Sheep and Goats

Being without a pulpit doesn’t stop the yearning for study and communication. Today Dean Seal stood for the first time in the pulpit where I once stood. I rejoice with Dean and the dear people of Shepherd of the Hill as they begin this new ministry together.

But I also sense the loss of the community that has been Kay and my home for the past eight and a half years. So I do what I have always done. I look at the texts for the day, ponder their meaning, and write about them.

The Hebrew Bible text for today – the last Sunday in the Christian liturgical calendar, “the Reign of Christ” Sunday – is from Ezekiel 34. It reads, in part:

I myself  [i.e. God] 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.


– Ezekiel 34:15-22

Ezekiel is spoken to the exiles, the aliens in a strange land – you might call them “immigrants” or “exiles” or “refugees”. Or “undocumented workers” who labor for peanuts without the protection of the law.

Ezekiel’s 34th chapter looks to David, the leader of the nation, to be God’s agent to rescue them. Or maybe, in our time, a distant relative named Barack.

During the time I worked outside the church at the Legal Rights Center in Minneapolis, a group of undocumented workers came to the Center. The Hispanic/Latino Community Advocate had identified their need and had convinced them that the LRC was a safe place to bring their case.

Six Mexican “employees” of a cleaning service that sub-contracted for janitorial services at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota had not received their wages for the past six weeks. The company knew their workers had no recourse. The law was against them; deportation was always one step away. The employer was confident in its privileged position. Those who withheld their wages had not yet read Ezekiel’s proclamation: “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.”

It took one phone call to the employer to get these men the wages they and their families had been wrongfully denied.

Let those who oppose Immigration reform legislation in the United States of America read Ezekiel, or sit in on the conversation at the Legal Rights Center. Then let them think again about President Obama’s compassionate speech on immigration policy reform and pass the bipartisan bill languishing the House of Representatives.


Thick heads and the deeper truth

Micah 6:8

“God has told you people what is good–
and what the Lord requires of you:
do justice, love mercy,
and walk humbly with your God.”

One third of the Jewish Bible
is in poetry:
all the prophets, all the proverbs,
Job and all the Psalms.
Fables, sagas, metaphors–we
take it literally?
No, its truth is deeper, wider
than the sea. Our souls
leap or cry, our hearts sing or sigh.

We are called to act by holy
words in parallel:
every idea is repeated–
image, example,
contrast…thick heads hit again and
yet again. As sheep
we need a good shepherd or we
stray. For us to keep
ten commandments we need poetry.

– Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, March 4, 2013