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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 

Is There Hope At The Table?

Sermon – 11-27-22 – Advent 1 – Cycle A
Scripture: Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 43; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:36-44
Sermon Title: Is There Hope At The Table?

If the residents in your home all sit at table at the same time, eating of the same food, you are indeed blessed. However, you may be a severe introvert and you cherish that time alone to read the newspaper or better still your daily devotion.

Then again, does a table, around which more than one person are gathered, automatically exude joy and happiness and affirmation? Or are there negative comments and is there grumbling? Who decides what your gathering table is like? How can a negative, gathered table be redirected to become a refreshing time?

Who sets the tone in your family? Who is the dominant person? Does that person lead a negative conversation or even just a bunch of grunts? If you are really blessed, the dominant person in your family has a joyful attitude, seeing some good in every situation; seeing a way to highlight a way forward with hope. Negative thinking gets us nowhere but backwards and down. We don’t need to go there. Even the youngest child can change the tone of table-talk.

Have you noticed that some children are given the gift of helpful speech? Their timing is part of the gift. When the family is on the brink of being in a bullying situation, the little fellow sitting in a booster chair says, “Patty helped mommy to set the table today. Thanks, Patty!” An alert person sitting at the table could be led to say, “Wow, Patty, thank you! How old are you anyway, Patty?” Soon you can help Mommy cook? The little guy in the booster chair sits there and beams, taking delight in having shifted the conversation.

Do you ever find yourself in the company of negative people? They seem to lack decent words, using only despicable and disparaging words over and over like there are only 50 words available in their dictionaries and in their spoken language. Someone else at the table may be led by the Holy Spirit to say a whole sentence without one unpleasant word. Let’s hear what Jack says after listening to Sam, the 50-word vocabulary guy.

We hear Jack saying, “Yes, Sam, I think you are on to a good idea. I agree that the leader of the borough council could be supported to gather people to clean-up the streets. I think he has done some other good projects to make our community better. However, I think we can get more done if we put our negative words in the trash bin over there, and find more encouraging words.” Sam’s eyes get big but in a few seconds he nods his head in agreement. Then the work can start. Sam and Jack can now lead the movement to work with the mayor and council members to develop a plan of action that will bring hope to this community.

You see, God is in the middle of our tables, even though we have not invited God. God is all-knowing, all-capable, all-present. God embodies hope, peace, joy, love. God helps us to serve him better with increased hope, increased peace, increased joy, increased love.

The little guy in the booster chair may be the first to notice God’s presence. “Hi, God,” little Brandon says, “Why are you here?” God says, “Brandon, I can be anywhere and everywhere that I choose. I choose to be here with you today.” “Why?” Brandon questions God. “Well,” God says, “I happen to love everyone I create. I created you and your family so I want to help you to be the best people that you can be. Each of you has some potential.”

“What is potential?” little Brandon asks. God says, “Potential is what you could become. Each person has potential. It is related to ‘hope.’ ” Each family group, each community council has potential as does each state and nation. The world, as you know the world, has potential. In whatever group is made of people, there is hope!

By this time, everyone at this table is wide awake. God is in their midst. God came to them. God’s Word tells us that Jesus is coming again. The Father is sending Jesus to us a second time. People on earth, at one point in time, were able to see Jesus. They walked with Jesus. They listened to Jesus. They watched him die on the cross. Of course, Jesus lived again. Then the Father claimed Jesus and drew him from earth with the promise to Jesus and to people on earth that he will come again. If I were Jesus, I am not sure that I would want to come to earth again. But Jesus wants what the Father plans. So we can expect to see Jesus again – either in heaven if we die before the second coming or on earth if Jesus comes while we are still here.

That is our hope. We live and work to that goal. We need to watch and wait for Jesus to come again. He will come to our tables if we are gathered at tables. Where will you be gathered when Jesus comes again? Where will I be? Will I be alone at a table reading a newspaper instead of God’s word?

Will you be sitting at a table with all eyes focused on a football game? Will you be sitting at a table where all words are those of complaining and shaming and bullying? Will Jesus find us with lust in our eyes? Will Jesus find us in hopeful planning for more loving relationships in our community? Will Jesus find us at a table in Borough Council or the State House of Representatives, or in the United States Senate? Will Jesus find us at a Consistory Meeting table? Will Jesus find us taking food to the people who are sitting at an empty table?

Or will Jesus find us, as Isaiah describes, on a figurative mountain top where negative thinking is gone and hope for ourselves, for the world, for our future appearance in heaven will prevail? I want to see this new time; the time of no more war, no more weapons, no more fighting between nations. This is our hope! This is our vision of hope that leads into an existence of peace! Praise be to God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! Amen