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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 

“Being Called to the Light”

Sermon – 01-22-23 – Epiphany 3 – Cycle A
Scripture: Isaiah 9:1-4; Psalm 27; 1 Corinthians 1:10-18; Matthew 4:12-23
Sermon Title: “Being Called To The Light”

The people who have walked in darkness – who is that and how is it? Well, nations have walked in deep darkness. They have been exiled, captured by stronger nations. Often God has made other nations strong just to teach Israel a lesson.

Individuals walk in deep darkness – or maybe not deep darkness but just darkness. Maybe a family is just keeping their heads above water with finances. Along comes a big, unexpected bill. Darkness! They need to dip into money which was being saved for a new much-needed roof. Darkness!

But another family was already behind in paying rent and long ago needed to give up health insurance. When illness strikes, all hope for ever catching up escapes them. This is deep darkness!

When a young member of the family had been a pleasant, agreeable child, but is now captured by drugs and has become a definite liability to the family, they say “Where has our little Billy gone? We have lost our child, a person who lived in our hearts wrapped in love for him and from him! Our lives are turned upside down. We have each other but we are not complete because Billy has not only disappeared as a loving member of “us” but he has become a liability to us as a family and to the whole community! We grieve the loss of Billy when we still share the house with him sporadically. We never know what is happening in his life until the police knock on the door. School is long gone for Billy. Tell me – is this not deep, deep darkness?

Then there is illness. A member of the family has been physically in pain for years. Consider the political state of the world. Of the United States. Of the havoc that climate change is causing. And who is causing climate change? Is it God? Is it us? Deep darkness!

By now you are wanting to escape this sermon. Well the light is coming! Better still the light is all around us now despite my images of darkness. Even better, the light was with humans from the beginning – before the creation of the world, there was light, but only God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – knew the light and enjoyed the light.

In our Isaiah lesson today, we heard “There will be no gloom for those who were in anguish.” Did you hear “will be” and “were in anguish?” When can we expect the light to shine in our lives, if gloom has been the controlling ambience? Is it up to us to create the light and the joy?

I have known families with a differently-abled person who say that baby and then child and then young person and then adult has brought so much joy into their families, they can’t imagine their family without this person.

Who will help us to look beyond the gloom in our lives? I know some of you are natured to live the joy amidst the gloom. It is our attitude that makes the difference. For some of us, this light and joy is natural. For others of us, the gloom is prevalent. We can’t seem to lift it from our minds and hearts and shoulders. How can we overcome?

How can we shine so that other people can see the light? Of course, it will only be a weak, short-lasting light if we try to do it ourselves. We can be temporary lights, like candles that are short and are situated in a breeze, or like a flashlight with a battery whose life has been used while providing much light. The real light of joy comes from God. But we need to accept this light.

On a bright, sunshiny, January day, people seem to be happier than on the gloomy days we seem to have frequently this year. Of course it is a bit easier to wake to sunshine than gloom. But there are two reasons that I do not care for the bright light. One is that all of the dust and dirt in my house is on display on a sunny day. The other reason that I have a problem with a sunny day is that my eyes, for whatever reason, do not adjust to the bright light of direct sun when I am driving. I have special sunglasses which help most of the time but the other day I was driving west slightly before noon and the sun was aimed precisely on my rear-view mirror, glancing off into my eyes. It was just for a moment so I did not have time to turn the mirror but it brings to mind the power of the sun. This bright light did not bring joy to me! I feel a bit like Saul when he is blinded by Jesus on the way to Damascus. How is that? Do I need to repent?

How will I connect to the joy that the light of God does bring to the world? I can repent. Our Matthew lesson has Jesus saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” “Repent?” I ask. “Turn around. Live life differently! Shed my sins.” the voice in my head is saying. My creative mind takes over. Look at the opportunities instead of the burdens. Look at things from a different angle. Open my heart. Open my ears. Is that Jesus calling? It is Jesus calling. I hear, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people instead of fish.” ‘Follow me and forget the dust. Follow me, Mary Etta, and I will make you full of joy that I have brought you to this place in your life to glorify me in a big way.”

I reply, “Oh, God, and oh my Jesus, I am eternally grateful for your call and for your provision for me to answer the call.” “But your light, God, shines on ALL of us gathered in this congregation. Your light bounces off each of us onto another of us. Your joy multiplies in that way. We each receive light from you and we share it. You have plans for each of us in your earthly kingdom. You call each of us. May each of us accept the talents and gifts you have brought to light. May we then fit like pieces of the puzzle to form a community in your earthly kingdom that multiplies light within and opens the doors and windows to let the light flow outside. We want no barrier to keep the light from calling to our neighbors near and far.”

People, we want no one left behind; no one who thinks the cross is foolishness. God wants us to accept the message of the cross as the shining light in our lives. The gloom of the cross is long gone. It is a bright light inviting us to a joy-filled life on earth and a glorious eternal life forever and ever. Amen