1Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the Lord. 2Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the Lord. 3Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. 4I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the Lord.
5The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.” (NRSV)
Since Election Day, there has been an explosion in the number of hate crimes that have been committed against immigrants, persons of color, Muslims, women, Jews, members of the LGBTQ community, and supporters of President-Elect Donald Trump. These crimes include threatening speech, violent assaults, vandalism of property, and all kinds of criminal mischief.
After this excruciating election, it’s tragic sad to know that the division of our country extends to the point of raw hatred.
Our president-elect has repeatedly promised to bring this country together, and I pray he is successful. But what will it take?
Words are not enough to heal. At the end of the day, we’re all in this together. What happens to one happens to us all. The only way to end divisions is to cross over them in peace to the other side.
But in our world, what happens to someone else is not my problem…and this may be, for our country, the biggest problem of all…
This was the mindset of the kings God speaks against in the words of the prophet Jeremiah. Through most of Israel’s history, kings used their power only to advance themselves and a fortunate few. They weren’t just corrupt. Many of them terrorized God’s people. Jeremiah himself was thrown into a cistern by his king. His crime was speaking God’s truth to power.
The king was supposed to have been a shepherd to his people—to make sure they were fed, to make sure they’re safe, to execute justice and righteousness in the land.
But because they have failed—God is going to get personally involved. God is raising up new shepherds. No longer will God’s people to live in fear. God will raise up for David a righteous branch who will rule wisely and govern justly. None will be lost or forgotten anymore.
We see in Jesus Christ a fulfillment of this promise, though not in the way any of us would expect… Jesus, himself, ends up a victim of unjust rulers. He’s mocked, beaten, and crucified. But he doesn’t curse anyone. He doesn’t call down fire on them. Instead, he cries, “Father, forgive them…” And then, he turns to the criminal crucified next to him and promises, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.”
This is what a good shepherd does—seeing to it that not even a condemned criminal slips away from God’s fold…
A good shepherd gets into the mess the sheep are in—regardless of whether it’s the sheep’s fault or if they’re victims of hatred and greed.
Hear again those words “Father, forgive them.” There’s mercy and grace amazing even for the most miserable sinner. Jesus is personally involved in reconciling you to God and setting you on the way to new life in him.
Hear again those words “you will be with me,” because Jesus teaches you, from the cross, that your pain is his pain—and his resurrection will be your resurrection.
God’s Righteous Branch is in the world, righting the wrongs and establishing peace. We’re not there yet. But nonetheless, Jesus is in the world, where his sheep are scattered and scared, bringing these promises to life in real time.
This is where the rubber meets the road for you and me.
If you want to see peace, justice, and righteousness in the world, it must begin with you. It must begin by taking personal ownership of your neighbor’s poverty and pain. As a member of the Body of Christ, you are sent to be the presence of Jesus with those neighbors. God’s salvation begins when someone like you is simply present, not trying to fix, but merely doing what is in you to do. You’re bearing the cross together into the sure promise of resurrection.
It’s so easy to hold back and mind your own business, because you probably have more than enough troubles of your own to deal with. But the way to your truest self is in seeing yourself as a member of Christ’s flock—and as having a direct role in the coming Kingdom. Jesus is with you and me in all the pains and injustices of this world, naming the wrongs and pulling us together by the power of his Spirit to heal and transform. Jesus is with you and me to lead us into a new creation that will ultimately overturn the powers of greed and hate, that we can finally worship God freely and without fear. The time has now come for Jesus to reign. Today is the day for Christ the King.