Tozer, in this weeks reading, lifts up the idea that:
As I implied in the last post - it is a shame that preachers so often simply go through the motions, following an idealized lectionary to ensure a balanced treatment of the scriptures rather than seekng to carefully discern the particular needs of the congregation.
I have struggled with this very issue this week as I prayerfully sought a sermon topic, scripture lesson, or issues that I felt the Holy Spirit leading me to address. When all else failed I went to the lectionary passages for this Sunday and voila I was convicted. (So I'm not saying the lectionary has NO value rather that it needs to be seen as secondary.) It's a message that the world so needs to hear today, republican, democrat, socialist, communist, federalist, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Mormon, Agnostic, rich, poor, sick and well. It has to do with "sacrifice." Sacrifice is a word rarely used today. In our "me first", "I need", "I deserve", "I want", entitlement oriented world, we have lost the concept of sacrifice. Our success often, if not always, comes at the expense of others. We refuse to see success as necessarily being a matter of personal failure, personal sacrifice, personal emptying. Success is seen as getting rather than giving.
In Ezekiel 34:11-17 and Matthew 25:31-46 (pre Revised Common Lectionary passages) we find the matter of judgement, sheep, and goats. The Ezekiel passage plays with the idea that the judgement will take place between the sheep themselves. Those sheep which have thrived at the expense of the others, the fat, healthy, and strong sheep will be destroyed. The stray, weak and injured sheep will be provided for. And the question becomes whether or not the sheep are watching out after one another; whether or not the Shepherds are playing favorites with the sheep. The True Shepherd is coming to search for these lost and scattered sheep. And he's coming with a Ricky Ricardo, "Lucy, you've gotta lotta splainin' to do" attitude.
Jesus, the Shepherd of whom Ezekiel spoke, clarifies this judgement even further with the thought that our own actions will judge us. We who are aware of the situation and don't act, don't stand up, don't protect and defend...we who allow the goats to flourish at the expense of the sheep, or even some sheep to suffer so that other's may succeed, who scatter the sheep...
Are we ready to assume the role of becoming less so that He may become more in other's lives [John 3:30]?