Summary: Christ the King Sunday, Bad News/Good News. We fail, but God is still God.
Today is Christ the King Sunday. It was established by the church nearly 100 years ago amid persecution in Mexico when their government told them that they owed their allegiance first and only to the government. The people of Mexico took to the streets with the chant, “Christ alone is King.”
Before we jump too deep into this passage, we need to introduce ourselves to Ezekiel.
There are several traditions about his heritage. One tradition holds that he was the direct descendant of Joshua and Rahab the prostitute. Another tradition holds that he was the son of Jeremiah, who was a prophet and contemporary of Ezekiel.
Whatever is true, both prophets predicted the same thing – the inevitable destruction of Jerusalem. While Jeremiah is said to have written the book of Lamentations following the destruction, sitting on a hill overlooking the city, Ezekiel appears to have been among those carried into exile where his prophesies continued. It is there that he wrote not only the prophesies of the restoration of Israel at that time, but also foretold the birth of Christ.
Bad News in the Scripture:
This was a time of great turmoil. As Ezekiel speaks to his people, he speaks to them telling them that they have failed their nation and failed God.
From the establishment of Israel, this is what the Lord has commanded: that his people are to live unlike the people of the world. They are to care for widows, orphans, and strangers in their land. Just as God rescued the Israelites, they were to be advocates of all who were powerless. This was their call, they were blessed to be a blessing.
God had established a nation that was to be an example to all nations of what it means to be righteous and faithful. And they had failed. They had failed because their leaders did not live out the commands of the Lord.
In this passage Ezekiel says that God will righteously judge between the sheep and the goats. Hear again the closing words of this prophesy:
17 “‘As for you, my flock, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will judge between one sheep and another, and between rams and goats. 18 Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet? 19 Must my flock feed on what you have trampled and drink what you have muddied with your feet?
20 “‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says to them: See, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. 21 Because you shove with flank and shoulder, butting all the weak sheep with your horns until you have driven them away, 22 I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered. I will judge between one sheep and another. 23 I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. 24 I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the Lord have spoken.”
Bad News in our lives:
It is very, very hard to hear these words and not tremble. Because the words Ezekiel spoke to Jerusalem is also the word of the Lord to us.
While our nation was not founded to be an exclusively Christian nation, it was founded on the same principals as the nation of Israel was. In fact, our founders worked hard to create a government and environment that was fair and equitable to all.
And yet, from the beginning, we have failed.
We allowed slavery to exist, and when we finally moved in the direction of freedom, it took a war to do it.
Brothers were set against brothers, fathers against sons, in the bloodiest war in American history. More than 650,000 died in this conflict. At 2% of the population, today that would be comparable to 6 million people killed. No family escaped tragedy. In the end, even the President fell to a bullet intended to revive the Confederate cause.
But after the war the situation became worse. The South, which had been devastated by the war, was now oppressed by those who sought to take advantage. On the flip side, those who still resented the freedom of the freed slaves sought to continue to oppress them.
What was true then is true today. There are those in our land who judge others by the color of their skin and the country where they originated. We oppress and hold down, and seek to be the powerful against the powerless.
And in so doing, we are a divided country. I don’t know where they got the statistics, but I read an article this week that last year, during the election, the average American family spent 20 minutes less at the table for Thanksgiving, because of turmoil and disagreement. It was expected to be worse this year.