We have been walking through some tenuous scriptural ground this week, grappling with hell and judgment, salvation and righteousness, empire and God’s kingdom. It is no easy terrain, no simple way to follow. Yet, as the questions arise, as confusion settles, and as wonder returns, we can hear the faint, far-off song of the creation of God. Through all and in all is God. God claims us. God loves us. God is good. The right response, then, is to praise, to sing, to gather with others both near and far, and to make a joyful noise, all the earth. Tambourines shake. Drums beat. Feet stomp. Hands clap. Trees dance. Moon pulses. Sun shines. Rivers flow. Seas rise. Voices of all sing God’s praise not because it’s easy but because it’s true.
We might consider Psalm 100 among the most honest of all the psalms as it testifies to what we and all creation know: God’s love endures forever, and God’s faithfulness extends to all generations. A song of promise, a song of faithfulness, a song of hope, a song of truth reminds us that amid loss, worry, pain, and regret; amid evil empires, violence, and greed; amid hopelessness and hate, we are never alone.
Our praise of God, however, never excuses us from our praise of others. We enter the sanctuary to find the renewal and strength we need to return to the world Jesus commands us to serve and love. Finally we understand doxology; we understand praise as an integrated flow of song and service offered to God for the sake of the world God so loves. In our singing, in our living, in our praising, and in our serving, may we “enter his gates with thanksgiving” and leave God’s gates buoyed to feed, clothe, and companion those we are called to serve.
Holy and Gracious God, you are good and your love endures forever. Thank you for promising to be with us in all and through all. Thank you for the gift of song that lifts our spirits and encourages us to share your love in the world. Amen.
The Bible uses metaphors meaningful in its time, and the image of a shepherd and sheep evokes protection, care, and safety. Through the prophet Ezekiel, God declares that all the scattered sheep will be joined together again. The weak and oppressed will receive special protection and justice from God. The psalmist says that the Israelites are the sheep of God’s pasture. In the Gospel reading, Jesus describes the final judgment as separating the sheep (those who are his) from the goats (those who are not). The distinction is made in part based upon how they treated the weakest among them. Although the epistle does not use the imagery of sheep, it describes the promises of a glorious inheritance reserved for those in God’s flock.
Read Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24. What does it mean for you that God seeks you as an individual and as part of your faith community?
Read Psalm 100. In times of trial or pain, how do you gather with others to praise God?
Read Ephesians 1:15-23. How do you express gratitude to God and for your faith community?
Read Matthew 25:31-46. How do you sit with unresolved questions of faith? How does asking questions of the Bible strengthen your faith or your comfort in not having answers to your questions?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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