Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Pentecost (text from The Bible in 90 Days) 11/15/2009

A Hard Word

Lessons:     Daniel 12:1-3     Psalm 16 (9)     Hebrews 10:11-14 [15-18] 19-25     St. Mark 13:1-8     Semicontinuous Series         1 Samuel 1:4-20         1 Samuel 2:1-10 (1)   Prayer of the Day     Almighty God, your sovereign purpose brings salvation to birth. Give us faith to be steadfast amid the tumults of this world, trusting that your kingdom comes and your will is done through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Text from "The Bible in 90 Days"

2:1 He said to me: O mortal, stand up on your feet, and I will speak with you. 2 And when he spoke to me, a spirit entered into me and set me on my feet; and I heard him speaking to me. 3 He said to me, Mortal, I am sending you to the people of Israel, to a nation of rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have transgressed against me to this very day. 4 The descendants are impudent and stubborn. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, "Thus says the Lord God." 5 Whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house), they shall know that there has been a prophet among them.


Ezekiel 2:1-5 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

The Zadokite Priests trace their lineage to Zadok, a priest of King David, who anointed Solomon (1 Kings 1). They were priests in Jerusalem, at the temple, from the time of David until the exile (597 bc). Ezekiel was a Zadokite – a direct descendant of Zadok – and he served in the temple until he was exiled to Babylon. It was there in Babylon that God called him to serve as a prophet, and he was faithful to that call for more than twenty years.

Ezekiel spoke God’s word during a time when the people of Israel were struggling to understand their situation. The great nation that was such a source of pride and identity for them had been destroyed. Their strongest leaders had been carried off into captivity. The promises made to their ancestor Abraham seemed all but abandoned. It was hard for them to understand why God seemed to have given up on them.

So God sent to them Ezekiel – this firebrand of a preacher, who was determined to make them own up to the failures of their past, repent, turn back to God, and be restored. In a vision, God spoke these words to him, commissioning him as a prophet to Israel:

The descendants are impudent and stubborn. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, "Thus says the Lord God.” Whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house), they shall know that there has been a prophet among them.

The role of the prophet is not an easy one to play. God calls prophets to speak hard words, to people who would rather not hear them. Prophets call God’s people away from their disobedience. More often than not, their words are received by people who “refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house).” More often than not, they are opposed by the high and mighty. More often than not, their lives are endangered because of their insistence on staying true to the word of God, no matter what others are saying or believing. The role of the prophet is not an easy one to play.

There are times when the prophet’s words are heard, and welcomed, and obeyed. When Nathan spoke to David, or when Jonah spoke to the people of Nineveh, there was an immediate response of repentance. But there are many more times when the prophet’s words are heard, and then opposed in every possible way. The prophet had one essential message: “You have strayed from the path God has called you to walk. Unless you turn back to God, your actions will bring you only destruction.” From the mightiest king to the meekest servant, human nature resists that kind of truth – that kind of accountability. And so, in the words of our Lord, we are more apt to be: “killing the prophets, and stoning those whom God has sent.”

There is a pervasive human tendency to reject the prophetic message. That was true in Ezekiel’s time; it is true in our time as well. There are Christians today who have strong beliefs about certain issues (abortion, capital punishment, homosexuality and nuclear armaments, to name a few). Some of these Christians hear messages that stand in opposition to what they want to believe, and they immediately reject the message. Yet we Christians reject those irritating messages (messengers?) at our own peril. Who knows? It just might be the voice of God, calling us to reconsider long-held biases, or change long-held beliefs.

When there is disagreement over theological issues, social issues, or ethical questions, the tendency is to reject those who disagree with us, and spend time with the kind of people who see it our way. The truth is: the irritating voice that is promoting the exact opposite of what I believe, just may be a prophet from God, sent to catch our attention and call us in a new direction.

This week we give thanks for the prophet Ezekiel. We admire his faith and his courage and his tenacity. But perhaps the best way to honor him is to keep our own hearts and minds open to the prophetic voices that come our way. It just may be that the message we find so irritating – the message we find so threatening – is the message God wants us to hear.

David J. Risendal Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Text:

  1. What message did God commission Ezekiel to bring to the leaders of his day?
  2. What was their response to him?
  3. What does their response to the prophet teach us about human nature?

Connecting with This Week’s Text:

  1. What beliefs do I hold dear, that might cause other Christians to challenge me?
  2. Am I open to considering what they have to say?
  3. When has God helped me see the truth, through someone who came with a message I would rather not have received?

Scheduled Readings for "The Bible in 90 Days" 9/13/2009 - 12/12/2009

Date

Begin Reading At Sermon Based On
9/13 Genesis 1:1 Genesis 1:1-19
9/20 Leviticus 1:1 Exodus  16:2-15
9/27 Deuteronomy 23:12 Deuteronomy 6:1-9
10/4 1 Samuel 28:20 Joshua 24:1-3, 14-18
10/11 1 Chronicles 1:1 1 Kings 3:5-12
10/18 Nehemiah 13:15 Nehemiah 1:4-11a
10/25 Psalm 89:14 Job 38:1-11
11/1 Isaiah 14:1 Psalm 104:24-34, 35b
11/8 Jeremiah 33:23 Isaiah 25:6-9
11/15 Daniel 9:1 Ezekiel 2:1-5
11/22 Matthew 26:57 Micah 6:1-8
11/29 Acts 6:8 John 20:19-31
12/6 Hebrews 1:1 Romans 5:1-11