King and Shepherd

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For the Last Sunday after Pentecost or Proper 29: Christ the King Sunday

From “Saving the Ants”

Artwork by Elsa Ingulsrud

Scripture References: Matt. 25:31-46 and Ez. 34:11, 16  “I myself will search for my sheep…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…”

Preparation: Bring a large cardboard or wooden shepherd’s staff to help ’round up the sheep.’

What does a king do? Can anyone tell me what the job of being king might be like? What sorts of things would you have to take care of? (Let children respond.) A king has to make laws. A king might have to be a judge and decide who is right. A king has to defend his country and his people from attacking armies. Do you think that a king has to take care of sheep? Does that sound like a job for a king? (Children can answer.)

Shepherding is a dirty, tiring job. You’ve got to chase after sheep all day, and then you have to sleep with them at night. If a wolf is running after your sheep, you have to run out and tackle the beast and protect your flock. Can you imagine a king in velvet robes and golden crown running around in a muddy pasture chasing sheep?

Well, today is Christ the King Sunday and we recognize that Jesus Christ is the Almighty King, ruler of heaven and earth. But the Old Testament reading describes the Lord God as a shepherd taking good care of his sheep. A king and a shepherd, those are the pictures we have of our Lord this Sunday.

Ezekiel 34 tells us what kind of shepherd our Lord is: “I myself will search for my sheep. . . . 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” (Ez. 34:11, 16 NRSV). Even when the sheep are scattered all over the place, the shepherd will gather them up and bring them back. God always looks for us when we’ve turned away from him and have taken the wrong and dangerous path. Our Lord never gives us up for lost.

Would someone like to try shepherding this morning? (Choose a volunteer and hand them the shepherd staff.) Now, the rest of you are sheep. I’d like you to spread out here in the front. (You may have to set boundaries and say that sheep have to be on all fours so that your sheep don’t stray too far.) The shepherd needs to gather up his sheep and bring them back here to sit down again. The shepherd will walk around calling, “Here sheep! Come home!” And as soon as the shepherd touches you with his staff, you have to follow him. Make sure you touch everyone gently with your staff, shepherd. (Help if needed.)

Good job, shepherd. (Sheep sit again.) Jesus wants us to take care of each other just like he cares for us. He wants us to feed the hungry, take care of the sick, and even help people who have done bad deeds. By caring for others, we care for Jesus. Every one of you can be a good shepherd.

Prayer: Jesus, you are our Good Shepherd. Thank you for your tender care.

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