March 26, 2019
by Brenda Carroll
Ezekiel 17 :1-10My assigned passage was Ezekiel 17:1-10. As it is always best to do, I continued to read forward, looking for some meaning or some words that sparked my thinking. I write this on the week following General Conference. Upon reading chapter 19, I might have stayed with lamentation. I have lamented the divisiveness, the hurt, the loss as persons have called to ask how to respond as persons, often leaders, wrote to ask their names be removed…..most often without a willingness to talk or respond to any plea for conversation. It has been a time of lamentation.
Let’s back up. Chapter 18 begins: “The Lord’s word came to me: What do you mean by this proverb of yours about the land of Israel… "When parents eat unripe grapes, the children’s teeth suffer"?
As surely as I live, says the Lord God, no longer will you use this proverb in Israel! All lives are mine; the life of the parent and the life of the child belong to me. Only the one who sins will die.” (vs. 1-4)
I am so glad this error in a very basic way of the thinking in Israel was corrected. I am glad that God sees and loves each heart. I am glad God gives each one a chance to repent, to “turn, turn away from our sin.” (vs. 30) It would appear that only God can judge and only that which blocks me from God is sin. It appears that God gets to name the sin and God gets to grant mercy. During this season of Lent, this passage reminds me to “examine all my ways”, as the psalmist says. It reminds me that I should not take up the things that are only God’s. If I just worked every day to turn from the impulse to judge others, it would take a lot of spiritual energy. God helping me, today I will not usurp God’s role. God helping me, today I will not judge someone else’s sin. God helping me, I will humble myself before God and make space for God to “create in me a clean spirit.”
This passage also prompts me to ask myself, "Are there things I have taken for granted as true that are really contrary to God’s ways, God’s heart?" Now that is a frightening thought. Yet I see that in this passage, the revelation of God called Israel to change a basic assumption. I have pondered often how Jesus challenged/invited the Pharisees (and likely the disciples) to open up to new revelation in regard to accepted interpretations of the Law. Am I closing myself off to God’s continued revelations? Open the eyes of my heart, Lord. Open the recesses of my mind. Shake me when my ways are contrary to your ways. Show me and speak to me of that “new thing” you wish me to understand.
This Ezekiel speaks of the Valley of the Dry Bones, and the new life that is breathed into them. He speaks of the divided Kingdom becoming united. Then there are minute details provided for “the way forward”. In this season of Lent, that on this day feels like a season of Lament, maybe Ezekiel has not shown up for those details for this denomination. But I wait not for Ezekiel. I wait for the Risen Lord, who once breathed upon the grieving frightened disciples as they waited. I wait for the Holy Spirit, who once came upon those who gathered and waited. I wait not for a General Conference, but for a transformed church on fire for Jesus.
Let it breathe on me; let it breathe on me;
Let the breath of the Lord now breathe on me.
(#503, United Methodist Hymnal)