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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 

“Who Is In Control?”

Sermon – 09-26-21 – Proper 21 – Cycle B
Scripture – Numbers 11:4-6; 10-16; 24-29 / Psalm 19:7-14 / James 5:13-20 / Mark 9:8-50
Sermon Title: “Who Is In Control?”

Do you feel like a puppet? Did you see the front cover of our bulletin? It looks as if it could be God holding the controlling strings. That little guy could be you or myself. How much control do you think God has over your life?

One level is that God controls every single aspect of our lives. We have no freedom. It is all pre-planned when we were conceived. We are not free to change the plan.

Another level is that God has much control but not total control. We have some freedom.

Then there is the idea that we have control over most of our lives but there are some decisions that God still holds in his power.

The extreme way of thinking is that God has no control over our lives. We are in total control of all decisions and attitudes and behavior.

Here is my belief. Yours may be different. No matter. We each see things differently as our lives unfold. I will share mine with you. Maybe you would like to share yours with me or actually everyone when I finish the sermon.

I believe that God can control anything he wants to control. He has his own criteria to control or not to control. Does he plan intervention ahead of the event or is God’s decision spur-of-the-moment? I don’t know. I believe that God does plan a path for us when we are conceived. We have the freedom to walk off the path. However, it usually happens that our own choices, our own steps off the path, are not wise. They may seem happy at first. But then little or big things happen to convince us that we led ourselves, or were tempted by others, to walk on our own path and not on God’s pre-planned path.

If we have a good and strong relationship with God, we will notice that God pulls us back onto the path he planned. Sometimes this seems restrictive if we did not notice any problems arising from our waywardness. Or it can be very comforting to know that God cares so much about us. It can feel like a little chick being drawn under its mother hen’s warm and safe wings. It can feel as though we are being returned to the inside of the protective fence rather than on the outside of the fence where freedom looked so appealing but the wolves were waiting to devour us under cover of a “little red riding hood” disguise.

On the other hand, are there times when we have been in control of something? If we have children, we had some sort of control. Each of us used our control differently – some of us were strict, some of us allowed a lot of freedom and the children learned about life the hard way – whatever works must be the right way to do things. If the child gets hurt, the child learns that touching an electric fence is not a good idea. If the child touches a hot stove burner, the child learns about danger.

This idea of free-will is not the kindest way for children or grown-ups to learn. We could walk right into a sink hole. We could walk right ino a relationship that is trouble. We could leave a good job because we are curious about what else is out there. Could we learn something new? Sometimes it works; sometimes it leads to anguish.

Suppose you are a teacher. You know how to keep your children interested and happy most of the time. But along comes an art teacher or a physical education teacher or a music teacher who has a different way of “handling” the class – maybe more freedom or more strict. So you mention this to the principal expecting him or her to talk to the once-a-week teachers who cause you displeasure or even fear that your children may not respond to your style of teaching anymore.

But what does the principal do and say? They are fine. Let them alone. They are teaching the way that works best for them. They do care about having the children learn well. They do care about the children’s well-being. They are not against the children, therefore they are for the children.

If this sounds like Moses in our Old Testament lesson you were caught up in the Moses story today. You see, Moses was exhausted. We learned that there were about a million people in that crowd of Israelites that Moses was charged by God to lead. They complained and complained. First, they named the vegetables that wanted and the fish. Then Moses complains to God. He says, “If this is the way you are going to treat me, put me to death at once . . .”

That is when God told Moses to gather seventy of the elders of Israel to assist him in the care of this large throng. God took some of the Spirit from Moses and laid it on these seventy elders and told them to prophesy. They did! But only once! Then Joshua came running to report a problem. Two of these seventy had stayed separate even though the Spirit rested on them also. They did not stop with prophesying once. They continued to prophecy. Moses shall stop them. This is not right.

But Moses says, “Would that all of God’s people were prophets. Would that God would put his Spirit on all of them.”

Fast forward to Jesus in the New Testament Gospel. Here a man is healing people and he is not one of the disciples. Jesus is quick to rebuke John by saying, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us.”

Both Moses and Jesus are fine with people healing and teaching if they did it in the name of God or the name of Jesus. They were willing to give up control and strictness if the Spirit of God came upon people outside the close circle.

Can we be like that man who healed people in the name of Jesus? James says that we can. We don’t need to be educated; we don’t need to be a Consistory member. We shall be relaxed and open, trying to be righteous. We shall be ready to pray and serve if and when God lays his Spirit upon us. “The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.” God is not stingy with his control and power. God shares his power with us! We can do the work of the Lord. Let us increase our work for the Lord!