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“Surprise! Meet Ezekiel!”

Weeds and Wheat – Ep.03 – Rev. Mary Etta Mest Podcast Mary Etta Mest Podcast

In this podcast I share about Weeds and Wheat, Based on Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43, and Psalm 86: 11-17 and Romans 8:12-25 Jesus addresses the crowd with a parable about a wheat field in which weeds appear.  Jesus says after a farmer sows wheat, an enemy comes at night and sows weeds among the wheat.  What could be the lesson here?  Join me and hear the explanation.
  1. Weeds and Wheat – Ep.03 – Rev. Mary Etta Mest Podcast
  2. Is the seed alive? – Rev. Mary Etta Mest Podcast – Ep. 2
  3. “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 

“Who Has The Keys?”

Sermon – 08-23-20 – Proper 16 – Cycle A
Scriptures – Isaiah 51:1-6; Psalm 138; Romans 12:1-8; Matthew 1:13-20
Sermon Title: “Who Has the Keys”

In Matthew 16, Jesus tells Peter that Peter is being given the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Your might have seen cartoons that showed St. Peter standing at the gate of heaven with the authority to let people pass through or not.

Jesus seems to be talking about more than Peter being a gatekeeper from a list that he is holding in his hands. It seems that Jesus is giving Peter the authority to welcome or deny entrance to the earthly kingdom of God.

Before being given the keys, Jesus calls Peter the “rock” of the church. This is strange in that we usually think of Jesus being the rock or foundation of the church. It seems that Peter is being assigned the position of “lead disciple.” He shall get the church started. And for a while, Peter will decide who is welcome in the kingdom of God on earth.

Peter was originally called Simon. He was a fisherman. He became Simon Peter or just Peter in this passage. “Rock” and “Peter” are basically the same word in Aramaic, which was the popular form of Greek in the time of Jesus.

The three opportunities Peter had to use the keys were to accept Jews (Acts 2), and to accept Samaritans (Acts 8), then Gentiles (Acts 10). It seems that Peter got the church started in this giant way and then sort of faded from the scene but not before writing some letters, two of which are in our Bible. Do you know that Peter died on a cross but head-down? Talk about suffering and losing one’s life! We believe, of course, that Peter is in heaven and we may meet him one day.

I also expect to find my Jewish friends in heaven. I hope to meet Samaritans too. I think we will not be labeled in heaven. I think we will all be considered as children of God, regardless of background, regardless of skin color, regardless of bank accounts or social status we may have had on earth. There will be no low-income housing. If there are mansions, they will be open to everyone.

I don’t expect to see Peter standing at the gate. There will be no gate in my picture of heaven. What is your picture of heaven? If everyone will be equal in heaven, why should we use our God-given gifts on earth? Because we want to please God. God created us with certain gifts, certain talents. God wishes for us to use them in holy ways. The world will not help us in this endeavor. It is the Holy Spirit person of God who will help us. It is the Holy Spirit who will form us in certain communities. It is the Holy Spirit who will mold us by fitting us together like a puzzle. The more each of us uses our special talents, the more we will be like a well-tuned motor to glorify God..

I am always disappointed that Paul does not state more talents in his letters, in his exhortations to new Christians and to new churches. Let’s see where my list can take us. As I list talents that a church community needs, mentally check the ones that are already revealed in our Zion United Church of Christ in Womelsdorf. We may have all of these talents now. Think of persons who fit the description. Let’s see how this goes.

The church community needs people who are natural at unruffling feathers. The church community needs a person who cares about history; a person who is naturally good with detail; teachers, preachers, and prophets. A church community should be gifted with a healer. A healer?! We need healers who heal by the Holy Spirit, who know natural substances that heal; who have a gentle touch and a gentle tongue; not to take the place of doctors and science but to accompany science and doctors.

A church community needs leaders; people with sound ideas, who stay attuned to God in their daily walk; who use pleasant language; who know how to motivate followers and how to work with other leaders. A church community needs pray-ers. On the practical side, a church community needs a person who is passionate about cleaning and order. Also, a person who has a flair for quiet, but beautiful, non-cluttered decor is an asset. Definitely a church needs persons who care about repairs and structure.

Can an attitude be considered as a talent, a skill, a gift? What kind of attitudes are needed? An attitude that everyone is welcome is a good start. Right! So a questionable person walks through our door along with everyone else. What is questionable? Dirty, smelly clothes comes to mind, unwashed hair, dirty beard. We shrink in dismay. What shall we do? At that point, I would desperately wish that we had a shower and a washer and dryer and good soap.

Let’s try another questionable person. Brown or black skin or purple hair? How about a person whose life we know and we instantly put on our judge robes and our arrogant attitudes and say, “No way. God will not be pleased!” Do you remember the words of Jesus, “You who are without sin, shall cast the first stone!” Then again, what one person identifies as sin, another person would not identify as sin. Where does our church community lie in these dilemmas?

We are all sinners! Let’s think about our level of kindness, of being careful of our language, of deeds not done, of our tone of voice, of our patience level, of our encouragement practices, of our sacrifices for the good of someone else. Will Peter’s keys keep us out of the kingdom on earth and then the kingdom of heaven?

No! Peter’s keys opened the door to all races. Jesus opened the door to everyone by his death on the cross. That is what the cross is all about. We can wait until we are at death’s door to ask God for forgiveness and we would be welcome to cross the threshold. Or we can choose to ask forgiveness as we go. Each experience of forgiveness in our lives can bring us more deeply into the kingdom of God. Now, forgiveness is one thing. Being a useful part of the kingdom of God on earth is another thing.

That is why we need to pay attention to Paul in his letter to the Romans. We need to use our own forgiveness as a rock, as a foundation to serving God with the talents God has bestowed on us. Are we already doing this to the maximum or do we have room to grow? Amen