Holy Communion: The Word of the LORD
A Sermon on Ezekiel 34:11-16 by Vicar Robert Alan Shivers
Ezekiel 34:11-16 English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles
“For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. 13 And 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 ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. 14 I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God. 16 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, and the fat and the strong I will destroy.[a] I will feed them in justice.
Grace, Mercy and Peace to you from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
When God speaks, it is time to listen. When you read His word, it is time to think and ponder. To inwardly digest the words, to do your best to understand what you are being told in scripture. We find many times over, that we do not study nor do we truly attempt to understand what we are being told. It is easier to just go through the motions. Some might say, “Alright, I’ve read my verses for today” or “Okay, pastor gave his sermon let’s have communion and get out of here”. Have you really sat down and thought about what you have read? Have you really thought about what you heard?
What is the point I am trying to make? Don’t let the devil lead you like the false shepherd that he is. He will try to trick you, he will try to convince you that his way is better, that God’s way is foolish and will lead you nowhere. You know the old line, “Did God really say?” Don’t fall for it. And even if you do, Satan cannot keep his grasp on you forever. For Christ’s death and resurrection assures us of that. His death sealed our future. Through it we become sealed in our baptism. Through his resurrection we are shown the promise in the gift of his sacrifice and the resurrection of the dead.
Looking back, we see Christ in today’s first lesson, “For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out”. We are told by Christ HIMSELF in Matthew chapter fifteen that he was sent to find the lost sheep of Israel. In Matthew chapter eighteen Christ speaks about the shepherd leaving the flock to find the one sheep that strayed. He was speaking of himself being that shepherd. Don’t think that just because you are here listening to scripture, singing hymns, and hearing a sermon that you are not lost. The Pharisees thought they had it all figured out, that they were not lost. Everyone is a lost sheep because everyone is born into sin. You are not better than the person next to you just as I am not better than anyone else. We must remember what God says, “…the fat and strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice”.
We may think we are wealthier, smarter, or just all around a better person than someone else, but you and I are no better than our neighbor. Why? Because we are all born into sin and require the daily drowning of the old Adam and the old Eve. The Israelites faced the same issue. They were God’s lost sheep, constantly going against Him, breaking the covenant made on Mt. Sinai time and time again until God said, “enough”. Even the prophets such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and others could do nothing to stop the people from rebelling against God. Pastors can not be with you night and day saying, “you shouldn’t do that”. That is why we practice the faith. What is it we say… “I will strive to pray daily, worship weekly, read the bible, serve at and beyond St. Matthew’s, be in relationships to encourage spiritual growth in others, and give of my time, talents, and resources”. Doing these things helps to build our faith, to remind us that we are called to imitate Christ. Do not be like the Pharisees who were so blinded by pride that they failed to see their own sin. We are so prideful that even if we see that we were wrong we do not want to admit it.
How does God feed us? Certainly by our daily bread, but there are other ways in which He feeds us. One of those ways is the Bible. You know the song, “the B-I-B-L-E, yes that’s the book for me, I stand alone on the word of God, the B-I-B-L-E”. The Bible is the good pasture that we feed on. Do not go to other books that tell you about the word of God, go to the word of God. Too quickly we rely on others to tell us about the Bible that we forget that we have it right there on the book shelf, on the coffee table, or wherever you keep your Bible. You can read other books along with God’s word, but do not replace God’s word.
God also feeds his flock through Christ’s blessed body and blood. When we come to the table we are receiving Christ. What a precious and intimate way to feed us, to provide the spiritual nourishment we so desperately need. Through it we are receiving the forgiveness of sins. The body of Christ given for you, the blood of Christ shed for you. These are not words spoken just to be said. Through his sacrifice those words have meaning. There is a purpose behind them. His body, his blood given and shed for you. He gave himself up for you. He bled for you. He gave his life for you. Treating Holy Communion as just a ceremonial act is throwing away the sacrifice of Christ. He suffered on the cross, bleeding from his wounds, wounds so gruesome, so horrid that anyone who saw them today would have trauma. He was suffocating from gravity pulling him down as he hung on the cross. His words “take eat, this is my body, take drink, this is my blood” should be taken with great seriousness just as his suffering and death should be taken with great seriousness.
People love to make Easter the biggest celebration, but they have it all wrong. Good Friday is the biggest day for celebration, though it is a solemn celebration. We are told in Romans chapter five “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood…” That is when the victory over sin, death, and the devil was made. He was already God’s son, so the victory was already won at the crucifixion and death, not at the resurrection. But we rejoice still because Christ has risen, he has risen indeed, alleluia. But what does the resurrection mean? I have been asked this before and it is simple, Christ’s resurrection promises us a resurrection like his’…
With the world hell bent on tearing itself apart, what is the one thing we can cling to? What can we trust to be truthful, to bring us peace, to show us the promise of salvation? We can cling to the word of God. Time and time again God’s people turned to Him for peace even though they had turned against Him. We are much like the people of Israel. We turn our backs to our Heavenly Father, and when it all becomes a mess we run to Him looking for peace.
Today, with sabers rattling it seems as though war is being threatened every other day. How can we find peace with such threats? God is always present. Through the Holy Spirit we are guided, and through Christ we can go in peace because we have the promise of life after death. We know, that throughout history, believers stuck to their faith even through the torture and death of their loved ones. They knew it was not the work of God, but the work of Satan. God does not want his creation to suffer, but the rebellion of Adam and Eve against God brought evil into this world and it will never be gone until Christ comes again. When will that be? I do not know. Anyone who says that they do know is lying you. We will see Christ return when the time is right. So let us go in peace for we know that Christ has suffered and died for our sins, and the resurrection of the dead is set in stone, for Christ has risen, he was risen indeed, alleluia.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.