, wandering around,
giving up security and the good living in cities,
to take care of animals.
Shepherds are an image for leaders, religious or worldly.
A good shepherd is one concerned with the welfare of his or her flock.
Good Shepherds are keepers, that is they
they keep their sheep fed,
they keep dangers away from the flocks.
Also, shepherds are searchers
they search for good pastures,
they search for the lost, and the injured
Shepherds are accountants,
they are held accountable for the nourishment of the sheep
they keep account of the numbers
and they are answerable for the land used for grazing.
So they are truly good role models for us,
and obviously a well-loved image for God
However, not all is good and nice and sugary-spice.
There are also bad shepherds,
as the text reminds us,
bad shepherds are concerned with the flock,
only when they present opportunities for their own gain.
Or in other words, sheep are only there for the eating.
Bad shepherds don’t really care about the sheep,
they just care about themselves, and their power and profits.
Good leaders, good shepherds have a keen sense of responsibility for the most vulnerable, the lost sheep.
While bad shepherds, bad leaders lack empathy, and a sense of duty.
Bad shepherds [bad leaders] are criticized harshly in some of the verses surrounding the passage we read this morning:
v4: with the Indictment: You have not strengthened the weak,
you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured,
you have not brought back the strayed,
you have not sought the lost,
but with force and harshness you have ruled them.
8Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, but you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture?
When you drink of clear water, must you foul the rest with your feet?
In those passages.
irresponsible leadership is contrasted with
God (the good shepherd) as leader.
God the good shepherd, we are reminded
is a good leader active here and now.
God is active in the world!!
Amidst the worries and concerns of this Second COVID Wave.
God cares for humanity
just like a good shepherd tends his sheep responsibly.
And how do we as Christians see this happening?
There is a Promise of a Messiah;
“I will set over them my servant David,
(he shall be prince, he shall be their shepherd”)
There is a promise of a special one to come,
a 2nd David,
as Christians, we see this in Jesus Christ.
And Christ did come, and he called himself the Good Shepherd as well.
Christ did not come like a bad shepherd,
he did not wield a dominating worldly power,
he did not come as an earthly king to rule with the sword,
but he came to preach the good news,
to heal the sick, bind the injured, and lead home the wanderers.
God fulfills our need for assistance, but NOT as we expect.
We expected an earthly king,
but we got instead a heavenly king!
Christ is King, but he was also one who died on a cross,
the death of the lowliest rebel.
Christ was High and mighty
but also humble, born in a stable.
And we are called to follow Christ, the Good shepherd’s lead,
and to help tend the lost sheep of this world,
and work towards a just society.
A just society, where the poor, the voiceless, the downtrodden get justice!
Where the homeless, the ICE children, the estimated 36 Million slaves worldwide, are treated with respect and equity we would expect for ourselves.
God, the champion of the exploited,
the same God who led the slaves out of Egypt,
criticizes the abuse of the needy and the marginalized.
And we must acknowledge that we are all somehow complicit and indirectly guilty in so many injustices,
for example: human trafficking,
and unethical resource extraction.
All Christians are called as deputy shepherds.
Do as God does; tend the sick,
care for the least, the last and the lost.
All are called to get down and dirty (like the shepherds),
Keep watch, search out those at the margins, and account for the needy.
What could you do in the next few weeks to be a deputy shepherd who follows Jesus’ lead?
-get informed about a social justice theme you know little about
-place a telephone call to someone who is lonely
-give a little extra this holiday season for a good cause, such as a local or global charity, or our Out of the Cold ministry, starting up this week
-reflecting a little on today as National Day of Housing,
—such as the crisis in housing affordability in many of our cities,
—-How the Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) and LGBTQ2S communities face unique challenges in accessing safe and affordable – and equitable – housing.
—-we can also reflect on the fact that 400,000 people in Canada are without access to a healthy place to live,
To be a deputy shepherd, perhaps it’s like Pope Francis once said:
“You pray for the hungry. Then feed them.”
Deputy Shepherds, follow the Good Shepherd!
follow the King!