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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 

“Coming Days”

Sermon – 11-28-21 – Advent 1 – Cycle C
Scripture: Jeremiah 33:14-16, Psalm 25:1-10, 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13, Luke 21:25-36
Sermon Title: “Coming Days”

Christmas is coming. Each day brings it closer with increasing frantic feelings. We already had the Christmas bazaar. Thanksgiving is already past. How fast can time fly? Credit to you if you know how to pace yourself in a comfortable schedule without panic. Maybe you are able to cut some things from the Christmas hecticness. Maybe you don’t give gifts anymore. Maybe you don’t send cards anymore. Maybe you let someone else act as host for a meal. Of course, COVID helped with that. Most of us had enough respect for COVID to stay in our own little circles last Christmas. What will this Christmas bring?

Starting slowly may be the secret. Maybe, just maybe, whatever gets done gets done and whatever does not get done will not tarnish our image long-term or maybe not even short-term. Maybe the people around us would rather have less decorations, fewer gifts, a simpler meal if it means we can be more relaxed, that we can enjoy the day, that we have more happiness and kindness to share with them. Relationships matter more than accomplishments! There I said it! Now if I could only live as though I meant it!

Relationships! The people who shaped our church year – our church liturgical year – not only want us to slow down as Christmas approaches. They want us to back up. The only thing I heard in the scripture lessons today that vaguely seems a bit like Christmas is the idea of “joy” in the New Testament Lesson. But I did hear “relationships.” What relationship does the fig tree have to the coming of the end of the ages? Well, the budding of leaves on the fig tree heralds summer coming. So shall other signs herald the coming of significant happenings. How I wish the budding fig tree in this story meant summer is approaching! Not so; other things are in the offing. Some of you are looking forward to snow. “How can that be,” I say.

Other unpleasant things. It is like we need to suffer the results of a COVID booster shot for several days in order to be saved from a bad case of COVID that could affect us for the rest of our lives. It is easy to let fear overome us when we read of the awful things that will signify the coming of Christ and the coming of total peace on earth. Before the peace and our redemption for all times, there will be testing. How strong is our relationship to Christ at this very moment? It would be a good thing for us to concentrate on that relationship now – not to wait another day. Only if our relationship with Christ is good and strong, will we be able to survive these fearful approaching times.

You might say and I might say that these fearful activities are already happening. Each day we hear of senseless shootings, earthquakes, erupting volcanoes, gangs of wild people destroying countries, plagues covering the whole earth, the mention of the word climate change sending relationships scurrying just as does the word immunization. There is immense disrespect for each other and for people in authority, civil meetings are no longer civil. The word relationship does really apply. So how much worse is this going to get?!

Jesus gives this advice to us in Luke 21. “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” (end of quote) Let’s check our relationship status with Jesus immediately. We need to be ready! Pray, pray, pray for strength to endure, for calmness to sustain us, for a strong bond to have developed between Jesus and ourselves.

Will being in relationship with other people also give us strength and courage in “togetherness mode?” I would opt for relationship with other believers. We really don’t need non-believers to weaken our belief and our connection to Jesus, do we? But what about the ones we love? Should we give up on them now? As we believe, a person can be repentant at the last minute and receive redemption. Can these people drag along on our coattails or does their relationship with Jesus need to be genuine, need to be real?

Paul guides us with his first letter to the Thessalonians. In chapter 3 of his first letter, he says, “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.” (end of quote) Paul voices overflowing thanks, joy, and blessings for the people of this growing church. People of St. Paul’s and Zion, you bring joy to me as one of your pastors just by your being here, by your singing, by your love for each other. Many of you are already friends and now we are worshiping together with the Holy Spirit flowing among us.

Paul’s missionary zeal for Christ comes along after Christ is resurrected and has ascended to the Father. Paul and his fellow missionaries are developing relationships with people around the Mediterranean Sea. Love is the attracting and attaching commodity that forms these new churches and keeps them going. It is not fear! Of course, this is solid love, the kind of love that comes from Jesus Christ. This is genuine love which wants the best for each other. It is an unselfish love.

On our way to Christmas it is easy to get caught in fear about the end times when we should be yearning for the coming of Jesus in all of his glory. Where does the baby Jesus fit between the terrible approaching happenings and the glorious coming of Jesus in the clouds? This baby Jesus brings the love. Jesus is love. If Jesus seems harsh a few times as recorded in the Bible, there was a need to bring people back to the track – the track toward salvation.

As we stumble through the first few Sundays in Advent, may we keep the HOPE. Did you notice the banners? Way back in Jeremiah’s day, God proclaimed hope through Jeremiah. The hope is looking toward the future to this One who will come from the line of David, the little sling-shot boy, the psalmist, the king, the sinner. This One will save us. He is called “the righteous branch to spring up for David.” He shall bring righteousness and justice. This One shall bring a New Jerusalem. This New Jerusalem shall be called “The Lord is our righteousness.”

Where and how do righteousness and love meet? This question came out of my fingers as I typed. “Oh God,” I said, “What am I supposed to do with this? Maybe God is giving one of you a clear picture of how righteousness and love meet. If you are that person, would you please stand up. Then, God showed this verse to me from Psalm 25:10, “All your paths, O Lord, are steadfast love and faithfulness to those who keep your covenant and your testimonies.” “All your paths, O Lord, are steadfast love and faithfulness to those who keep your covenant and your testimonies.” Here it is, the intersection of righteousness and love. May it be so for each of us! Amen