Last week we talked about how Jesus expected his church to care for the sick, visit those in prison and feed the hungry. The role of the shepherd was to point to how the spiritual life of Jerusalem, how corporate and individual worship had gone astray. Idols, greed, lack of adherence to the law of God – the shepherd was to draw the people back to God and away from those things that would only bring harm. They failed in every respect.
No matter who we are, regardless if we are part of God’s church or his people, God is concerned about how we treat one another – especially his people and those who depend on God as their defender and shield. The nations Ezekiel prophesied against took advantage of Israel’s predicament – the Babylonian exile. They gloated over Israel’s fall; rejoiced in their misery; rushed to betray them.
As we look around our world and ask the question where is God in all of this? I wonder is God asking us in return, never mind where I am – where are you in all of this? Is the God you are looking for the God of scripture or some other god we’ve imagined or would like to be real. A god who’s always there for us, who does what we ask of him but in reality, leaves us alone the rest of the time allowing us to live our lives however we want and is actually quite happy with this arrangement. This is not the god of scripture
Today is our first Sunday back in Moneydig Church. I wonder how do we feel about this? How do we see or understand the fact we’re back? Is it an opportunity, a second chance or simply the continuation of what has always been?
Folks, where do we find meaning? There has been a lot of talk this week about exam results. Young people not getting the results they expected, worrying they won’t have the future they hoped for. Do we place to much meaning in exams? Do we try to find meaning in the freedoms we fight for? Freedom to march; to marry; live as we want. What have these freedoms cost us? Do these freedoms help us to find meaning in life? Jesus said he is the vine. Apart from him we can do nothing. (John 15:5) The only place we can find meaning for life is in Jesus Christ, everything else is ultimately useless, fit for burning.
As we read chapters 12, 13 and 14 it isn’t a new vision we’re presented with but a play for Ezekiel to act out. Ezekiel’s play was for the benefit of those already exiled in Babylon with him. It was a play about the fate of Jerusalem and its people, from the king, to the lowliest servant. The exiles were being told what would happen in Jerusalem so as they would get into their head that God was serious about the punishment he was promising to bring forward.
As Ezekiel cried out to God so he heard something wonderful. God promised that even for those in Exile; even in his anger; in his perfect justice and judgement, God would still care for his people. He would be a sanctuary. God promised Ezekiel that he would bring his people back not only to Jerusalem, but to that special covenantal relationship with God. ‘They will be my people, and I will be their God.’ (11:20)
Ezekiel’s vision wasn’t so much against what was happening in the temple, but what was happening in people’s lives. Israel’s idolatry may not have been obvious, it’s more likely to have been hidden. If we were sitting with Ezekiel in that house in Babylon, hoping to hear from God. What would he be saying to us? Certainly, on the face of it everything may look OK. Our temple: our life may be good on the surface, no problems; no issues. What lies beneath?
We are incredibly good at quoting Psalm 46:10, ‘Be still and know that I am God.’ What are expecting when we know God. Are we expecting God to make us feel better, a warm pleasant reassurance? Certainly, we know God through his love and compassion. We also know God through the pain we inflict on him because of our sin. We know God because of his judgement. How often do we feel the injustice of hunger, poverty, inequality, sectarianism, racism, sexism? Do we feel the pain of war, terror or bullying? Do we feel it enough to act? Do we feel it as God feels it?
When God told Ezekiel to stand, it wasn’t the same as us being told to please be seated. This wasn’t humility on God’s part. This was an invitation for Ezekiel to be a conscious participant in God’s concern for his people; a call to be ready to act on God’s behalf. God doesn’t call us to be spectators in his plan. He calls us to action; to stand and be counted. To understand how God is concerned for his people and to share that concern in a way that moves us to action.