Jeremiah 23:1-6 (NRSV)
Chapter 23Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the Lord. Verse 2Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the Lord. Verse 3Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. Verse 4I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the Lord. Verse 5The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. Verse 6In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: "The Lord is our righteousness."
It is a bit frightening for pastors to read this scripture since we are commonly considered shepherds. While we know what we do involves great responsibility, the thought that we might scatter the flock with evil doings intensifies the concern. All the readings for this coming week center around gathering the family of God. Jeremiah addresses bringing the kingdoms of Judah and Israel together via the “raising up of for David a righteous Branch” (verse 5). The two kingdoms of Israel and Judah were already divided in the time of Jeremiah, but in Christian tradition the new reign of justice was understood as a reference to the coming of Jesus. The good news is that God continues the quest for justice and righteousness even when distracted by unruly sheep—good news that is a relief to shepherds and to pastors, who are really sheep dogs nipping at the heels of their human flock under the supervision of the one who is our Good Shepherd.
Dear God of Connections, bring us together with your love. Hold us fast with your commitment to us. Amen.