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Speaking to a Rebellious House…

July 2, 2015

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A few months ago, Denise and I went on a little bit of a quest in South Walton County. We had heard about a couple of labyrinths that we were told to check out. The above sculpture is at the edge of the labyrinth just outside of The Church of the Resurrection (Roman Catholic) in Miramar Beach, Florida. As I stood before the statue, I could literally feel the combination of sorrow, hurt, and love flowing from it. Mary, her heart broken, holds the lifeless body of her son Jesus after it has been taken down from the cross. In this moment of raw emotion and pain, she cradles the brutally battered and lifeless body of her son… was she thinking about how she had cradled him as a newborn in her arms thirty-three years earlier? Even writing these words and looking once more upon the statue, the tears flow…

Ezekiel knew something of the danger of being a prophet according to Scripture. In the reading from the Hebrew Scriptures for this coming Sunday, we read about Ezekiel’s Commissioning (Ezekiel 1:28b-3:27 is the complete section). The words of God aren’t exactly the words of a chipper cheerleader. The words that begin our passage for Sunday aren’t exactly warm and fuzzy either… “Oh mortal, stand up on your feet and I will speak with you.” When I hear words like that spoken, I automatically begin to wonder what is coming next! It is almost like when somebody says to you, you might want to sit down for this… Uh oh… that is never a good beginning to a conversation.

Hey Ezekiel, have a seat… I have something to share with you… and I am pretty certain you aren’t going to like what I have to say! I am sending you to a nation full of rebels and troublemakers. They are impudent and stubborn. They have generations behind them who have taught them to be this way. And if that isn’t enough, I am choosing YOU to speak MY word to them! Whether they hear you or not… whether they believe you or not… they WILL know that MY prophet has been in their midst!

God continues in the verses following our reading with more warnings and in the end, some encouragement. These words of God couldn’t have possibly been easy for Ezekiel to hear. I can imagine if I were in his position, my heart would be in my throat and my mind would be spinning. You want ME to do THAT for you, Lord? Seriously? Whose army is going to protect me when I share those wonderful words with YOUR people?

What Ezekiel failed to realize was that THOSE people were also HIS people. He was being called to be a prophet of the Lord. He was being called out from the midst of the people of Israel to speak God’s word. Ezekiel was one of THEM. With that in mind, Ezekiel was prepared by God to speak to the rebellious house of Israel with a voice of authority. God would quite literally give Ezekiel the words he needed to speak to the house of Israel.

It isn’t always easy to speak as either a prophet or a padre to God’s people when they are rebellious. I remember standing with a young Airman during my first assignment as a Chaplain in front of the Commander’s desk. She had been raped by another student and raped again by the system which at that time was broken. The rapist was interviewed for twenty minutes. She was interrogated for four hours. It was her fault! And now the “system” was discharging her because she was failing to progress sufficiently in her studies. Really? I was the only one who was counseling her and the only one who was willing to speak out to the system on her behalf. A mere Captain, I was speaking to a Colonel and being rather blunt about the system letting her down and essentially raping her again. Was it easy? Heck no! My knees were shaking! But somehow God gave my voice the strength and passion to speak on her behalf. The system ended up discharging her. Thankfully, we kept in touch for years following up until her death recently which broke my heart. A woman full of hope and promise when I first met her during the initial chapel briefing for new students, she never fully recovered from the ordeal. Her PTSD was very real and the wounds went deep. Lisa was forever thankful for the fact that a young Chaplain, Captain stood up to the system on her behalf.

That isn’t the only time I was called upon to speak the words of the prophet to a system or to leaders who were missing the mark. I never was completely comfortable with that role, but as time went on and I matured as a leader, the knees no longer shook and I spoke with more confidence. Yes, Ezekiel, it isn’t easy to speak out when your opinion isn’t popular or when your words may get you in hot water politically.

This isn’t solely the job of prophets or preachers, dear reader. It is the job of all who seek to follow the Lord. In the past few weeks with all of the decisions coming out of the U.S. Supreme Court and the increasing hatred and violence being seen all around the nation and world, I have seen and heard much which makes my stomach turn. Hatred… Venom… Evil speech… the list goes on. So many times I wanted to ask: “Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?” “Who died and made you God?” “Did you not hear a word that Jesus said about loving your neighbor?”

African American friends are being told to suck it up, that flag is our history and heritage. Who cares if it flew over lynchings and bombings… it is OUR history and we DEMAND it remain flying. Muslim friends are being told to suck it up and blend in. YOUR garb and attire make US uncomfortable. Besides, we know that ALL Muslims are evil, don’t you get that?

Really? What hurts my heart and makes my blood boil is the fact that so many of these statements are made by people who say they are christian (lower case is intentional, believe me). That is the sort of world that Ezekiel was called to speak God’s word to. That was the sort of world that Jesus was sent to. Who did Jesus speak out against? He spoke out against the legalistic Pharisees who strained out a gnat while swallowing a camel whole (Matthew 23:24) He spoke out against the religious leaders who had jumped in bed with the Empire and forgotten the call to serve on behalf of “the least of these”.

So, dear reader, how are we to speak? Quite frankly, I believe it is time for our actions to speak and not just our words. Jesus came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets. How did he plan on doing that? He gave us two commands… Love God… Love neighbor… Remember the old children’s song that I used to sing in Vacation Bible School as a kid? “They will know we are Christians by our Love”.

In the words of Thomas Merton, “Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody’s business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy.” (Thomas Merton in a letter to Dorothy Day)

Ezekiel had to speak with the voice of a prophet because the people had forgotten who they were supposed to be and how they were to act as a people of God. Jesus had to speak with the voice of a prophet because the rebellious house had forgotten the call of God to love. We are called to speak with the voice of a prophet… we are called to love with the love of Jesus… that is our business… that is our calling… will you join me?

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One Comment
  1. Reblogged this on ericspearsblog.

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