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Sermon Illustrations for Christ The King (Proper 29) (2014)

Illustration
Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24
Ezekiel illustrates spiritual leaders as shepherds leading sheep. It is an agrarian illustration that people in his day would readily understand. Not so in our Western culture. Even growing up as a city boy myself, I think I know the one-word job description of a shepherd... attentiveness. The shepherd is to be attentive to the needs of the sheep... anytime or anyplace.

A shepherd is attentive to the need of prayer for his/her sheep. Henri Nouwen in The Living Reminder wrote, "We have fallen into the temptation of separating ministry from spirituality, service from prayer." He continues the thought that we often think that there is too much to do and that prayer is a luxury. He writes, "But to think this way is harmful... service and prayer can never be separated."

A shepherd is attentive to the need of holiness in the lives of his/her sheep. Purity of heart... the essence of holiness... must be our desire. Living life with a clean outlook and lifestyle drives us to our knees and to our Savior!

A shepherd is attentive to the need of power in the lives of his/her sheep. Not the spectacular power of "See what I can do," but the power to live life transformed by the Spirit of God. This power gives us freedom from being destroyed by Satan by being spiritually victorious over Satan, sin, and hell. The power to be people of justice... sharing with others, the power to be people embracing pain and suffering even when it comes our way.

As shepherds we need to ask God to help us give good gifts to our people through our life and ministry, this day and always!
Derl K.

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24
Sheepherding has changed. When I visited the Holy Land a few years ago, I saw a flock of sheep heading down a hill. Then I saw the shepherd coming behind them, urging them along with his rod. The Bible's example is the shepherd leading his sheep! What a difference! The shepherd in front is watching out for any danger to the sheep and warding it off. He "leads" his sheep where he wants them to go. Jesus is that kind of shepherd!

A missionary is an under shepherd looking for stray sheep in many nations. Even Old Testament prophets knew that God had many sheep who were not Jewish. They were the hated Gentiles.

Jesus had one bride -- his church. We are all one. There is not a black bride and an Asian bride, a Russian bride, a French bride, a Nepali bride. Neither is there a Methodist bride, a Baptist bride, a Roman Catholic bride, a Lutheran bride, and so forth. We are all one bride -- one flock in Christ. It is something we must recognize and not something we have to appoint a committee to create.

Sheep can recognize their shepherd and trust him to lead them to their own land. They have to be aware of a false shepherd who only wants to fleece them.

It is important to distinguish who is our true shepherd. Only God's Spirit can do that for us. Be careful of someone coming to your door claiming to know the true and only way to the Lord's kingdom. We should recognize the true shepherd by searching scripture and by being in a church where we find other sheep who have been saved.

I am getting phone calls every week from either a person or a recorded voice that wants to sell me something that will help me live a long, healthy life, something I can't live without. The voice is strong and friendly -- like they are only concerned for me even though they don't know me. There are many voices trained to sound like our true shepherd. Only the true shepherd will lead us into green pastures and protect us from the wolves that are trying to devour us. We must constantly be in prayer that God will save us from false shepherds. Be sure to remain in the Lord's flock so that you can follow the rest of his sheep -- so that he will not have to go looking for you.

Notice that Jesus is both the shepherd and also a lamb. He has become one of us before going up to lead us. He knows what we go through in our life on earth. We can trust him. We are his sheep.
Bob O.

Ephesians 1:15-23
The exalted Christ the King fills all in all. Theologians speak of the cosmic Christ as a way of expressing the lordship of Christ. By this they mean to depict the idea that Jesus permeates and saturates all dimensions of the created order. Martin Luther powerfully expresses this reality:

Depressed or exalted, circumscribed in whatever way, dragged hither or thither, I still find Christ. For he holds in his hands everything in heaven or on earth and all are subject to him -- angels, the devil, the world, sin, death, and hell. Therefore, so long as he dwells in my heart, I have courage, wherever I go. I cannot be lost. I dwell where Christ my Lord dwells.
(Complete Sermons, Vol. 4/2, p. 279)

John Wesley makes a similar point when commenting on this lesson:

The original expression [that in Christ all things hold together] not only implies that he sustains all things in being, but more directly all things were and are compacted in him into one system. He is the cement as well as the support of the universe.
(Commentary on the Bible, p. 546)

All-powerful sovereign that he is, Jesus holds all dimensions of life together, is the universe's cement, is to be found in every corner of our lives.
Mark E.

