This week's author is the Rev. Dr. Michael Ciba, Senior Regional Minister for the Connecticut Conference, UCC.
Scripture: Ezekiel 34: 11-16 (NRSV)For thus says the Lord God: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited parts of the land. I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord God. 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, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice.
Reflection:Some people go to church because they think they need God. Others go to church because they think God needs them. This scripture passage is music to the ears of those of us who know we need God.
God seeks us out when we are lost. God rescues us when we’re in trouble. God picks us up when we fall. God brings us back together when we have scattered ourselves all over the place. God settles us in the right place. God provides us with nourishing food and life-sustaining water. On the move or standing still, we are safe because God protects us. God heals us when we are injured and strengthens us when we are weak. We want to sing both “Hallelujah” and “Kumbaya”!
But, in the second half of the last verse, God presents us with an edge that shatters the idyllic pastoral moment. “…but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice.” Even when we are blessed to be in the presence of God’s love, protected by God’s strength, we must never be content and complacent. God reminds us that there can be no true peace as long as injustice is present. God offers God’s presence not primarily for our comfort but so that we might have the strength to be, with God, co-creators of a more just world. The “food of justice” Ezekiel mentions may not taste good and may be hard to swallow, but it will strengthen us for the work of justice that is before us.
We need God. God needs us. We conclude the church year with the celebration of God’s realm. It is a reminder that God calls us—needy and needed—to be part of and to help create a world where we can all live in peace and where injustice is no more.
Prayer:As the daytime shortens and the air chills, we are reminded of the ending and the beginning of the year. Help us to know the power of your peace. Guide us as we work with you and one another.to create a more just world for all. Amen.
Special Prayer Requests:
- The family and friends of Rev. Betsy Bloomfield, retired pastor and long-time active member of the CT Conference, who died Nov. 13;
- the friends and family of Rev. Hugh Penny, paster Emeritus at South Church in New Britain, who died on Nov. 12; and
- those grieving or suffering in the community around Rancho Tehama Reserve, in Northern California after a shooting on Nov. 14 left 6 dead and 8 wounded.
- Those grieving or suffering after an earthquake struck along the border of Iran and Iraq, killing over 300 and injuring thousands on Nov. 12;
- the family and friends of Clyde Work, member of First Congregational Church of Guilford and life-long missionary, who died last week (Nov.);
- those grieving or suffering after a truck driver ran down pedestrians in New York City, killing 8 and injuring at least a dozen others on October 31;
- those grieving or suffering after a shooting at a church in Texas where at least 26 were killed and at least 19 more were wounded on Nov. 5;
- the people of Catalonia and Spain where tension is high after separatists leaders from Catalonia declared independence from Spain on October 27;
- the family of Rev. Sandra Lea Fischer, associate pastor at South Congregational Church in Granby, whose father, Milton Fischer, died October 26;
- the people of Somalia after a car bomb in Mogadishu killed over 350 people on October 14;
- The people of California where wildfires have led to at least 40 deaths and burned more than 100,000 acres;
- the millions of people currently worried about losing health insurance as the White House and Congress consider and enact changes to the current health care system;
- those grieving or suffering after a shooting at a country music festival in Las Vegas, which left more than 50 dead and over 400 wounded on Oct. 2
- the people of Puerto Rico, after Hurricane Maria caused massive devastation on Sept. 20;
- the thousands of child immigrants protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program as their future becomes unclear after the President's announcement that the program will end in the near future;
- Mark Engstrom, member of the CT Conference Board of Directors, and his wife Nina, who are facing health issues;
- the community of Conway, MA, and the United Congregational Church, UCC, Conway after a tornado touched down on Feb. 25 causing significant structural damage;
- the people of South Sudan where nearly 1 million people are facing famine;
- the members and staff of Thompson Congregational Church after a fire severely damage the building on Dec. 29;
- Michael White, former Operations Manager at Silver Lake Conference Center, who was diagnosed with colon cancer;
- Juliane Silver, the daughter of the Rev. Jim Silver of Middletown, who is in dire need of a liver transplant. We pray that a donor will come forward giving the gift of life and a portion of their liver to Juliane;
- Chacy Eveland, husband of the Rev. Marcia Eveland, pastor of the First Congregational Church UCC of Ansonia, who has been moved to a full-time facility for care of dementia;
- the thousands of migrants worldwide who flee from violence and persecution in search of safety;
- our ecumenical partners in the Kyung-Ki Presbytery in South Korea;
- the Conference's partners working for peace in Colombia amidst violence;
- the leaders of this nation, that they may meet the challenges of the day with insight, wisdom, and compassion;
- this nation, that it may continue its difficult work to end the practices of racism; and
- those serving or living in war or conflict zones around the world, or where terrorists have struck.
Please Remember These Connecticut Conference Churches
In Your Prayers:
Winchester Center Congregational Church, UCC
Jacquelyn Reed Hall – P
Ernest L. Bengston Jr - PE
First Church in Windsor, UCC
Nicole G. Yonkman – SP
Adrienne Armes - AP
First Church of Winsted, UCC
Lisa Gustafson - P
Wolcott Congregational Church
Sue C Strachan – P
Frank P. Haggard - PE
The First Church of Christ, Woodbridge
Shepard A. Parsons – SP
Morgan Aery – Y, CE
Michael Ciba is the Team Leader and Southwest Area Conference Minister of the Southern New England Conference. He works with CT churches in the Fairfield East, Fairfield West, and Litchfield South Associations to provide resources, interpret the work...