11 “For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. 13 And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. 14 I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God. 16 I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.
17 “As for you, my flock, thus says the Lord God: Behold, I judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and male goats. 18 Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture; and to drink of clear water, that you must muddy the rest of the water with your feet? 19 And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have muddied with your feet?
20 “Therefore, thus says the Lord God to them: Behold, I, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. 21 Because you push with side and shoulder, and thrust at all the weak with your horns, till you have scattered them abroad, 22 I will rescue my flock; they shall no longer be a prey. And I will judge between sheep and sheep. 23 And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. 24 And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the Lord; I have spoken.
I always remember a scowl on his face, but this may be my experiences interfering with my recollection. I was a young when my father served this parish. I honestly don’t know what was going on with this man. I suppose he might have had a difficult childhood, a problematic marriage, a frustrated career, or something else. He also might have just been a very grumpy person by nature. Whatever the reason for his demeanor and behavior, it made life difficult for a lot of folks, including my father. Eventually his behavior became so egregious that the congregation took action and curbed his ability to disrupt voter’s meetings and spread his vitriol through the membership. But that took a while, perhaps too long. I do believe that sometimes we are too patient with sinful behavior on the part of Christians.
I do not know why sometimes people turn the church into an arena where they can vent the bile of their hearts. I have been angered to see God’s vulnerable sheep bullied and belittled by those who profess the same Christ, often in the name of things which Jesus has long since said were not that important, a color choice for carpet, a decision about a parking lot, or a change in the by-laws of the congregation. Not one person goes to heaven or hell over these decisions, but they can become occasions when the powerful thrust at the weak with their horns and push them aside. It muddies the clear water of God’s loving care and tramples the nourishing fellowship of God’s people into the mire. Ezekiel, traumatized by the exile, sees the violence of the Babylonians showing up inside the community of God’s people. He speaks God’s judgment upon such behavior. God always sees those little and vulnerable people. His scales of heavenly justice measure not so much the righteousness of our causes as the love by which we serve. He loves His flock and those who love them are praised and those who harm them are sternly warned (Mt. 18:6). He has established David’s Son, Jesus, as our shepherd who does not fail them. Take a moment today to pray for the leadership of your parish, both pastoral, commissioned, and lay. Pray they have gentle hearts and loving words. Pray that God protects them and gives them strength and discernment to know when to discipline within the flock of our Lord Jesus Christ.