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“Surprise! Meet Ezekiel!”

Hope or Depair: Compassion or Punishment Mary Etta Mest Podcast

The word “compassion” appears a multitude of times in the Bible in the King James and the New Revised Standard Version; perhaps the other versions likewise. God’s compassion balances his jealousness for being our God. God was merciful and bountiful with his people but they did not realize how good their life was when they faced God. Bright lights from false gods attracted them. Easy living drew their laziness genes. Then God used the power he had to make life miserable for the Israelites. It is Adam and Eve over and over. Can we believe that it was God’s compassion that led him to punish? Personally, I believe we can persuade people with honey more than punishment but apparently I don’t subscribe to the same behavior methods as God does. Should we question God’s governing style? It seems simple: Face God, obey the rules, live well! Turn away from God, live miserably, separated from God! Think wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes, disease, floods, 9/11! Think how full our jails and prisons are! Think! Is God trying to get our attention? Is it the end times? Is there any compassion to be found in these times? Think of our overcrowded prisons; think of the riots! Would you agree that something is wrong? You can finish reading on my blog: https://scripturecomingalive.com/2021/02/03/hope-or-depair-compassion-or-punishment/
  1. Hope or Depair: Compassion or Punishment
  2. How Lowly Are the Shepherds – Episode 6 – Rev. Mary Etta Mest Podcast
  3. Weeds and Wheat – Ep.03 – Rev. Mary Etta Mest Podcast
  4. Is the seed alive? – Rev. Mary Etta Mest Podcast – Ep. 2
  5. “Surprise! Meet Ezekiel!” God gives Ezekiel the Prophet a vision of dry bones coming to life – RMEM Podcast Ep. 1

What is that delicious smell? Oh you came to visit your cousins and your grandma and grandpa and you and your cousins and all the parents are streaming through the door in anticipation. This is so exciting, coming home for grandma’s birthday. Everyone would like to sit around this huge table at once but it is going to take a bit of patience until all of the food is on the table. Grandma is in charge – she is still going strong, as we say. Finally, after greeting all the cousins and aunts and uncles someone gets you all seated and you can hardly resist getting that fork in your hands. 

But wait. You expect a prayer but what is grandma insisting? Oh, someone who can get free from the circle of chairs shall please get her Bible. So inwardly you groan. More delay. More patience. But grandma knows exactly which page she wants and finds it quickly. There it is! She is looking at Psalm 100. She hands the Bible to the person on her right and says, “Please read verse one.” “Make a joyful noise onto the Lord, all ye lands,” we hear. The Bible gets passed to the next person and the next person. We hear “gladness,” then we shall come into his presence with singing! Each person increases the excitement as the Bible moves from hand to hand. Oops! “We are his sheep.” Sheep? We are invited to enter. Good news of course. But directions: we shall enter with thanksgiving and praise. Aha! This is the prayer, bouncing from the middle of the Bible onto our plates, into our minds, and sinking right into our hearts! Clever grandma! 

Surely that is the only thing alive about this worn book. But wait. There is Ezekiel and the Dry Bones. There is a valley full of old, dry bones. Full! Dead! Separated dry bones! No life left in them. Just dried out from the wind blowing over them. How did they get there? These bones are part of a vision which God gave to Ezekiel. The bones symbolize the relationship between God and the people of Israel – his own people. The people descended from Abraham. 

Sometimes this relationship is fine and dandy, sometimes not. These people sometimes turned their backs on the God of Abraham and worshiped glitzy, false gods. Then the relationship was like a deep, deep chasm between God and his people. God is a jealous God – like a mother hen or a mother bear. So God pictures these people as so many separated, dry bones spread over a huge area. 

God shares this vision with Ezekiel. He is a prophet (one of God’s spokespersons) during the Exile – the name of the time when enemies destroy Jerusalem and take many of the people into exile in Babylon – a foreign country, mean king. Why does God let this happen to his beloved people? They are bad. They turned their backs on God. God needs to teach them a lessson. God even uses wicked rulers to do the dirty work. 