Ephesians 1:15-23
Cecil De Mille learned in June 1958 that the plans to place translations of the hieroglyphics on the Egyptian obelisk in Central Park in New York City lacked the necessary funding. De Mille volunteered to finance the project at the base of "Cleopatra's Needle," saying, "As a boy, I used to look upon the hieroglyphics as so many wonderful pictures."

Application: The eyes of our hearts can only be enlightened when we have someone to translate the gospel message into words that we can comprehend.
Ron L.

Matthew 25:31-46
Jesus must be with us right now wherever we are here on earth, but we don't recognize him. He does not come dressed as we expect. He certainly didn't come dressed as the scribes and Pharisees expected. Even his followers asked, "Show us the Father." They didn't recognize him. No one expected a humble carpenter's son to be the king of kings.

When I was walking down the street in Sacramento years ago, a fellow in worn-out cloths and holes in his shoes came past me. I could smell him as he passed, but it suddenly dawned on me that God loved him as much as he loved me. After that, I treated all the "bums" that came to my parish with respect. I did not give them money to buy booze. I had tickets printed for a restaurant near my church, good for one meal. I could usually tell by the way they received it whether it was what they hoped they would get.

God can be disappointed with some who may be part of the notorious 1% who think that the other 99% should take care of themselves and not bother them.

I am not a sports fan, but on a flight back east once there was a man sitting next to me who seemed disappointed that I didn't recognize him, so he had to say that he was a football star in Colorado and was going back east to check out an invitation to join a team there.

On another flight I sat next to cute little teenager who jabbered away during the whole trip, but when I was leaving someone asked me, "Did you know you were sitting next to Patty Duke?"

If we sometimes even miss the rich and famous, it is not surprising that we miss seeing our Lord in the much humbler ones we come in contact with.

It is easier to throw a few dollars in the offering plate so we don't have to separate "our Lord" from the bums and misfits.

When traveling to some countries, the poor and needy crowd around you on the streets with their hands out. There are so many that we just push them out of the way knowing we can't possibly help them all.

This happened to us as missionaries to Nepal, but when we began to recognize some of the people, it touched our heart. There was one man in Nepal who we called "stinky peter." We couldn't get too close to him, but we often came out of a restaurant with a carryout bag of leftovers. I handed him my bag of leftovers one day and he overflowed with gratitude! Then he came to our church and played a guitar for our service. Though we never sat too close to him, he was always welcome after that.

Let's hope we recognize the Lord in those who ask for help -- unless you want to be a goat.
Bob O.

Matthew 25:31-46
Oystein Brinch of Oslo, Norway, wrote a devotional for the Upper Room on May 18, 2014. Oystein relates the true story of a time when a visitor came to the family home to attend a church conference. The initial service opened with the king of Norway arriving to make a formal appearance. Brinch says that all 2,000 in attendance rose as one body and saluted him as is their custom. King Olav arrived in a plain gray suit.

At home in the evening Oystein's mother asked the visitor what she thought of having the king of Norway in attendance. Her reply was, "Everything was very fine; but I had expected him to wear a crown."

Throughout his life Jesus was humble with a compassion that was beyond extraordinary. His love for people sent him into the hands of a traitor (Judas), jealous clergy (Sanhedrin), and a cruel and fearful judge (Pilate). While on earth Jesus wore no crown except the crown of thorns placed there by the hands of merciless soldiers at his crucifixion.

The time of criticism and worldwide anonymity has ceased, but there is more to come. Jesus will come in his glory and all the angels with him and he will sit on his glorious throne and he will call the righteous to take their inheritance, the kingdom prepared for them as the King of kings, Lord of lords, almighty God! (Matthew 25:31, 34). There will be a crown of glory, and everyone will recognize his authority and stand in awe!
Derl K.
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