November 29, 2019- The Good Shepherd, God With Us- Ezekiel 34:11-24

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“For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out.  As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country.  I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel.  I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God.  I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.

“As for you, my flock, thus says the Lord God: Behold, I judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and male goats.  Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture; and to drink of clear water, that you must muddy the rest of the water with your feet?  And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have muddied with your feet?

“Therefore, thus says the Lord God to them: Behold, I, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you push with side and shoulder, and thrust at all the weak with your horns, till you have scattered them abroad,  I will rescue my flock; they shall no longer be a prey. And I will judge between sheep and sheep.  And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd.  And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the Lord; I have spoken. Ezekiel 34:11-24 (ESV)

Ezekiel was a priest who was taken to Babylon in 597 BC as part of the Babylonian exile.  When he was in Babylon, he received a series of prophetic visions from God.  The first vision was of Ezekiel coming down in a chariot of fire to deliver God’s judgment to Israel and God commissioning Ezekiel to be His prophet.  The second was convicting the people of all the ways that Israel as a nation had violated God’s Law via idolatry and immoral living.  The third vision was that exile wasn’t the end of God’s people Israel.  At the end of Ezekiel’s prophecies we get the glorious image of dead, dry bones being spoken into life again.  (Ezekiel 37:1-14)

Here through the pen of Ezekiel, God speaks of a new nation that will come to be- the remnant of the faithful, God’s sheep, the new Israel.

More importantly Ezekiel points us to the Good Shepherd- God Himself, Who we know as Jesus, God in human flesh, the Son of David, will gather His sheep.

I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.

God is the One doing the acting.  He is the Shepherd.  He makes us His sheep.  He seeks out His sheep.  He brings back those who have wandered away.  He brings strength to the weak, and He will bring down the strong who have taken advantage of the weak.

Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture; and to drink of clear water, that you must muddy the rest of the water with your feet? And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have muddied with your feet?

Do we gladly learn and share God’s word, and the material gifts He so lavishly gives us? Or do we keep all of that to ourselves and fail to acknowledge the needs of those around us?  None of us do that perfectly. We sin daily and sin much.

Lord, please help us to share your good news and good pasture with others, that we would be generous and truthful and gracious in our dealings with our neighbors.

All of us are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves.  Do we trust in Christ that He will transform our hearts and minds to His will?

As the church year comes to an end and we enter into the season of Advent, we can take comfort and confidence that the Son of David, the Good Shepherd, God With Us, Emmanuel, is gathering His sheep.

 

December 8, 2017 – Credibility- Jesus’ Sheep Know His Voice- Luke 2:4-5, Isaiah 9:7, Isaiah 22:22, John 10:27

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Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David.  He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. Luke 2:4-5 (NRSV)

His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. Isaiah 9:7 (NRSV)

I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and no one shall shut; he shall shut, and no one shall open. Isaiah 22:22 (NRSV)

Luke takes a great deal of care in discussing the genealogy of Jesus, primarily because he was speaking to fellow Jews. These were people who knew that God’s Messiah would be a descendent of King David.

Credibility is a big thing these days. Everyone wants the genuine article, which is why Luke goes into such depth.  It was important to Jews to know that Jesus was of David’s line to believe that He is truly who He said He is.  Even today, most Jews do not believe that Jesus is God’s chosen One in spite of Luke’s genealogy.

Sometimes it’s hard for us to see and know the credibility of Jesus. If we look to the credibility of other Jesus followers, we aren’t always going to see Him reflected in those people’s behaviors and actions. Yet we will see Him when we look for Him.

(Jesus said:) My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27 (NRSV)

Are we listening for Jesus’ voice?

March 20, 2017 -Marked with the Cross of Christ Forever… Acts 10:44-48 and Luke 15

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Marked with the Cross of Christ Forever…

While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word.  The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said,  “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”  So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days.  Acts 10:44-48 (NRSV)

In Baptism we are spiritually buried with Christ. We enter into His suffering and death, as well as we are welcomed into the promise of His Resurrection.

In the Lutheran tradition any person may be baptized regardless of age or cognitive ability. This tradition affirms the truth that God’s Kingdom is open to all, and that it is God doing the choosing, not us.  God chooses us, even when we fail to choose Him.

When infants or children or the infirm are baptized it becomes the parents’, caretakers’ and the greater community’s obligation to see that these most fragile and impressionable members of the community are cared for and instructed in sound Biblical teaching. It is both an obligation and a delight to lead children in the way they should go even though today’s prevailing culture and social mores don’t make it easy.

Often we get discouraged when we see teens and twenty-somethings fall away from a life of faith. Unfortunately for parents and for people who care for young people, often there are times when our children and loved ones take a little hiatus in the pig pen.

It’s challenging for us to keep from distancing ourselves from our children when we can’t agree on their life choices or mode of living, but it is so essential for us to look to Jesus’ example and love them unconditionally, even if we don’t love their current philosophy or approve of their behavior.

Our hearts ache for them to come back to the church, to worship, to study, to love Jesus and live as Jesus followers. The reality is that none of us can do those things apart from the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.  Even those of us who strive to be Jesus followers miss the mark.  This is where the promise of Baptism gives us hope.

We are- and our children- are, in Baptism-marked with the Cross of Christ forever…not just when we’re behaving, or when we feel like it, or when we acknowledge God is with us.

So he (Jesus) told them this parable:  “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it?  When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.  Luke 15:3-7 (NRSV)

In other words, as Jesus also illustrates in the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), a person who belongs to Christ might take a trip to the pig pen, but those who belong to Christ also belong in our Father’s house, and He will find a way to get us back there. We may choose the easy way or hold out for the hard way, but we can trust that God finds a way to bring His own home.

Martin Luther once said that we should “put on Baptism as daily wear.” In the morning when we look in the mirror or stand under the shower, maybe, is a good time to remind ourselves that we are baptized. Chosen. Washed clean.  Named and claimed as a child of God.