Shepherd And King
The Rev. Jon Roberts
Calvary Episcopal Church
Indian Rocks Beach, FL
31 “When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. 34 Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? 38 And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? 39 And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’ 46 And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Christ the King, by Cecilia Lawrence, 2014
The Shepherd and the King, share not the same name;
So how can it be that they are one in the same?
One who may be true while the other who may be lost;
What a shame, who’s to blame,
And who will pay the cost?
How can one person be two, at the same time? It sounds like a costly exercise. There is a popular television show that demonstrates how this can be done. It became a hit in the US and quickly took to other countries. In 2016, in Ontario, Katharine Schmidt, the CEO of the non-profit organization Food Bank Canada was the “Boss” selected by the TV producers to go “undercover” in the day-to-day operations, working as a volunteer in a few of her local food banks. Of course, she had to change her name and have a make-over, changing her outer appearance with a wig and wearing street clothes in order to conceal her identity. Over the course of a week, “Shelly” worked under the supervision of some remarkable employees. She wanted to learn how things were being handled on the ground, to see how efficient, safe and productive the places of food distribution were operating. But most importantly she wanted to see firsthand the character of those who represented the organization.
She met Doreen, a warehouse operator who was older but more youthful than Katherine... I mean “Shelly.” She worked her hard and trained her well. While taking a break Doreen shared that she had two daughters, and three grandchildren, who lived with her. One of her daughters had a hysterectomy and it was obvious how important family was to her.
She met Mark, a Food Kitchen manager who had an obvious speech disability from a car accident, ten years ago. He was a guitarist for a successful rock band prior, and after recovery he had no where to turn until he found help by working in the kitchen and later becoming manager. “One day your whole life can change and the most important thing is to celebrate the time God has given you, not what you have lost.”
She met Bob, a serious Food Kitchen manager, drove her hard, often reprimanding her for being slow or not putting on gloves when required at certain times, but deep down Shelly knew he had a big heart. She was right. He loved to make each person who was hungry feel important and like they were the guest of honor. He and his wife adopted Bob, Jr., the love of their life who shared his love for vintage cars.
Shelly, or Katharine, would not have learned any of this if she were the boss. Two people, the same, but shared not the same name.
She noticed that there was a cost one has to pay in order to learn such things. She had to give up her authority for a short time. She had to be receptive to taking orders and meeting demands, although she may have felt there was a better way. She definitely had many take always. One thing that was fundamental in working in the food banks was being able to read people. In all cases she discovered those who represented the organization had a servant’s heart. Perhaps that came with the territory of feeding the poor and the hungry. What would it had been like for the CEO if she were asked to do this longer, one may ask. What if she went undercover for three years, instead of 3-4 days? Perseverance, patience, fortitude and a lot of hope would obviously be tested to determine the character of the individual in what is true and what is lost. Would she have been like these three people who were faithful in showing up each day to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate?
Do we know of someone who was the Boss, such as a King, who came to be a lowly servant such as a Shepherd? To be a servant for the Lord, means you have to make a distinction between your nature, being able to adjust between what is of heaven and what is of earth. Each of us has our own identity that is often split. We want to be elevated, above all the ordinary, mundane and often frivolous nature of being a human being. We want to remove ourselves from the world of pain and suffering, heartbreak and loss, but as that one employee said, “One day your whole life can change and the most important thing is to celebrate the time God has given you, not what you have lost.” So how do we do it? How do we suffer through life, yet rise above it and be joyful?
The answer is within the words of the prophet Ezekiel and within the parable by Jesus. The prophet shares what God spoke, “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.” Later on, “I myself will judge between sheep and sheep.” In some sense, like the undercover boss, he comes as a lowly shepherd, one of the lowest of human vocations yet one of the most important in God’s eyes.
Within the parable of Jesus, we see this most clearly. He came down from heaven in order to cohabitate and be with us, his servants. Jesus Christ, the King humbled himself so he could live with sheep and goats. With those who were true and with those who were lost. Like the food on the shelf, there is an expiration date and a “best before” date. The days of our lives are numbered and God will not take food that has gone bad as it causes harm to the next generation. So it is with us. He separates the sheep from the goats; the redeemable and the rotten. Maybe you feel that your life is in a perishable trouble and your heart is troubled by the thought of being discarded by God. Do you think Doreen, Mark or Bob considered whether they were living for heaven or for earth? Most certainly they lived for the moment to serve and to persevere. How surprised they were when they met Katharine, the “Boss” when she revealed herself. Of course, this now made sense. They were in the business of recovering and distributing food to the lost. It will all make sense to us as well when we serve as Christ the King served. He came down from heaven to learn and to love; to serve and to be fed by God’s omnipotent hand. He is in the business of recovering and distributing souls. He needs you to feed the hungry, give drink to those who thirst, to clothe the naked and visit the sick and imprisoned.
The shepherd and the king, although they share not the same name,
They are certainly one in the same.
Jesus came to restore what is true and reclaim those who are lost.
What a shame, and what a blame
For those who do not pay honor to what he did
When he measured the cost.
 The Rev. Jon Roberts
 Ezekiel 34:11-24
 Matthew 25:31-46