Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the LORD. Therefore 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. Then 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. I 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.
Jeremiah, 23, Friday Lent Four, the Reading, the Daily Office Book, Year One
The flocks have been dispersed. Memberships in churches have been in steady decline and with good reason. The message of the Gospel has been at odds with many loud scapegoating commentators, “shepherds” of religion who have abandoned God’s compassion, with the truth that God is love, and have ignored Jesus’ requiring call to discipleship as followers of his way: to love neighbors and enemies, to be merciful, to be non-judgmental, to be peacemakers, to care for the sick, the poor and prisoners.
In the face of hypocrisy, it is reasonable to abandon dysfunctional communities such as these. Why would anyone attend a community which claims to follow Christ while ignoring the teachings of Christ and the intention to live the teachings of Christ? As well, we should be asking ourselves and communities, am I/we being true to Christ’s teachings, am I/we satisfied that I/we continue to grow in my/our intention to the joy of serving Christ, in service to humanity and in stewardship of creation? The sense of self-satisfaction can lead to the killing atrophy of spirit and service, we need to be aware then, and review our lives, so to be renewed in our lives, and in our intention to live in spirit and in truth. The living Church of the living God is always moving to the realization of God’s compassionate justice and peace.
The Holy Spirit is moving though. New Shepherds are being raised up who take the promise of God’s compassion, realized in Christ Jesus, very seriously. We may be seeing the true Church reemerging across historical, social and cultural differences, liturgical differences, denominational differences, and even religious differences. We may be witnessing the rising up of a renewed faith rooted in mercy, justice, compassion and care, people who believe Jesus and believe him when he says heaven is at hand, that the kingdom be on earth, now. There are those who use religion as a means to wealth and power, don’t let them get to you, pray for them and take the lead by the example of compassion in your life. Seek out the workings of spirit and faith in the workings of social justice of Jesus’s teaching. Seek out churches which show the fruits of Spirit’s love in their works for the sick, poor and the prisoners. Seek out the churches which offer full-inclusion, which hope to be as broad as “the compassion which covers all his works.” Seek them out. Seek each other out, encourage each other in the truth of Christ, working through each other, and work together to the joy of love’s greater glory. “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”