November 22, 2020 Reign of Christ Sunday – Trinity United
By Lorraine Doeleman
Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24
God of the lost and lonely, God of the secure and confident, gather us into your fold that we may be healed and transformed. Guide us in your world that we may be part of ministries of healing and hope, for we ask these things in Jesus’ Name. AMEN.
Visualize a small shepherd boy going to fight a giant looking man named Goliath. If you didn’t already know the ending to this story, who would you guess would win? You, like the rest of us would guess Goliath. But as you know the small shepherd boy named David was victorious. David was known to take very good care of his sheep. In his new book, “David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants,” written by Malcolm Gladwell, Goliath expects that his opponent will be as big as he is. He is surprised when all he sees is a small shepherd boy coming towards him armed with a small staff. In the book, Goliath says to David, “Am I a dog that you should come to me with sticks?” David gets some small stones out of his bag and puts them in his slingshot and fires them at Goliath hitting him in the forehead. He knocks him over and David rushes to get his sword. He stabs him and then cuts his head off.
Malcolm Gladwell continues to say that most people get this famous Biblical yarn all wrong because they misunderstand who really has the upper hand. It is because of, and not despite, David’s size and unorthodox choice of weapon that he is able to slay the lumbering giant. In other words, Gladwell says, most people underestimate the importance of agility and speed. Taken from https://www.inc.com/issie-lapowsky/malcolm-gladwell-david-and-goliath.html
In the scripture readings this week, they all look at towards a shepherd. In the old testament of Ezekiel, God is the shepherd who searches for sheep who are worthy of him. The ones who are weaker and not too strong. These sheep he will bring back to him and help heal them. He tries to help the weak sheep. He is always looking for them even when they have gone astray. In a sermon by Warner Pidgeon, he mentions a book written by Stephen Gaukroger. “Stephen tells the story of a New York Methodist minister who saw the need to bring his ‘ninety-nine righteous’ sheep back into the fold. He put an advert in the local paper:
“Lost, stolen or strayed, a large flock of Methodist sheep. They have been gone for some time. When last seen they were browsing along the road of indifference. Anyone finding these sheep please bring them home, if possible, and you will receive ample reward. If they refuse to come home drive them to the nearest fold, lock the door, and report to the undersigned. Plenty of fodder will be provided on Sunday.”
Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me” (John 10:14).
Remember that you are to help the poorer people in your flock. It doesn’t matter what they look like or sound like, you should stop to give a helping hand. This is what God was doing in the gospel reading. As I said before, he helped all of the weak sheep and nursed them back to health. There was a short story that I read this week from David Dykes that went like this. See if you can make a connection about the sheep to this story.
“A few years ago, at a Methodist Church in North Wales, as worshippers arrived at the church, they were distressed to see a dirty, drunk, smelly homeless man on the front steps. They didn’t realize this bum was actually their pastor, Derek Rigby, who had disguised himself as a homeless man. To prepare for that morning, Derek hadn’t shaved that week. He caked dirt on his hands and face and drew on tattoos. He went to a thrift shop and bought old clothes and ripped them, rubbed them in dirt and soaked them in beer. To complete his disguise, he donned a scraggly wig and put on thick broken glasses and hung a half-smoked cigarette from his mouth. Then he sat on the church steps clutching a can of beer. On that morning not one of the members of his congregation spoke to him or offered to help. You can imagine their shock when it came time for the sermon and this homeless man walked on staged and took off the wig. Then he told them they were a stingy lot. He talked about how Jesus said that when we help one of the “least of these” we are helping Jesus. It was a disturbing experience.” Can you imagine how the people in that congregation felt after finding out that their pastor and the homeless man were one in the same?
God is always the shepherd especially on this Sunday which is known as the Reign of Christ Sunday. The Reign of Christ Sunday marks the end of Ordinary time and the beginning of advent celebrations. The first Sunday of Advent begins next Sunday – November 29th. We celebrate the reign of God in his Kingdom and how that celebration can be continued throughout the coming year. We sing Psalm 100 today and make a joyful noise all the earth! If you have been at our church in person, imagine me playing it on the piano with a lot of enthusiasm and a glissando at the end of the song. If you sing and have a copy of Voices United, look it up and give it a go. This Psalm brings back lots of happy memories for me when we could all be together in the church building.
What are the qualities of a true shepherd? A true shepherd should have a caring heart and protect his sheep. A true shepherd’s flock will know his voice and listen to him. Within the scripture readings from today, we understand that God is the shepherd, and we are the sheep. There are 5 qualities that Jesus has that makes him a good Shepherd. Jesus is good, he protects, he guides, he nurtures and he lays down his life for us. We are the ones that need to know that God is always here with us to keep us safe and give us strength. We should be the ones to go out and help bring back our flock to rejoin God in his kingdom. We are the ones that can take the time to listen and protect our flock (as community).
Jesus is a leader that can be trusted. Jesus loves you. He is the good shepherd. He will never leave you. You can trust him.
Go from here as those committed to bring Christ’s reign closer.
We will be a challenge to the powerful;
We will be a support to the suffering;
We will be a word of hope to the despairing;
We will be a beacon of hope to the uncertain;
We will be an encouraging presence to the venturesome.
Go with confidence, go in peace!