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6th Sunday After Pentecost - July 4, 2021



In the Old Testament Lesson for today, we hear the call of the prophet Ezekiel…It is easy to skip over it because the lectionary text only gives us a glimpse of what is actually reported and that glimpse does not encourage the listener to be curious…


However, the story of Ezekiel’s call is really one of the most exciting calls that is reported in the Old Testament…


Before we start …some of the background that you might need to know is that at the time of Ezekiel’s call, Israel is a vassal state of Babylon…and Israel is not a very cooperative one at that…


Ezekiel is one of the three major prophets along with Isaiah and Jeremiah…


He comes from the lineage of priests who serve the temple in Jerusalem…he is a priest of the lineage of the Zadokites…interesting fact, but not one that one might bring up at a party or gathering…


I can see it now, asking someone …by the way…were you aware that Ezekiel was of the priestly lineage of the Zadokites?


At the time of siege on Jerusalem by Babylon… the Zadokites controlled the high priesthood and held the power in the Jerusalem temple…


They were very strict in their beliefs and based their ministry on the Holiness Code from Leviticus AND were certain that the Temple was the place of residence for the Holy One of Israel…For them…God and the Ark of the Covenant occupied the Holy of Holies…


PAUSE


Fast forward and the Babylonians are quickly tiring of the apostasy of Israel…Israel will not keep an agreement with them.. she plays the part of the whore making agreements with other governing bodies to protect her from the Babylonians…


Finally, the Babylonians lay siege to the city of Jerusalem and Ezekiel and about 25 % of the population are deported to Tel Abib in Babylon…


Those that are deported are the wealthy, the skilled, and the educated…


So when we meet Ezekiel in this story for today, he is with the other exiles by the River Chebar in Babylon… He is certain because of the news that he receives from Jerusalem that the Temple has been destroyed and that the Sanctuary of God is in complete ruins…


What has happened to the ark and God in the devastation…


He is totally heartbroken.. How can he possibility carry on? How can Ezekiel live without God…


As He sits by the river with the other refugees he is totally despondent…


But suddenly out of the gathering storm comes a great cloud of brightness and as Ezekiel watches in total fascination, the brightness resolves itself into a refugee wagon with wheels that could move in any of the four directions…


In the middle of the wagon are four living creatures with each having four faces and four wings and in the middle of the creatures was something that looked like coals of burning fire …


And over the creatures was a dome…the dome of the heavens and above the dome a throne and on the throne there was the Glory of the Lord ….


In this theophany, Ezekiel realized that God could leave the Temple in Jerusalem…that the Glory of God survived…and that God could move in any and all directions …


And that God was not entering into Babylon as conquerer or to set the exiles free but as a companion to those who have suffered the consequences of the ill fated war policies of the monarchy…


The High Priests, the people, the monarchy all were convinced that the dwelling place of God was only the Temple and somehow over the years they had convinced themselves that God was stationery…


But God is not stationary, but on the move! The Glory of the Lord was not limited! The glory of the Lord was on the move!


PAUSE


First century Israel is not so different and Mark goes to some length in the first three chapters of the Gospel to show that the population has once again defined God in narrow and confining terms…


They cannot see Jesus as prophet or savior …they call blasphemy when Jesus forgives sins; they are suspicious of the company that he keeps; outraged and scandalized when Jesus and the disciples do not fast at the customary times…


And for goodness sakes…they are insulted when Jesus heals on the Sabbath…


And perhaps the most distressing attitude of all…Jesus’ family thinks that He is out of His mind…


Once again, as in the time of Ezekiel, the people have limited God…And in Mark, Jesus is challenging the limitations of social norms and the narrow minded societal rules…


Why is Jesus so offensive to the people in His home town? Well, No one expects the carpenter that you grew up with to be God’s prophet…


No one expects that kid that lived two doors down from you to be able to heal …


Jesus upsets the status quo…he is not afraid of lepers; he touches and people are healed; He forgives sins and upsets the local etiquette police by eating with tax collectors and sinners…


It is offensive if one has assigned God to simply the OTHER… If one has decided that God cannot dwell in the ordinary and that the mercy of God is always found outside the normal…


But Jesus infuses the ordinary with the extraordinary; with God’s presence; with God’s purpose ; with God’s grace and mercy…


PAUSE


Ezekiel, the High priest that devoted his life to the knowing of God…he thought for certain that God had been destroyed by the Babylonians…


The neighbors of Jesus knew that the boy that grew up in their neighborhood could not ever be the One…the prophet of God…the Holy One of Israel…


And we must not be too quick to criticize …How often do we bring to mind that indeed God is on the move?


And how often do we feel totally alone; devastated by events or illness or loneliness?


We can easily be convinced that God is beyond: that God cannot possibly go into exile with us or that our grief…whatever it is…is beyond God’s healing touch…


The Old Testament call of Ezekiel and the radiant divine life of Jesus Christ

literally grabs us and speaks the truth to us…


God is in midst of us; if we are on the move then God is moving with us; if we are suffering, then God is suffering with us…Loving us, anointing us with Grace and mercy


Be expectant and do not overlook the ordinary…Do not devalue the very signs of the kingdom…


God is on the move!


Amen




The Old Testament Story, Benjamin, Don C., Fortress Press, 2004.


The Hebrew Bible, A Translation with Commentary, Robert Alter,W. W. Norton and Co, 2019.


Feasting on the Gospels, Mark, Cynthia A. Jarvis and E. Elizabeth Johnson, Editors, Westminister John Knox Press.





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