Texts: Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24; Matthew 25:31-46; Psalm 100 or 95:1-7a; Ephesians 1:15-23
For thus says the Lord GOD: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out.
– Ezekiel 34:11
Perhaps you’ve heard the joke about the artist who talked with the gallery manager where her paintings were displayed. The manager said, “I have some good news and some bad news.” The artist asked, “What’s the good news.” “The good news is that a man came in here today asking if the price of your paintings would go up after you die. When I told him they would he bought every one of your paintings,” said the manager. “That’s great! What’s the bad news?” asked the artist. “The bad news is that the man was your doctor.”
This week’s texts in Matthew and Ezekiel are good news/bad news texts. There is lots of good news in them. God seeks the lost. God strengthens the weak. The hungry are to be fed, the thirsty quenched, the sick healed, the incarcerated visited, the naked clothed. When we participate with God in these healing activities, we will be honored and selected by God for places of honor. That’s the good news. God wants and needs us to participate in God’s healing work in the world.
The bad news? For those who fail to join God in this work, there will be consequences of separation from God. God will question why we have not participated, will find us guilty of negligence and will deny us eternal life. The prospect that we might not please God enough to warrant eternal life can be disturbing, especially when it is so easy to honestly overlook opportunities to join in God’s work in the world.
The hungry, the poor, the lost, the naked, the thirst: they’re all around us. In our families, among our friends, living as neighbors, strangers, and even enemies; those that God is seeking to reach are all around us. And God is expecting us to be aware of God’s activity not only in our own life, but also in the lives of those around us. When we recognize this activity, we are responsible for joining God in the healing God intends for that person.
This type of awareness is hard, but it is possible. I remember meeting a famous author and speaker one time. I passed through a receiving line, shook his hand, said no more than three or four words to him and he immediately replied, “You’re a singer, aren’t you?!” A voice student in college, I was dumbfounded. This leader had keen perceptive skills, and he had the courage and wisdom to name how he saw (or heard!) God working in my life.
The healing ministries described in today’s passages are not mandatory “to do” lists as much as they are a call to a keen awareness of God’s activity in the world, and a posture of being alert and awake enough to partner with God when given the chance. God is seeking the separated sheep; we must be ready to declare them found and welcome them into God’s family of reclaimed people.
Where is God working around you today? What would God have you do to join in?
Savior, like a Shepherd lead us
Let the hungry come to me
God, pursue and find those who are separated from you today, even me if you sense I’m too far away from you.
Show us, God, where you are at work in the world. Give us eyes to see, ears to hear, hearts that yearn, hands to offer compassion.
Have mercy on us God for we are not always awake, we are not always ready, we do not always act.
Extend to us, God, gifts of vision and compassion, patience and trust, hope and expectation.
We want so much to join you in healing the world. By your power and through your grace, make it so.
In the name of the perfect healer, Jesus the Christ, we pray.