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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 

“The Coming of Jesus”

Sermon – 11-08-20 – Proper 27 – Cycle A
Scriptures: Amos 5:18-24; Psalm 70; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 25:1-13
Sermon Title: “The Coming of Jesus”

Jesus always was. Then Jesus came to earth as a baby to make God real to us. Remember God is three persons in one – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus died, lived again, went to heaven again. His second coming is expected at an unknown time. It could be today, any minute. It could be next week. It could be years or centuries from now.

Some thinkers think Jesus will come again when we have managed to lead almost everyone to believe or better still – everyone. Some people think we are living in the end times that are described in several places in the Bible.

The Bible also describes various scenarios about how the second coming of Jesus will be. I have always pictured the second coming of Jesus as a quiet, beautiful scene where we see Jesus floating from the sky while the people who have died will be lifted from their graves and will float to meet Jesus. Then the people who are still living will float through the sky to meet Jesus and we will all live happily after.

But wait! When people die I emphatically tell the family and the congregants at the funeral that this beloved person has been received in the arms of Jesus immediately! So, Rev. M, which is it? Can we have our cake and eat it too? I base my belief on the day Jesus was hanging on the cross. Do you remember what Jesus told the believer who was hanging on the next cross? “I promise that today you will be with me in paradise!” Did you hear that word “today?” Even allowing for the no-time schedule of God, “today” seems pretty immediate.

Another way to think about the writing in 1 Thessalonians 4, is that God’s timing is totally different than our own worldly 24 hours, 7 days, a year, a century. Thousands of years could be like the twinkling of an eye.

I do believe it is the soul that moves to heaven and we receive a new body there or maybe our souls just float around in heaven. But the early framers of the Apostles Creed chose to write, “the resurrection of the body” so that our very bodies would not have had time to decay when Jesus appears from the clouds. There are so many possibilities. The truth is that we do not know for certain. Paul does sound very sure of himself in the 1 Thessalonians passage. Our Bible holds many apocalyptic-type scenarios. Our contemporary world actually uses these passages in movies and books and other media.

Now, think of this idea. Instead of our going to heaven, God comes to us at the end of the age like the bridegroom in our gospel lesson. We read in Revelation that instead of our going to heaven, heaven is going to come to us. We do believe that God’s earthly kingdom is here already but it is not pure yet. Satan is still actively with us. Revelation 20 tells what will happen to Satan so that God’s kingdom will be pure. The New City of Jerusalem will descend – the one called “The Holy City.” The description is found in Revelation 21.

There will be judging and separation. The idea is that of Matthew 25:1-13 where 5 bridesmaids were prepared and ready while the other 5 bridesmaids were not prepared and ready when the bridegroom finally appeared. The reading from Amos also warns people to change their ways and be ready for the coming of the Lord. This readiness in Amos involves caring about other people. The word justice is not a stand-alone word. Justice involves caring. We can talk about justice all we want but that does not count if we are not out on the battlefield helping justice to happen.

Being good ourselves is nice. Obeying the beginning commandments is nice. They make our lives work. But when the commandments move to other people, how do we rate? Are we giving lip service or are our words really kind – all the time? Is our time allotted sufficiently to changing habits and laws of society. Will we be judged only on lip service?

Looking at the parable of the ten bridesmaids, do you think the wise bridesmaids should have shared their oil? Would that not have been showing a good spirit? This passage says “no.” It is all part of this being ready idea that runs through the Old Testament. I am not a “sharer” by nature. I will buy a duplicate for someone else but I do not share easily what I bought for myself. I am a “preparer.”

I have an abundance of supplies of every item in our house. So when COVID appeared in our lives, I panicked a bit about the empty shelves in stores, but at the same time I had enough supply to last a while. All except wipes. The shelves were totally empty of wipes. First sanitizer appeared. Here at church we literally have gallons of sanitizer. If you need sanitizer, please tell me. We will never use all of the sanitizer we have on hand. Maybe you could bring an empty sanitizer bottle because it is the gallons we will not use. Finally wipes appeared but they were different brands than before COVID and smaller in size.

Of course, being prepared is a matter of money. Can we afford to be overstocked? Being prepared can be a matter of greed.. Taking the last two items on the shelf may not be necessary. Someone may come along behind me and really need that 2nd item. I am trying very hard to stay out of the unprepared group of bridesmaids. But am I overdoing it? Then again, do I want to take a chance on hearing Jesus say, “Truly I tell you, I do not know you.”

Maybe the idea of being moderately prepared would be helpful. We would lose our intense desire to overstock, to be overprepared, but we also would feel more acceptable to God than if we let our supplies run low and then need to make an extra trip just when our item was needed to save the party or – save our souls!

Revelation 22:11 reminds us, “Evil people will keep on being evil, and everyone who is dirty-minded will still be dirty-minded. But good people will keep on doing right, and God’s people will always be holy.”

We still have not solved the question of exactly what happens to our bodies and souls when we die. But we do know that readiness counts! We do know that we want to be wherever God is. We are looking for the reward that comes from a lifetime of readiness of which JUSTICE for all people is a huge requirement. As we wait, let us check our participation in the quest for justice.
Oh Lord, help us to be ready in all ways. Amen