Green Grass A Plenty

When Christians look at Ezekiel we see that we are being called by the passages into a place of lush, green, bounty. We are being called to a place of more than enough where everyone is nourished, nurtured, and everyone is cared for by the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd is a fierce protector of us, I like to think she is also a gentle caretaker. The Good Shepherd is loyal and the scripture speaks a narrative of a Shepherd who finds us, even when we are pushed aside and will make room for us in the fold. It tells the story of a shepherd willing to snatch us out of the hands of those ‘other’ shepherds who will use us for their own means, who will manipulate us and use their power to exploit us. The Good Shepherd is fiercely protective and will go to all lengths to gather us in, creating a safe sanctuary for all who need it find one. 

Those self-centered shepherds are My enemies! As far as I am concerned, they are no longer shepherds. They will not help themselves to My sheep any longer. I will recover My flock from those corrupt shepherds. I will snatch My sheep from their mouths! My sheep will no longer provide milk, clothing, or meat to them. I will personally go out searching for My sheep. I will find them wherever they are, and I will look after them. 12 In the same way one shepherd seeks after, cares for, and watches over his scattered flock, so will I be the guardian of My sheep. I will be their Rescuer! No matter where they have scattered, I will go to find them. I will bring them back from the places where they were scattered on that dark and cloudy day. 13-14 I will call them out from the nations, gather them from the countries, and bring them into their own land. I will feed them in the high mountain pastures and meadows of Israel. I will feed them on good pastures; they will graze on the mountain heights of Israel. They will lie down to rest on this good ground, and they will feed on succulent grasses in bountiful pastures on the slopes of Israel’s sanctuary mountains. 15 I Myself will watch over My sheep and feed My flock. Whenever they are tired, I will lead them to rest on the cool mountain grass. 16 When they are lost, I will seek them and bring back every last stray. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak.
— Ezekiel 34:11-16

But where the Good Shepherd welcomes and cares for us, creating a safe, lush, sanctuary valley; the good shepherd welcomes and cares for the rest too. 

However, I will destroy the fat *over-consumers* and powerful. I will feed them a healthy portion of judgment.17 As for you, My flock, this is what the Eternal Lord has to say: “Watch carefully! I will judge between one sheep and another, between rams and male goats.” 18 Are you not satisfied grazing in blooming pastures, feasting off rich mountain lands? Do you have to trample all of the pastures with your feet? Are you not satisfied drinking out of clear mountain streams? Do you have to muddy all of the mountain streams with your feet? 19 Why should the rest of My flock have to graze on trampled pastures and drink from muddied streams because of your careless feet?
— Ezekiel 34:16

Wow. That changed quickly, didn’t it? I thought we were special? I thought the Good Shepherd did all of that to gather us here because he saw we were more like him? Now we are being called names? So what if we are over graze?

What about my rights? 

We are just taking up the space that you gave us to take up? We are entitled to walk around aren’t we? Do we not have the right given to us by the Good Shepherd to simply be? And if I do not feed more grass than the rest, I will not have enough! I earned my right to be here! I did all the things you said to do and I paid my own way! I pulled myself up by my bootstraps. What are these places you say we are trampling? I don’t even see any trampled grass? That grass was like that long before we ever came along. This is a systemic grass issue. Maybe someone should raise awareness about this issue!

 

This place in the scripture reminds me of a poem by Yehuda Amichai, named ‘ From the The Place Where We Are Right'

From the place where we are right Flowers will never grow
In the spring.

The place where we are right Is hard and trampled
Like a yard.

But doubts and loves
Dig up the world
Like a mole, a plow.
And a whisper will be heard in the place Where the ruined

House once stood. 


We want to believe that the green grass is for us because we are special, we earned it on our own merit or we believe that the Good Shepherd somehow loves us more. But we forget our own position of the most nourished sheep, we actually believe that our identity is based on our priviledged sheep status. We forget our rescued status all to quickly. 

We take more than we should and we don’t leave any space for the weak and malnourished among us. We push them to the margins and we use the very identities that make them vulnerable in the first place, to do it. 

20 So this is what the Eternal Lord has to say to them: “Watch carefully! I will personally judge between the fat sheep and the skinny sheep.” 21 Because you fat sheep bully the weak, push them around, and threaten them with your horns until you scatter them to distant mountains, 22 I will step in and save them. I will rescue them, and they will no longer be hunted and hassled. I will judge between one sheep and another. 23 I will designate one shepherd over the entire flock: My faithful servant, David. He will watch over them and care for them. He will be their shepherd. 24 I, the Eternal, will be their God; and My faithful servant, David, will be their prince.
— Ezekiel 34:20-24

Unless we take the time to ‘watch carefully’, to do the admittedly uncomfortable work of understanding our own privilege; a word which the poet Andre Gibson defines by saying “Privilege means never having to think about it”, we actually end up mudding the green pastures for everyone, including ourselves. Our own privileged perspective can skew the true gift the Shepherd is offering to all of us. After all, if we believe we deserve to be over fed because we have better character, better values, we are negating the very thing that the Good Shepherd did for us in the first place to bring us into the fold. 

I know what you are thinking; you don’t know my story, I am the thin sheep for sure let me tell you why and how. If you think there is no place for you to look inside and find more room for someone besides yourself to take up space at the Lord’s Table and in the green grass and in the space of the church, in the space of our culture and communities... 


Let me ask you these questions:

Do you have a home? A roof?
An apartment on a safe street?
Do you have a Drivers License? Or other photo identification?
Do you have one with your chosen name and the gender you identify as?

Do you have a Social Security Card?
Or other legal means to be in this country?

Can you find employment? 

Does your family speak to you? Did you have to leave your family? 

Did your family die? Are thy incarcerated?  


Do you regularly go to bed hungry?
Do you have insurance?
Do you have a college education?
How about a High School education?

Do you have a Marriage Certificate?  
Do you feel comfortable going into the bathroom of the gender you identify with?
Do you feel fear when you are pulled over by the police?

Have you ever had your children taken from you? 

Have you ever had to flee your home for fear of violence?

Have you ever been belittled or attacked because of who you are or what you believe?


These are just a few of the things that those of us ‘with’ do not think about. They are built into our society for the some sheep, excluding others... they have to work hard, fight and beg for the things some sheep find automatic. 

This passage of scripture calls us to look from beyond our priviledged sheep eyes. 

It calls us to the green grass but it asks us to make room for the malnourished and vulnerable to graze among us. For it is a loving shepherd that removes the sheep who are taking up too much and not leaving enough for those who need more, for survival. It is a loving shepherd who asks us to move aside and make room at the table for those among us who have survived trauma and violence & need a valley to find refuge in. 

This was published on the Reconciling Ministries Network Blog