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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 

“Do We Really Wish Good for Everyone?”

Sermon – 09-20-20 – Proper 20 – Cycle A
Scripture: Jonah 3:10-4:11; Psalm 145:1-8; Philippians 1:21-30; Matthew 20:1-16
Sermon Title: “Do We Really Wish Good for Everyone?”

My friend, Sarah, has only good to say about everyone. I like to think she leads a quiet life and only interacts with pleasant people. However, her childhood was not spent in a happy home. Somewhere along the way, she was injured in an automobile accident that had long-lasting effects. She could have been sour on everything and everyone.

During her days spent in hospitals and other care places, there were wonderful care-givers mixed with less-than-wonderful care-givers. Sarah could have allowed the not-so-kind people in her life to determine and mold her own personality. I think it was the mercy of God that steered her vision to focus on the kind care-givers so that her life was shaped by their kindness and example. She became an extraordinary person who found good in everyone. She had the ability to bring out the best in people – to let the goodness in them shine.

It was during one of our Bible Study sessions, when I was expressing my scorching opinions about the dictator leaders in our world, someone shared that she believes there is good in everyone. So that brought me to an abrupt halt! What had I forgotten? I had forgotten that God created everyone and loves everyone. I believe that! If God loves everyone, should I not look for the inner self of each person – the goodness nugget that may be buried so deep that it has become invisible to everyone but God.

Think Hitler! Think Stalin! Think of all the persecution about which you have read or seen on video or witnessed! Think slavery, think human trafficking, think living in gang-controlled countries, think growing up in a home, or still living in a home, where love is hiding under the rug. How can we wish good for the persecutors? How? And Why?! Why should we seek the kernel of goodness in these people? Why should we wish for the transformation of their souls? What good will it do for one person to be searching and even finding? Could the person be transformed by one person’s prayers, by one person’s words and actions?

Do we have a next-door neighbor who seems to be downgrading our life and property? Is it natural to be complaining to whomever is a captive audience about every little detail of annoyance? Could we find it in our hearts to actually wish good for these impossible neighbors? Have we noticed any bit of kindness in that neighbor? Did that neighbor bring our newspapers to our door when we came home from the hospital? Did we ever once hear that neighbor speak unkindly about anyone? When we start looking for the good, we can often find it.

In our Old Testament lesson today, we find Jonah. There is this city, 120,000 strong, called Nineveh. The Ninevites worship other gods. After researching this dislike for Nineveh by Jonah, I now know that Jonah wants the city to be destroyed because it is the capital city of Assyria, a hated enemy of Israel. Imagine, God wants to save this city when these are, supposedly, not God’s people. But God has a heart for these people. He sees good in these people. God wants to challenge these people to turn toward himself and be saved from destruction.

Well, as God would have it, he calls Jonah to be God’s front man to announce to this large group of people that they are bad, that they are facing destruction by God unless thy repent and turn to God. Well, Jonah has no inclination to go to Ninevah to that huge city and shout to people who will not listen. A huge, distasteful waste of time!

What does Jonah do? Of course, he runs away, if you can call getting himself on a ship “running.” A huge storm arrives. The sailors want to know what is going on. They are about to lose their lives. The sailors throw all the cargo overboard! Still no calm. They ask their gods what is going on – is someone responsible for this disaster? Their gods lead them to Jonah who is sound asleep below deck. The sailors frantically wake Jonah and ask him what they need to do to save themselves. Jonah knows the All-Powerful God is chasing him with a vengeance.

Jonah simply says, “Throw me overboard.” The sailors are afraid that Jonah’s God is going to punish them for throwing Jonah to his death but they are desparate. Into the sea Jonah goes. As you probably know, God sends a big fish (or a whale, we don’t know) to swallow Jonah. Three days and three nights! This could be a reference to Jesus being in the tomb from the day of the cross to the third day when he arose. Then the fish released Jonah, alive and well and angry!

Now he finally heads toward Nineveh. He proclaims the news, “Turn to God or be destroyed!” Another three here. Three days to walk from one end of Nineveh to the other. The people turn toward God and change their ways. No destruction!

Angry Jonah wants refuge from this whole episode. The sun is beating down. Jonah seeks refuge from that also. He builds a shelter with plants. They die. The sun is beating down! God actually grows a big plant to shield Jonah again. Great! Jonah is relatively happy. Then that plant withers and again, no shade. Jonah’s anger returns. Why did that plant need to die? So he is angry about the salvation for Nineveh. He is angry about the plant dying and once again he is in the glaring sun! God saw good in the Ninevites! Jonah did not. Was he happy? No, he wants to die.

In our Gospel lesson today, the landowner was fair and just with the workers. The first ones hired could not see the fairness and the justness. Can you see any good and fairness in the payment policy? Would you have handled the payment in this manner? Is being legal always fair? How does envy sneak into the picture? Where is the goodness? Where is the caring for the other person?

You have probably learned by now that looking for the goodness, acting on the principle of goodness, usually leaves us feeling good. Acting out of jealousy and envy and vengeance leaves us feeling angry and we find both our physical and spiritual lives declining. We may want to die as Jonah did. Paul also is longing to die in our Philippians lesson. Paul has physical problems and probably thinks he has done his share of evangelizing. But he envisions the goodness and the progress in Christian faith and joy of the people in Philippi. Paul chooses the growing goodness with this group on earth. Which shall we choose?

Holy and Healing God, help us to look for the good in people and actions and events. If we find ourselves being angry and hostile, transform us to our comfortable selves, working to unleash the goodness of the world wherever we can find it. In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.