Last Sunday of the Church Year “Flock”
November 22nd, 2020 – Ezekiel 34:15-16
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
When is the last time you ripped a phone book in half with your bare hands? It can be done. I have seen it. If you YouTube “ripping a phone book” you will find all kinds of demonstrations. It normally does take a certain level of strength to do it in one fell swoop. However, if you take a phone book and rip each page in half one by one you do not have to have much strength at all to “rip a phonebook in half” with your bare hands – just a little bit of patience.
A single piece of paper is quite easy to tear. A whole stack together, not so much.
Why am I saying this? Your faith in Jesus is like a piece of paper. Satan? He wants to rip you apart.
What kind of technique would Satan want to use in order to easily tear you apart? If you are all alone in your faith, you are simple to tear up – one by one.
Gathered by God, you become that much harder. Your faith becomes that much more solid.
Put another way, you are sheep, and Satan wants to scatter you. Satan wants to divine and conquer the flock. Satan wants you all alone so he can come up like a wolf and devour you.
Satan does not want you gathered together because that might lead to caring for one another. Satan does not want you together because that might lead to talking to each other. Satan does not want you gathered together because that might lead to helping each other out, praying with each other, and supporting each other in Jesus.
No, no, no, Satan does not want any of this. He needs you all alone. He needs you vulnerable. He needs you to mistrust the other people in this room. To avoid talking to one another – especially in times of conflict. He wants you to not talk through your issues with each other in Christian love avoiding the people instead. To not help each other and certainly not to support each other in our faith.
Satan is real. Your faith is like a single piece of paper. So… what can you expect to be happening at all times?
Envy, jealousy, mistrust, and division. Expect that Satan is always trying to divide us. Expect Satan to use you to divide our church – in ways you do not expect or intend. Expect it and be ready for it. Recognize that Satan has been hard at work right here. He has scattered a lot sheep. He has got them thinking they are better off alone. He has ripped apart their faith. He has made them use any excuse possible to stop meeting together because he wants them alone. He wants you alone. He wants you to think it even if it is not real. He wants you to think “no one helps, there is no one new here, I’m all alone.”
Are you not gathering for church with others around His Word and Sacraments? Are you able to get up and go to the grocery store week to week but not “able” to come to church? Are you separating yourself because you do not “get along” with others in our church? Do you “prefer” to worship God alone? If so, you may be getting duped. Satan may have you just where he wants you. If this is hurting a little bit and you are racking your mind right now coming up with more “valid reasons” for your absence, if you are getting mad at me for saying these things, you should know by now what is happening to you.
If you are here today but pushing people away from church. If you ostracise the people here, do not bother to get to know them, do not pray for or with them, or support them in any way. If you are just here for YOU, or just you and your friends– there might be a problem.
If you do not care about the other people here, warning bells should be going off for you right now. What has happened to your faith if you do not care to treat each other as if you were caring for Jesus Himself? Jesus states the fact – at Judgement Day those who cared for each other have been caring for Jesus Himself and inherit heaven. Those who did not care for each other, did not care for Jesus and will be sentenced to eternal punishment. Your faith in Jesus informs what you do. You have faith in Jesus, you believe what Jesus says, and you gather together in His name caring for each other – or you reject Jesus and believe Satan and avoid these things with as many excuses as you can muster so that you are blind to the fact of your rejection.
Perhaps you will hear these words today and repent. Perhaps these words will have sunken in deep and hurt and caused a lot of inner conflict for you. Perhaps you have ears to hear.
Perhaps these words will have fallen on deaf ears. Maybe you do not care.
There is only one way through. There is only one hope we have. God is the one who is calling us together and moving us to come to church each week by the power of the Holy Spirit. You cannot take any credit for it. olyHoly Spirit.
And when He brings you to church, He takes your ripped-up faith, and he puts it back together. When He forgives your sin at the start of the service, He restores all the damage Satan has done -the damage throughout the time you have been absent, either since last week, or weeks, or months, or years.
God is always calling you back. It does not matter how long it has been because He is busy just rejoicing that you have returned. He marked you as part of His flock through your baptism.
You see, God knows that you are being scattered. The start of Ezekiel 34, the part we did not read, speaks against all the shepherds, the leaders, religious and political – me – who are not being the good shepherds they need to be. They look after their own interests, they abuse their sheep, they do not protect them like they need to. As a result, many sheep get lost, they stray, they get injured, and they are weak. They get duped and Satan loves it.
That message, it makes our Old Testament reading this morning so beautiful. We look forward to the day when God Himself will come rescue His flock. He will feed them and be their shepherd. We look to the end of time, the new heavens, and the new earth at the Resurrection, for this fulfillment with God among us. And yet, even now through His church, God is calling His people back, He is rescuing them, He is feeding them with Heavenly food. He uses me, in all my flaws, to guide you, protect you, and deliver to you the good food that He provides for us each week.
Remember that phone book? Many people will rip it parallel to the spine. They will not rip it through the spine because it is so much tougher. It is the thing that holds the whole stack of papers together after all! Jesus is our spine. He can never be divided or ripped apart. He holds us together. He gives us strength.
Thank you, Jesus, for everything you do to protect and care for us through your church.