I’ve heard rumblings of concern that the Narrative Lectionary selections as created over at working preacher are not Advent-y enough. As I read this Ezekiel text, I could not disagree more… and not just because when I stand in a store in an over-heated mall this time of year I feel like a dried up pile of bones who desperately wants to return home.
Ezekiel is a prophet. He is also a priest which has a tendency to color his ‘repent’ commentary. Like many preachers he has a flare for the dramatic and uses bizarre imagery in an attempt to gain the audience’s attention (who, me?). His ministry lasted about 25 years, but the location of his activity is a bit harder to pin down. Minimal research on my part leans towards the idea that he only personally prophesied among the exiles and was never in Jerusalem in person. However, like everything else when it comes to scripture/religion/life there is an opposing argument that says Ezekiel was personally in Jerusalem. The confusion stems from his visions of the Temple – did he actually need to be there to make those prophesies? It wouldn’t be the first time a prophet prophesied in reference to a place they had never actually been.
One more exegetical note and then I’ll move on to things that are actually helpful if you’re looking at this on Saturday (12/7). 🙂
The book of Ezekiel is separated into three sections: Chapters 1-24 – Prophetic words of judgment against the exiles (kicking them when they’re down); Chapters 25-32 – Oracles against foreign nations (they are finally gonna get it… eventually); Chapters 33-48 – Words of hope (for new life and new religious community in Jerusalem… stop him if you’ve heard this one before).
Towards the Sermon…
1) I’m not sure exile means what you think it means…
Some may have hit this theme already with previous prophets, but if not there is an opportunity to talk about God not being way over there, but right here. The people of Israel were weary of exile and into the next generation of pining for home. I’m sure by that time it had become a place of legend – of butterflies and rainbows – or at the very least the place where God was because that is where the Temple was. Ezekiel is proclaiming that God isn’t only there – God is here.
The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all round them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. (v. 1-2)
God led Ezekiel through the valley – God is in the valley – and it is God breathed (ruach) that there be life!
2) World War Z…
Yes, I had to go there and I know some of you may be dying (ahem) to go here too. If you know enough about the zombie entertainment genre to not get yourself into trouble I say go for it. Shaun of the Dead does a brilliant job of showing the ho-hum everyday lives of ordinary people to be strikingly similar to zombies. (WARNING: language NOT appropriate for most of us to give a pulpit recommendation to go home and watch that movie instead of Elf.)
Are we living our faith like zombies, or are we engaged in our faith and trust in God? We may think we’re supposed to be quiet and worshipful, but in fact our mission is to bring things back to life!
3) Do you want to be healed?
This idea comes from our Associate Pastor of Pastoral Care. So often we work and pray with folks who, truth be told, would rather dwell in their wound(s) than be healed. Our Associate Pastor picked up on verse 10: I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.
God breathed life into them and they lived… but it was up to them to stand on their feet.
Other thoughts/prompts to ponder…
- What about the connections to the creation narrative and the very first text from this year, Genesis 1:1-2:4?
- Second Sunday for Advent for us is peace, anyone see a link there?
- In this text the body builds back up layer by layer, every step is named, presumably each one takes time and the order matters…
- No matter how long or how dead… there is renewal.
- Human nature vs. God’s nature…
What are your thoughts? Please share in the comments!