Now the thing is, no matter how angry God becomes, he keeps a spark of hope going. God not only shows these dead, separated bones to Ezekiel. God directs Ezekiel in prophesying to the bones so that these bones put on a show. Ezekiel admits that he has no idea if these bones can live again when God poses that question to him. Finally, God tells Ezekiel to command the bones to come to life. 

Thus, with words and God’s power, muscles and skin start moving over the bones. But no life shows. Then, God says to Ezekiel, “Tell the winds to blow from every direction and blow life into these bones.” The winds blow. The bones come together and stand up – enough for a large army. 

You may know the song about the dry bones – how they come together starting with the toes to the feet all the way to the neck bone and, of course, the head bone. Can you just imagine a large space filled with bones rattling while they dance themselves together? And the Holy Spirit brings the breath. Bones alive, I’ll say! 

After this experience, Ezekiel is filled with hope himself and can readily share this hope with the Israelites in exile. God keeps his promise and the Israelites are led back to Jerusalem, their home. There is much real history in this story of Ezekiel but the point of this story is not the historical facts as much as the spiritual understanding: God maintains the spirit of hope and restores us to his fold no matter how far we wander like sheep nibbling as we go. 

So great! Surely the other stories in the Bible are deader than dead. Wrong! I remember hearing that Jesus healed people who had died. Oh, what’s that? They only seemed to be dead. Mmmmm 

There is stinky Lazarus in the tomb for four days already. I would call that dead – would you not? Jesus says, “Come forth, Lazarus.” One of his sisters even tries to prevent Jesus from calling Lazarus forth because the smell would be so great. Guess who walks from the tomb still bound in the burial cloths. Lazarus lives. So there! 

Another time the people try to tell Jesus that a little girl is dead. Too late,” they say. But Jesus says she is only sleeping. She rises! 

Before these other characters, there is the dust which comes alive, not with creepy crawlies. No, a man. Yes, a man! And to top that, a rib from that man becomes a woman! Never ends! Jesus is still pulling people to life. Jesus can release us from our life of dullness or even unkindness to say the least. Jesus can restore us to be the persons we were created to be. My understanding is that we are to help other people be the persons they were created to be. We are each created to bring each other into aliveness. 

How will this aliveness look? People moving around like jumping beans? Without a plan? Without guidance? That would be entertaining but not very useful except to tickle our funny bone. Being alive in Christ is a whole different life. Feeling joyful inside no matter what is happening on the outside! Helping other people to feel alive. 

Christ is alive! He is not hanging on the cross. Jesus Christ is alive with the power to bring aliveness to this dead world. “Rejoice and be glad!” we read in Holy Scripture. Let’s rattle our bones and dance with joy to express our aliveness in Christ. 

Dearest Jesus, even though we cannot see your physical body, we can feel your presence with us, we can feel our bones dancing in rhythm to your dancing. May our hearts and mind overflow with being alive in you. In your name, we pray. Amen

 Podcast Message – 07-01-20

Title: “Surprise! Meet Ezekiel!”

Scripture References:

Ezekiel 37:1-14; John 11:1-44; Genesis 2:7; Acts 9:40; Luke 23:43: Luke 24 

“As Children of God, What is Right and What is Wrong?”

Sermon – 04-18-21 – Easter III – Cycle B
Scriptures: Acts 3:12-19; Psalm 4; 1 John 3:1-7; Luke 24:36b-48
Sermon Title: As Children of God, What is Right and What is Wrong?

If we think we are the only person who makes occasional bad choices, listen to the dilemma of King Darius in the time of Daniel. The time of Daniel is when the Israelites were captives in Babylon. But by the time of this story, the Medes and Persians had overtaken the Babylonians. King Darius was the king at this time.

This verse from Daniel 6:18 in the Old Testament from the New International Version of the Bible, reads like this: “Then King Darius returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him. And he could not sleep.” I think King Darius has something on his mind. Do you already know what it is?

Daniel is one of the captured Israelites. God had given Daniel the power and ability to interpret dreams and such. As the Babylonians eventually lost power to the Medes and Persians, a Darius became king. Daniel’s story is stuff for thrilling movies. It could take a whole sermon but not today. The problem evolves that King Darius made Daniel govern the whole kingdom. Daniel was made governor of the whole kingdom because he governed better than any of the other possible governors. The other persons who would have been governors were out to get Daniel.

