Lessons for the Last Sunday of Pentecost, Christ the King, Proper 29

November 26, 2017

Ezekiel 34: 11-16, 20-24

The prophet and priest of Judah that was Ezekiel, delivered a series of prophecies from his imprisonment in Babylon some 600 years before Christ, of which today’s passage is one. A priest of the Temple in Jerusalem, Ezekiel was  made a hostage, hauled off in bondage when the Babylonian army overran Jerusalem.  The prophet turns from his earlier messages of condemnation of idolatry in the people of Israel to signs of hope, that their future will be one of promise. Using the often classic metaphor of shepherd and his sheep in reference to the Judean line of kings, Ezekiel, speaking of  course for God, insists that future shepherds of the people will be faithful in their responsibility, that their job is one of service to the people (shades of contemporary politics).  The final two lines, a decisive affirmation of prophecy, foresees a strong shepherd cast in this line of the greatest king, David, to be the future leader when Israel is released from Babylon.

Ephesians    I: 15-23

“God has done wonderful things for us in Jesus Christ and God must be praised.” So begins one of the studies of the letter attributed to Paul.  A general letter, not specifically written to the community at Ephesus, the author introduces his readers to a summary of Paul’s ideas.  It is based on the book of Colossians.  The text before us today is a prayer, a prayer for new Christians as they come in whatever fashion to understand the meaning of the power of Jesus Christ.  It is not a complicated message, but one that tries to instill hope in the letter’s readers.  It is a message also for us as we seek as assembly to recognize our own collective faith in the Lord.

Matthew 25:31-46

AS we come to the last Sunday of the liturgical year, Matthew presents the last of four parables basic to Jesus’ teaching.  In Matthew this work immediately precedes the story of the final days, the crucifixion, and resurrection.  In this dramatic story, the parable of the sheep and the goats, Jesus reaches the end of his earthly ministry, the end of his days of teaching.  Now no longer are the few gathered in a corner, no longer are the thousands sitting in a hillside at Galilee; now Matthew assembles all of humanity to hear the Son of Man in his final days.  Dividing the people under the titles of sheep and goats, Jesus first uses the basic elements of life, food, drink and clothing, to attribute the difference between the hospitality of the sheep (his followers) and the indifference of the goats.  But beyond this simple morality tale, is the point that neither side understood what the difference meant in their lives; both groups are stunned by his words. But does the parable teach that the world will be judged by how it treats the church, how it treats the poor of the earth?