Featured post

“Surprise! Meet Ezekiel!”

How Lowly Are the Shepherds – Episode 6 – Rev. Mary Etta Mest Podcast Mary Etta Mest Podcast

After Mary and Joseph arrived at their destination after a long trek on foot and on a donkey. . . After they finally found a place to sleep and to birth a baby. . . After that, we have this part of the story. . . Luke 2:8-20
  1. How Lowly Are the Shepherds – Episode 6 – Rev. Mary Etta Mest Podcast
  2. Weeds and Wheat – Ep.03 – Rev. Mary Etta Mest Podcast
  3. Is the seed alive? – Rev. Mary Etta Mest Podcast – Ep. 2
  4. “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 

“A Comedy: The Revenge That Did Not Happen”

Sermon – 01-24-21 – Ephiphany 3 – Cycle B
Scripture: Jonah 3:1-5, 10; Psalm 62:5-12; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20
Sermon Title: “A Comedy: The Revenge That Did Not Happen”

A person named Darryl was bullied all through pre-school, elementary school, middle school, and senior high school because he stuttered. He was a good student but naturally he had knots in his stomach each day. His body did not release that apprehension and misery until summertime when there was no school. His teachers were not able to successfully work with Darryl to alleviate his stuttering. He wrote great essays, poems, and stories for which he received A’s but speaking to the class or even other classmates was torture both for Darryl and for the listeners.

He did have one close friend who stuck by him from kindergarten through high school. This friend did not do this from pity but instead from a genuine enjoyment of this companionship. Many times this friend shared the harassment aimed at Darryl. But this friendship enabled Darryl to persevere. Did Darryl want revenge for the taunters? Did he harbor anger and hatred? Maybe. It would be natural. However, it seems that fear and embarrassment took all of Darryl’s energy and he did not wish revenge on these bullies.

After all of Darryl’s years moving toward high school graduation, he went to college. There he found the most kind and most experienced staff person who walked and worked with Darryl to gradually say goodby to stuttering. Now, he could actually pursue a vocation that was stirring within him ever since he realized that people had vocations. He could run for a state senate seat!
In all those years of suffering, something was brewing inside of Darryl, but it was not revenge. It was yearning for the opportunity to use his God-given talents. After all of those years of restriction, God provided the right person to step into Darryl’s life for the specific purpose of healing.

This is not the comedy part of this sermon. Here comes the comedy part.

God calls Jonah. Jonah is living between 800 and 750 B.C. It happens that Assyria is in control of Israel at this time. There is a city called Ninevah in Assyria. These people are living wicked ways. God tells Jonah to walk through the city of Ninevah to announce that they shall repent, change their ways, or God will destroy them.

Jonah dislikes this city with a passion. He may be afraid. We really don’t know. He certainly does not want to walk through Ninevah and give the people of Ninevah a chance to repent. He does not want anything good to happen to the city and the people in it.

So, Jonah gets on a ship heading in the opposite direction. He is running away if we can say “running” by getting on a ship. A violent storm appears. The ship will capsize. Finally, Jonah realizes and admits that he is the cause of the storm. He asks the sailors to throw him overboard. They do. Jonah is swallowed by a big fish. The cover of our bulletin shows Jonah sitting inside the big fish. Jonah converses with God. God has the fish spit Jonah out on dry land.

Now what? Jonah resigns himself to go to Ninevah. The Bible says it takes 3 days to walk through Ninevah. Jonah only spent one day of shouting the message to repent or God will destroy them until the people started repenting. Even the person in charge of Ninevah, called the king, orders every person and every animal to fast and wear sackcloth. They repent! God saves them.

Of course, this upsets Jonah. He wants to see the city destroyed! He thinks they should be destroyed because of their wicked ways. He does some serious pouting. Jonah asks God to let him die. Going beyond our scripture passage for today, we find Jonah building a shelter for himself because the sun was strong. We don’t know why he couldn’t or wouldn’t go into a house. Jonah and God have a little tit-for-tat. God says why should you be angry? But God does have a large plant, a vine, grow to give Jonah more relief from the sun. Sounds merciful of God, does it not? But now God sends a worm to destroy the plant. Now Jonah is more angry than ever.

Jonah still wants revenge on that city. As far as we know, the city did not, or does not, hurt Jonah. He is miserable because he is feeling sorry that he was involved in the city being saved. The revenge is injuring Jonah internally. This can be seen as a comedy! Being miserable for no good reason. Being miserable because someone else is feeling good. People are saved. The city is saved. Jonah could choose to be joyful.

If we compare Darryl in our first story with Jonah we might see ourselves more in Jonah than in Darryl. There are the people who may have ignored us or hurt us. Surely we have the right to ask God to punish them! God does not work that way. That is not God’s heart as we know the Father through Jesus. God’s mercy is beyond understanding. We, his people, get in the way. It is silly, it does not work, it is like a bad comedy for us to wish anything bad on our enemies when God is protecting us and when God is changing these “enemies.”

We may find ourselves pointing at other people, when instead we could be pointing to God asking God that we not be the enemies. It is not our pointing that matters; it is God, to whom we are pointing, who is important. God can change our unkind habits. The writings of the Bible help us to understand God but the Bible is not God. Different ways of thinking about the Bible (theology) is not God. The church is not God. The pastor is not God. Instead, in God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – is our light and our strength, our wisdom and behavior, our love and our kindness.

God is our rock and our salvation; our stronghold, so that we shall never be shaken. Let us strive to be like Darryl, seeing the light of God, after the darkness of being hurt by bullying. Let us strive to be like James and John, Andrew and Simon; not running from Jesus but immediately dropping their lives and following Jesus.

O God, help us not to seek revenge when we perhaps should simply seek relief. You are the true relief-giver. You are able to dissolve our anger. We just want peace. Fill our souls with peace. In the name of Jesus, the Son, Amen.