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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 

“Our Personal Walk with Jesus Christ”

Sermon – 04-09-23 – Easter Sunday – Cycle A
Scripture: Jeremiah 31:1-6; Acts 10:34-43; Matthew 28:1-10; John 14:27-15:10
Sermon Title: “Our Personal Walk with Jesus Christ”

Picture yourself walking with Jesus in the sand. We have this story in our popular Christian culture of a person walking with “the Lord.” The name “Lord” most commonly refers to Jesus. There are two sets of footprints as the person walks beside Jesus on the beach in the sand. As this story goes, the one set of footprints disappears. It is easy to think that Jesus leaves the scene and the person is walking alone but Jesus explains that the one set of footprints is his while he carries the person through tough times.

The story ends with these words: “Lord, you told me when I decided to follow you, you would walk and talk with me all the way. But I’m aware that during the most troublesome times of my life there is only one set of footprints. I just don’t understand why, when I need you most, you leave me.” Jesus whispers, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you, never, ever, . . . . When you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I am carrying you.”

Many people claim to have written this story. It is still in dispute. If you go to the internet and type “Footprints in the Sand,” you will find the names of the people who claim to be the author. But, while we may be thankful for whomever is the real author, we know this Lord personally. We walk and talk with Jesus all day. You may have noticed that I used the title Jesus Christ in the title of this sermon: “Our Personal Walk with Jesus Christ.” Isn’t Jesus a sufficient name by itself?

Surely, when I start a prayer saying, “Dear Jesus,” Jesus is fine with that. Jesus is our friend as we sing in “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” But Jesus is much more. Jesus is the head of the church! Jesus is one of the three persons of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus is the son person of Jesus – s-o-n. Jesus was involved in the creation of the world. Jesus is the Messiah, prophesied by the major prophets of the Old Testament! Jesus not only was, but is! He lives! He is resurrected! We are resurrection people when we believe that his death on the cross was for us. Just as Jesus was given life after death so we are given life after death. That is what today is all about!

When we say, “Dear Jesus,” Jesus is real; he is active; whether it be carrying us in hard times, or motivating us to our full potential in good times, Jesus is real! It may be good if we found ourselves saying “Praise the Lord” a bunch of times during a day. Maybe you do. Some of you find yourselves singing aloud in your good relationship with Jesus.

I find that I either am saying in a whisper, “Help me, Jesus” or “Thank you, Jesus.” When I say “Thank you, Jesus” I also feel like dancing. I did not always have a close prayer relationship with Jesus and the Father. But my sister caught on to this “prayer thing” before I did. She influenced me. Praying can produce healing so we are negligent if we fail to pray for healing for others and for ourselves. Prayers of thanksgiving and praise can take us to new heights. How about thanking God while we are in trouble such as physical pain or relationship pain between ourselves and someone else? Or we are in pain because someone else is hurting? Thanking and praising Jesus and the Father in hurting times? Well, perhaps we should try it more often. Maybe you have already claimed this habit. It is in the praising that Jesus and the Father can do their work. When we are at our lowest points, Jesus carries us whether we can feel it or not. We are praising in anticipation of coming to the bright end of the tunnel into abundant life. Not necessarily heaven, but abundant life here on earth.

I bring to our mindfulness the invitation to be part of Jesus as The Vine. “I am the vine, you are the branches” from John15. Not only walking with Jesus but being part of Jesus. How much better can it be!

Jesus says to his disciples and therefore to us, “Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.”

My friends, you may be very attached to this vine and can be wonderful examples for me. I am picturing all of us as part of this same vine. During this year, we are adjusting to being one congregation. In the passage about Jesus being the vine, Jesus says that the Father needs to remove some of Jesus’ branches and even the good branches of Jesus, himself, need to be pruned to make them better. How powerful this is!

Let us think of ourselves needing to lose some of our ways completely – each one of us. None of us is a perfect Christian. Then let us expect some pruning of the branches that are good but can be better. Instead of being Christians by ourselves just hovering near each other, let us think of ourselves as being dependent on each other to become better Christians; Christians who realize that it takes all of us thinking and talking and taking action toward being supportive of this huge vine of which our new congregation is a part.

Each of us could think of ourselves as a separate branch making noises. Or we can choose to think of each other forming this larger vine together. Of course, this larger vine will wither unless it is attached and growing with Jesus as the center trunk. We are part of the church of Jesus Christ, all nourished from the same roots of love, not to be blown apart by the winds of selfishness but instead growing together in selflessness; in genuine love for each other.

May it be so by praying together and having the word “love” imprinted on our foreheads. Please consider joining me for monthly prayer as we pray for each other, for loved ones, and for our congregation as we become one in Jesus Christ. The first opportunity will be this Thursday, April 13, at 1:30 p.m. here at the church.

And may it be so, as we drink of the fruit of the vine together.

Jesus says to us, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” Amen