Humble Loving Shepherd Ezekiel 34

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We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son T and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who are glad that Jesus found you, one of His lost sheep said … AMEN!

Our preface to today’s readings notes; “True to our broken nature, we all wander away from our Shepherd’s provision, wrongly assuming we can find our own way … We all stand in need of rescue!” There’s tough guys who tell me they don’t need anyone to rescue them, blah, blah. I need rescuing we all do. We can tell ourselves how tough we are, we find our own way back which must be the right way ‘cuz gosh, it’s our way. I’ve had to pull a few out of harms way who thought they were know it all tough guys. There was these two guys, from New Jersey, dropped their anchor right in the middle of the channel going into the tank farm. They thought it would be a swell place to fish for flounder. We told them they needed to move, they shared their uninformed opinion with me that they were good where they are. Shortly into our chat we realized there was an oil tanker coming down the channel. An oil tanker can’t just stop. An oil tanker has to stay in the channel, Boston Harbor gets very shallow and the channel is really goofy. If that tanker goes out of the channel and aground, starts leaking oil, in a busy harbor, where the channel would be closed in order to do cleanup, disrupt the flow of oil coming into Boston. I and the other guys have been trying to get the anchor up and it’s obviously fouled on something and there’s no way I’m getting that up. At which point I now hear a danger signal, five short blasts, from the tanker, one of those things you know exactly what it is when you hear it. At that point I pull out my handy dandy Ginzo knife and over the protests of the boaters who are going to have to pay the boat rental for the line and the anchor, cut the line, get a line on the boat and drag it out of the channel before we are crushed like a bug.

They weren’t happy, sure they could get the anchor up, they didn’t like me, stupid, ugly, blah, blah. The fact was they drifted into something they had no idea about, put themselves in danger, and being the smart guys they were, sure they could take care of themselves. That tanker wasn’t going to stop for them, crushing them was the easier option then creating an oil spill and serious ecological damage. We chose to go our way, wander off as a sheep, because we want to, we should be free to and then we are in a serious problem and when the Good Shepherd, the Uber shepherd, comes and rescues you, sweeps you away from the danger bearing down on you at the last second. Instead of falling for Satan’s tricks, the Holy Spirit moves you out. Walther writes: “The Law calls: “You have distanced yourself from God by your sin and have become His enemy… Do you not see the abyss you are hurrying toward?” Then writes the Gospel says: “Be comforted you straying lamb. You are not lost. See, here is your Shepherd… Your Good Shepherd will bring you to His flock… protect you from all dangers and finally take you through the gates of death into His heavenly fold.”[1] Is that forgiveness? I’ve seen some startlingly ungrateful people in my life. People know they’re going the wrong way, they insist on sitting or moving right into that collision with that tanker that will simply crush them. It is up to the Holy Spirit to swoop in, He uses me as the under-shepherd to move in to save someone. Of course the under-shepherd has to listen to all the well that’s not sin! Why are you so judgmental! I can do what I want I’m forgiven! Just let me do what I want? Judge not! Those will be the same people who months, years, maybe weeks later will come back and why didn’t you tell me? Why didn’t you help me? Why did you let me wander off by myself? Too often pastors can’t win. Medical doctors have patients die, so do seel sorgers, soul doctors, healers as Luther called them, people who die spiritually. They wander off, no longer have the security of being in Christ’s church. They become either spiritually starved or malnourished. They become victimized by those who will prey on the defenseless like shysters who take people’s money for various cons.

Happily, quite often those who drift off or chase the Holy Spirit away, do come to realize they need Jesus. The entire time, Jesus is looking for the opportunity to step in just as He tells us in Luke. He will look for that 1out of 100 sheep. Talk about an act of incredible humility. The all-powerful creator of the entirety of the universe, all creation and what does He compare Himself to? A shepherd. The humblest of vocations in Israel. Shepherds couldn’t even testify in a court, they were not well regarded. For Jesus to compare Himself to a humble, even a little disreputable, is a stunning testament to what Jesus does for us. If He makes a point of comparing Himself to a shepherd to emphasize that He cares for us and wants to protect us, often from ourselves, is a striking comment on how much Jesus wants to do for us.

Having said that, if we are spitting in Jesus’ eye by rejecting Him, and yes we will be forgiven, when we … offer sincere repentance. The Greek word is meta,noia we understand repentance to mean realizing we’ve gone astray, we have offended Jesus, that we have sinned. The Greek word literally means: a change of mind, as it appears to one who repents, of a purpose he has formed or something he has done.” Think of it as ok, I’m sorry, I was wrong it literally means I went the wrong way, I’m going in a direction that I shouldn’t be going. We can think of it as going away from Jesus and going towards what we know is destructive in the world. What does Jesus do when we reject Him, ignore, walk away from Him? The great Creator of everything who could just as easily be shaming us, demanding we come crawling back to Him on our hands and knees begging for forgiveness. He is actually out looking for us, He knows we’ve gone the “wrong way”, wandered off from what we should be and where we should be in Him, the Greek understanding of “going the wrong way”. He wants us back and will do what is necessary to get us back. But we have to be repentant. Jesus wants to forgive us and is not interested in us groveling, but in order to forgive, he who needs forgiveness needs to be repentant, ask for forgiveness. As early as Ezekiel, God tells us He has every intention of doing whatever He can to save us from ourselves, to make us righteous for Him. But He’s not taking us back with the attitude that it’s all about me and God’s just going to have to get with my plan. We need to recognize that what God wants for us is what is best for us. That He wants us to have “life and life more abundant”, where we have life more destructive. We think we’re all that, and have our way in whatever we want. Usually our way is because we want to get back at someone, we want our idols- what’s really important to us – not Jesus, but money, power, prestige, sex, drugs, alcohol, possessions, anything but Jesus because we’re entitled. Yet Jesus waits to give you what we need; hope, promise, true eternal life in Him. In the meantime He promises to provide for us, maybe not as much as we want or as fast as we want, but still what we truly need.

God is telling Ezekiel, 500 years before Jesus: “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.” God is saying I will do the heavy lifting, whatever it takes in to make sure My people don’t destroy themselves. But He is also making it clear He is not going to tolerate our sin, selfishness, our attitudes that cause death, destruction, depression, lack of hope, and the things that we see around us. He adds “… and the fat and the strong I will destroy”. That is those people who think that it’s all about them. I have plenty, all I need, I’m nice and comfy or the usual blah, you hear today, I’m strong enough, I don’t have to depend on anyone else, until reality catches up with them and realize they need God or they fall and destroy themselves. Yet our humble, loving, but righteous God will go and look for us, do whatever is needed. But if we are still in our pride and strength, after awhile God lets us have our way, which is death and destruction. God moves in His plan with His people. Those sheep who insist on wandering away from Him? He will stop running after. Jesus says; “Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents…” I have no doubt that when one sinner repents and is carried back to the sheepfold by God that the cheering and applause in heaven is deafening. The thrill of one soul coming home to know true life. The one who resists and rebels and insists on his own way, and we see it all around us has only one result, death, destruction and an eternity of misery. You can let the Great Shepherd take you home and give you true life or you can keep on running your own game and know that at some point it will collapse around you and you have no one to blame but yourself. God was working overtime for you and you thumbed your nose at God, told Him to take a hike. Let’s be real, how do you think that course of action will play out?

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom  Christ is risen! He has risen indeed Hallelujah

[1] CFW Walther “God Grant It, devotionals” pp 520-521

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