SER # 45Wa
FIRST UMC – NEBRASKA CITY
COLOR: WHITE OR GOLD
SUNDAY NOVEMBER 22ND 2020
TEXTS: EZEKIEL 34: 11 – 16; 20 – 24
THEME: AND GOD WILL SEEK
Today is the Sunday that comes before Thanksgiving. I realize that Thanksgiving will be different this year given the challenges of covid-19. There will be many families that will be forced to celebrate with very few people hence there is a level of emptiness. I would like us to thank God for the family we have, even when we can’t gather together in person. We have to also remember those families that have lost their loved ones in the last 12 months, regardless of the cause of their death. These people who have lost their loved ones have an empty chair at the table. Let us look around and name before God what we are grateful for. It is more than material blessings.
Let us now turn to our scripture text for today to learn what God has for us to help us in our faith journey. We read from other sources that prophet Ezekiel was a contemporary of prophet Jeremiah. He ministered to people who had been taken captive in Babylon. He was a priest as well as what we can call a street preacher. He was obedient to God’s teaching and followed whatever God wanted him to do. One time, God gave him what today we can think of as an impossible task to do like: a) Lying on his side for 390 days during which time he could only eat eight-ounces meal a day cooked over manure; b) shaving his head and beard; c) showing no sorrow when his wife died. These are truly extreme request and maybe God will never ask you or me to do that. One thing is very clear in the passage, that people are created with the will power to do what is right and what is wrong.
On the part of God according to this passage he is trying all methods to look out for his people. God is going out of his way to let people what he was willing to do for them. In the same way I truly believe he reaches out for us and seeks us wherever we have strayed away from his loving grace. When it comes to his people God will do the following and even more:
- God will seek the lost: He rescues them. God has a special affection on his creation and aims at making sure that they are within the fold. God’s people can be lost out there and There are three bible stories (parables) that I would like to share that illustrate this point: There is the parable of the lost sheep (Luke 15: 1 – 7) the parable of the lost coin (Luke 15: 8 – 10) and the parable of the lost son (Luke 15: 11 – 32). When we unpack each of these three parables that Jesus told we can draw three conclusions of how we people of faith can get lost. A) The Lost sheep: How does the sheep get lost? The sheep is unaware that it is getting lost for what it is doing is following a trill that might lead it to the wrong place of the pasture. Other time the sheep is just following a path that seem to have some nice green branches it can feed on. For us we will discover we are lost when we start to become loners. When the company of others become more of a pain than a joy. When we no longer feel we don’t need anybody else to be who we are. There is nothing like a solitary Christianity. There has to be a community. Jesus came to bring us together in one-fold. It is in togetherness that we find safely, fellowship, and joy. B) The Lost Coin: The coin was lost in the house. We read that it might have fallen between the cracks. We know this because the owner of the coin had to sweep everywhere looking for it. The message here is that the coin was lost within. This kind of being lost from within, is very common to many believers. They are part of the group yet they have never given their total life to the Lordship of Christ. They are within the grace of God. They are even covered by the love and grace of God and yet they have not surrendered themselves to the servanthood of our master Jesus. They are like that rock under the river where the water passes over it and yet it never gets soft. Or like the metal pipe that brings water to our home yet it is dry. Here you might be a member of the church and doing all the things that the church expects of you: tithe, attend, serve in leadership and committees, but you are still lost if you have not offered yourself to Jesus to become the savior of your life. I know this because I used to live like that as a young man. Beloved by my elders and even assumed leadership within my youth group. Yet that was nothing for I was still lost before the eye of Jesus because I had not opened the door of my heart for him to come in. C) The Lost Son: This young man was running away from any kind of authority and felt that he never needed anybody not even his own family. He thought that the world loved and cared about him more than his family. That is why he look his share and left home. Today as people of faith we leave the home where God is the father and Jesus our brother. We think the world out there will love us more. But little do we realize when the world takes away all we have: our dignity, love…… it has no place for us. God like the father of the prodigal son he keeps looking out hoping that someday you will come to your senses and decide to come back home. The loving father (God) is waiting for you. Once you decide to come home the father (God) will not ask you where you have been but simply will say: My son/daughter was dead now he/she is alive, was lost but not found, come and celebrate.
- God seeks the stray: He leads them. We can go astray in many ways in this life. Often, we do this when we abandon those practices that we promised ourselves to follow when we got to know the Lord. A) Go astray by neglecting the right way: We learn from the word of God the path that we need to follow in our every day events. It is path of love. A path where we have a place for God and a place for our neighbor. When we start to think only about ourselves and what we gain personally from our actions, we are starting to go astray. When we go outside the parameter of love in whatever we do we have gone astray. When we allow hate or judgment define our decision making, we have already gone astray and we need to come back to Jesus moment. B) Go astray out of influence. There are so many influences in the world we live in, some are good while others are bad. This is because we do not live in a bubble or in a vacuum. The challenge we have is to use the discernment as we move forward. We are called to be transformers of the world not conformers (Romans 12: 1-2). We might have to put some guiding principles that would become our fence. I still love the approach of Bishop Reuben Job who had these three wonderful guiding principles which I have mentioned several times this year: Do good, Do no harm, Stay connected with the love of God. If we allow our actions to be guided by these three principles we will be on the right path. C)Go astray without knowing: This compares with the story of the lost sheep. The sheep got lost not knowing it was getting away. I believe the one way to guide us from getting astray without knowing is by creating some kind of bench marks in your life that remind you when you are going off road. Some of you know highway 2 and highway 75 have some safety guides on the side as you are driving. If you start driving off the road the noise of your tires will warn you. In some place they even have a middle warning so that you might be reminded that you are driving on the wrong side. Newer cars have incorporated some of these features. No one can set these warning sign for you in your life. It is only you who knows how fast you drive and how safe you are when you are trying to overtake. If we don’t do these boundaries and choose to live a bounder-less life we might find ourselves too far away. As a parent we raising two girls we had to put some boundaries for them for we knew unless we do that, we can’t assume they knew them. We discussed with them first and they were aware of the boundaries. We have to discuss our boundaries with our Lord. All the boundaries that are needed are in the word of God.
- God binds the wounded: He gathers them. We live in a world where we can get wounded physically and spiritually. When we are wounded, we are not able to function in a normal way. When wounded spiritually we are not able to perform or go on with life in a normal way. We can be wounded spiritually in many ways. We can be wounded spiritually when someone break our trust. We can be wounded spiritually when we discover that someone was not acting right. When we get disappointed by our faith leaders because of their actions we get wounded. God through the words of Ezekiel is saying part of his work is to bound the wounded. Let us go before the Lord and bring our burdens and our wound and he will take care. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11: 28 – 33).
- God strengthens the weak: He feeds them. By God feeding us we are strengthened spiritually. We don’t depend on the physical strength for our faith journey but we need strong bodies that why we eat and drink. Spiritual journey become hard because of the spiritual fights that we are faced with every day. It is Paul that rightly reminded us the kind fight we are facing. Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over the present darkness, against the spiritual evil forces of the evil in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day and having done all, stand firm. (Ephesians 6: 10 – 14). Paul continues to remind us to be on guard by: putting on: Belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, shoes of readiness, shield of faith; helmet of salvation; sword of the Holy Spirit which is the word and finally, Prayers; praying at all times in the spirit of God.