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Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24

Throughout all of Scripture we see that God is a god of mercy and justice. We see this theme running throughout both this passage and our Gospel passage. This is why we see the other passages, the Psalm and the Epistle, being ones of thanksgiving. While the Gospel passage utilizes the image of sheep and goats, this passage utilizes only the image of sheep.

There are several things to notice about this passage of mercy and justice that jump out. As we take time to celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King Sunday we should notice that God, who is king, is often depicted as a shepherd. Our king and shepherd searches out the lost. It’s not a self-serving search, however. While many kings throughout history only cared about their subjects so far as they could benefit them, we see here that God cares deeply about the people of God. God searches out those who are lost. God makes them rest. God heals those who are injured. What we see with our God is a great king of mercy who searches throughout the countries to bring back into the fold those who are have gone astray, have stayed behind due to injury, and those who have been weakened by the injustice of others.

The injustice that occurs here is important to notice. Unlike our Gospel passage which discusses both sheep and goats, here we only see sheep. We only see the animal that is usually associated with the people of God. This is important. God declares that there will be judgment between the lean and fat sheep. Both sets of sheep will receive justice, but it will look quite different. It instantly calls to my mind the song of Mary, the Magnificat, where we hear Mary boldly sing “He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, he has lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent away the rich empty!” (Luke 1:53-54). It is easy to think just because we are sheep that we have done what is right and what we are called to, but in this passage we see that some sheep receive a harsher judgment, while others receive mercy.

If preaching this passage this week I would focus on how it calls us as Christians to be people of justice. We are not to become fat sheep while our sisters and brothers wither away. We are not to grow rich while our neighbors get poorer and poorer. This passage might be preached well with a James 1:22 mindset – “Be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.” In evangelicalism we have often fallen prey to thinking saying one specific prayer is enough and then leaving it at that. Our faith is a journey, though, not just a single step. It calls us to action. We are to