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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, November 21, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Ezekiel 34:11–16, 20–24

For thus says the Lord God: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. 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 watercourses, and in all the inhabited parts of the land. I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord God. 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, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice. Therefore, thus says the Lord God to them: I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted at all the weak animals with your horns until you scattered them far and wide, I will save my flock, and they shall no longer be ravaged; and I will judge between sheep and sheep. I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them; I, the Lord, have spoken. (NRSV)

The book of Ezekiel draws us into a time of great disruption in the life of God’s people. Successive invasions have devastated Judah, and the long-established patterns of political, economic, and worship life have evaporated. The marketplaces are silenced. The palaces and lavish estates lie empty. Even God’s very presence seems to pack up and leave the temple as the people of Judah are scattered abroad and made into a diaspora. As such, they became a new community of sorts, pushed into unfamiliar lands where they must carve out a life for themselves. While these were traumatic events for our Jewish siblings and forebears, as with so many diasporas in different times and places, an opportunity unfolded to better define who they were.

That feeling of being in a diaspora has resonated deeply with me during the current pandemic. It has raised hard questions for me, and likely many of you, such as “Who are we when we are not together in our church building?” But as I now look, even with much uncertainty, to the eventual time when this diaspora experience ends, my questions are changing. Now I wonder who we will be when we return. What will we have learned being the church scattered and on the run in our diverse neighborhoods, buildings, and social contexts?

In this passage from Ezekiel, God is teaching a scattered people how to gather again. God begins by preparing their imaginations with a sense of redemptive hope that overcomes the trauma of their separation. Whereas the traumas of diaspora diminished the people of their own sense of power, God acts decisively on their behalf by binding the injured, strengthening the weak, and feeding the people with justice.

So as we look to an eventual time of regathering, how can we ready ourselves for what God can and will do? Are we willing to let God reveal our social and emotional wounds so that they may be healed? Will we let God expose our weakness so that we can collectively learn to lean on God’s strength? Will we let God show us what justice looks like even if it challenges us?

God who shepherds the wayward and the wandered, help me on this journey through the unknown. Remind me of your promises, and prepare my heart to receive your coming grace. Ready me for who you are calling me to be when we gather again. Amen.

Written by Joseph L. Morrow, Associate Pastor-Elect for Evangelism and Community Engagement

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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