Sunday, September 13, 2015; Ezekiel 33-35, Rev. 18
The word of the Lord came to me: 2 Mortal, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel: prophesy, and say to them—to the shepherds: Thus says the Lord God: Ah, you shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? 3 You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not feed the sheep. 4 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. 5 So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd; and scattered, they became food for all the wild animals. 6 My sheep were scattered, they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill; my sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with no one to search or seek for them.
These words make me tremble - for real. They should make us all tremble, for they constitute a strong conviction against those of us who would call ourselves shepherds (pastors, churches) and then do nothing to feed our flock - do not care for them, do not teach them, do not seek those who are lost. One thing that we often forget in the 'church world' is that we are assigned not to be pastors of a church - but to be the shepherd of the community - both those inside and outside the church; those who are part of gathered faithful, but equally those who stand outside - not yet believing, or disenfranchised because of some pain caused by the church.
God, give me - give us - an enlarged heart for the people you entrust to my care; to OUR care. Enlarge our vision that we might truly be a church for our community - especially for those who are lost and hurting.
May I share with you a prayer this morning that came to us through UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) on behalf of the refugees? Join me in prayer:
Prayer for a New Vision
God of Shalom,
Grant us hearts that cry like yours
At the sight of dead boys on beaches,
Packed train cars,
And long lines of families on the move.
We confess that we have seen these images for centuries.
Grant us, this time, the wisdom to act in a way that turns history upside down.
And brings your shalom on earth as it is in heaven.
Grant us arms that welcome the stranger;
Grant us hands that feed the hungry;
Grant us feet that walk with those whose feet search
For a new home, a new job, a new life.
Help us understand how bad things must have been,
And how much vision these survivors must have had
To make this terrible trek.
Grant us the vision to see what they see:
Your shalom where there is no more violence,
Where life is full and abundant for all,
Where no one is hungry,
And everyone is welcome at the feast.