Readings for the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Ezekiel 34:11-24; 1 Timothy 1:12-17; Luke 15:1-10
Describe someone as a “sheep” today and they’ll probably take it as an insult. In an age when originality, self-expression and “finding your own truth” are exalted as prime virtues, sheep are thought to represent the opposite: mindless conformity to whatever is popular at the moment.
But throughout its pages, God’s Word frequently uses the imagery of shepherd and sheep to describe the relationship between God and His people. So it’s a label that Christians should embrace, NOT because it’s flattering -it’s not- but because it’s true.
The Old Testament lesson describes the LORD’s great love for His sheep and His desire to protect and feed them. The sheep are indeed vulnerable to abuse by human shepherds, and they mistreat one another. The LORD commits Himself to the work of shepherding, showing mercy to the weak and dispensing justice upon the powerful (Ek 34).
In the Gospel lesson, Jesus tells two parables with a common theme. He came to seek and save those who are lost. And there is great joy in heaven when even one lost sinner is brought safely back to the fold (Lk 15).
The apostle Paul relates to a fellow pastor, Timothy, how he himself was a recipient of God’s mercy and grace. God intervened in Paul’s life while he was still lost in sinful disobedience. Through Jesus, He gave this “chief of sinners” a clean slate and a fresh start. Yes, pastors need God’s mercy every day just like other sheep do (1Tm 1).