Dear Hyde Park Baptist,
I am doing my best in the capacity God has granted me and I do want to be a faithful pastor. Outside the pulpit I sometimes use phrases or say things without really thinking them through. Generally, I am intentional about my comments but I know sometimes my speech goes before my mind and reveals my heart. Sometimes I am not thoughtful enough about your situations and don’t even think to ask the right questions. Sometimes I miss opportunities to serve you and sometimes I stand before you in my own sinfulness as if it is not even there. In fact, I wonder if I have even unknowingly already caused any of you to sin. I wonder if I have been passive in concern for your souls when I should have been more proactive to seek you out. And yet, in the midst of these thoughts I want to say, thank you. Thank you for seeing past this pastor’s imperfections and giving me so much grace, patience and love while I grow. So far in our six months together you are doing it well!
Don’t worry, I am not about to drop any horrible bombshell, and I am not about to cause some great controversy. It’s not that letter. But it is a letter of pastoral contemplation as I think about the sermon ahead. One little statement grabbed my attention this week and I just knew it was worth searching through some Scriptures to consider it more deeply. This little statement within Matthew 2:6 is that the Messiah expected from Bethlehem, “will shepherd my people, Israel.” As I searched the O.T. Scriptures for the expectancy of a Shepherd I was drawn to serious reflection over the text of Ezekiel 34. In the beginning of this chapter the Lord sees fault in the shepherds (leaders) of Judah (vs. 1-9). They are pastoring the flock for their own benefit, they have not cared for the sick, they have not sought out the strays, they have not protected the people, and they have acted with harshness and force. God says, that he will rescue his sheep from their mouths (vs.10). They are careless pastors who have let God and his people down.
What does God do when his shepherds don’t step up to the plate? “…I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. 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.” (vs.11-12). How will God pursue us? How will the transcendent Creator of the universe shepherd the creatures that he made out of dirt? What does he do for failing shepherds? How does a proactive God seek out lost and straying sheep? He does it this way…. “And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them; he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the Lord; I have spoken.” (vs. 23-24). Or as it is written in Matthew 2, from Bethlehem “shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people, Israel.”
There will be a greater David who will be set up as the one ruling shepherd over all his flock. This greater David is named Jesus. He will save his people from their sins. He will save his sheep. The proactive way that God seeks out his straying sheep is to give up his place on the throne and become one of them….to die for them in order to rise, rule, and shepherd them.
I don't ever want to be like the shepherds of Ezekiel 34, but neither can I attain the perfect pursuit of the one great Shepherd of all. I will never be a pastor like Jesus. Therefore, my dear church family, as I see it I have but one job I can faithfully pursue. If you don't mind, I am just going to keep pointing you (and myself) to him who has all the power to rule as King and the perfect love to shepherd his flock. I am going to point to Christ relentlessly because if you are looking at me or any of our elders, you are inevitably going to be disappointed. The role of a shepherd in the church is to point you to the Shepherd of the church.
While Ephesians 4 still maintains the role of shepherd/pastor in a local church setting, it’s important that I ask for you to pray for the elders of our church. We will be doing our job best when we are pointing to the great Shepherd most.
May the Lord bless you as you follow the Good Shepherd. He loves you more than any man and he has ultimate power to keep you in his heavenly flock. Please think about Jesus as your great Shepherd this week.
In the Shepherd King,