These jealous men came to the king and suggested that King Darius make a rule that everyone in the kingdom must bow to King Darius and to no other god or gods for the next thirty days. If anyone does, that person shall be placed in a lion’s pit overnight.

King Darius thought that was a good idea, either not knowing or forgetting that Daniel worshiped Daniel’s one and only God. So he signed this order into law. In this kingdom laws could not be changed. When the jealous men reported to King Darius about Daniel praying three times a day to his God, King Darius was heartbroken! He had been trapped by his own jealous governors.

As Daniel was being placed in the den with live, hungry lions, King Darius came to Daniel and told Daniel that he, King Darius, was praying that Daniel’s God would protect him. That is when the verse I read came into play. King Darius wanted no food, no usual entertainment, and he could not sleep. At daybreak, King Darius ran to the lion’s den. He heard Daniel’s voice! King Darius became a believer in Daniel’s God. King Darius commanded everyone in his kingdom to worship and honor the God of Daniel.

Did you notice the cover of our bulletin? It is bright colors around the words “right” and “wrong” and “?s” King Darius learned that he was wrong to listen to his jealous officials. King Darius learned that it was right to pray to Daniel’s God – our God.

We heard in our 1 John 3 reading today that God has named us his children. We are children of God! We can only be children of God if we are without sin. Well, I don’t know about you, but I would have a very short stay as a child of God. In no time, I would be complaining about something. A sin. Now what! I am thrown out of the family of God something like Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den. Is it the end of me or will God love me enough to take me back as his child? The good news is that God loves us so much that the warm circle of his arms is always open. But not so fast! We can’t go back and forth in and out of God’s love like a sideways yoyo.

First, we need to know what is right and what is wrong. Using the Ten Commandments as a guide is the place to start. If my sin is complaining, I think I am breaking the commandment about my attitude toward my neighbor – the one about telling lies about other people. That is the umbrella for gossiping. I put my complaining under that umbrella. I can either be complaining about God’s actions or lack of action or I can complain about my neighbor. It is false. It is wrong to be doing this. I am smearing my neighbor. I am denying my relationship with God.

Do you remember the lesson when Jesus said that “We should not speak about the speck in our neighbor’s eye while we ourselves have a log in our eye.” It is wrong. We are not building up relationship and gifts and talents. We are tearing down something that could be wonderful.

It is wrong! What the “right” would be is that we say only encouraging things about our neighbors and about all of God’s actions or lack of actions, like too much rain when the grass needs to be mowed. Then we try to mow the grass and the mower becomes clogged. It was a wrong action to not wait for the wind to come along and dry the grass. When our schedule is out of sync with nature, we have some choices. We can develop some patience. We can be creative and change our schedule. We might even be thanking God that the grass is growing rather than our having a drought.

What wrong choices have you made – either with thought or accidentally? Does you poor choice keep you awake at night? Does your poor action, or do your unkind words, make you a grouchy person? Are you out of sorts? Are you out of God’s family and his embrace? Are you making the people around you uncomfortable or miserable? In Psalm 4 today, we read, “Answer me when I call, O God, defender of my cause; you set me free when I was in distress. Have mercy on me and hear my prayer.”

So our God showers us with mercy when we ask for forgiveness; when we realize we have done wrong. In our Acts lesson today, Peter is actually loudly accusing the Jews who demanded that Pilate crucify Jesus. He boldly says, “. . . you killed the Author of Life.” But Peter does not leave this crowd of people without hope. First Peter says that God planned it to happen as it did. Second, if persons in this crowd want to connect with Jesus the Son and with the Father, there is hope. They simply need to repent and turn to God and their sins will be “wiped out.”

So it is with us. No matter what wrong we have said or done, no matter the awful result, God will help the situation and God will offer restoration to our souls. There is no reason for us to stay outside of God’s grace. God will help us to find the “right,” the good, the return to a Father’s embrace.

Psalm 4 concludes, “In peace, I will lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me rest secure.”