Tag Archives: Ezekiel

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 6B

Track 1: Our Greatness Is in God

1 Samuel 15:34-16:13
Psalm 20
2 Corinthians 5:6-10,[11-13],14-17
Mark 4:26-34

God had asked Samuel to anoint a replacement for Saul as king. Saul was the first king of Israel, but he had gone his own way, disobeying God. Samuel was directed to the house of Jesse in Bethlehem. Jesse had seven sons that passed before Samuel. We read from 1 Samuel:

When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.” Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.”   (1 Samuel 16:6-12)

What was so special about David? He was the youngest who was the youngest who was keeping the sheep. David was young, but he had something that his brothers did not have. His faith in God was unshakeable. This is how David, the psalmist, would later describe his relationship with God:

We will shout for joy at your victory
and triumph in the Name of our God;
may the Lord grant all your requests.

Now I know that the Lord gives victory to his anointed;
he will answer him out of his holy heaven,
with the victorious strength of his right hand.

Some put their trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we will call upon the Name of the Lord our God.

They collapse and fall down,
but we will arise and stand upright.   (Psalm 20:5-8)

Unlike Saul, David was willing to listen to God and obey him. He did not depend upon himself alone. He knew that God was there for him because spent so much of his time with God. He had formed a relationship with God. Over time, David had come to rely upon God and trust him in all circumstances. As we may remember, David went through many difficult trials before he actually took the throne. God continually proved himself to David and David demonstrated his faith in God by never losing hope or distrusting his God and his purposes.

Do we have such a God on our side? The Apostle Paul wrote:

For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.   (2 Corinthians 5:)

Perhaps we have been living for ourselves. We may not have had the track record of David. We may have strayed. We may have doubted. But all of that can change in a heartbeat. How? Paul wrote:

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!   (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Are we in Christ? We can step into our destiny as much as David or anyone has done. We just need to allow God to make us the man or woman he had intended for us to be. We may not be a king, but we can become a brand new creation, pleasing to God in every way. King Saul never understood the greatness that God had for him. Let us chose a different path. It is time to put our whole future and destiny in God’s hands. He will never disappoint us when we put our trust in him.

 

Track 2: The Mustard Seed

Ezekiel 17:22-24
Psalm 92:1-4,11-14
2 Corinthians 5:6-10,[11-13],14-17
Mark 4:26-34

The psalmist writes about the spiritual growth that God provides for those who remain planted in him:

The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree,
and shall spread abroad like a cedar of Lebanon.

Those who are planted in the house of the Lord
shall flourish in the courts of our God;

They shall still bear fruit in old age;
they shall be green and succulent;

That they may show how upright the Lord is,
my Rock, in whom there is no fault.   (Psalm 92:11-14)

The righteous shall flourish, but not all will flourish. God speaks to the Prophet Ezekiel concerning the Davidic line leading  to the Messiah. He tells Ezekiel that two kings will be cut off: Jeconiah, king of Israel and Zedekiah, king of Judah. These kings had disobeyed God. Both were taken into captivity in Babylon. God would take the matter into his own hands:

I myself will take a sprig
from the lofty top of a cedar;
I will set it out.

I will break off a tender one
from the topmost of its young twigs;

I myself will plant it
on a high and lofty mountain.

On the mountain height of Israel
I will plant it,

in order that it may produce boughs and bear fruit,
and become a noble cedar.

Under it every kind of bird will live;
in the shade of its branches will nest
winged creatures of every kind.

All the trees of the field shall know
that I am the Lord.

I bring low the high tree,
I make high the low tree;

I dry up the green tree
and make the dry tree flourish.

I the Lord have spoken;
I will accomplish it.

God will still establish the Messianic rule. God would work around these two kings. Even though it may appear, at times, that his plans have been thwarted. God will accomplish his purposes in due season. The tender one about whom God is speaking is the son of Joseph and Mary.  He will do everything in his power to fulfill his promises to his people.

Jesus told a parable that illustrated how God works, often behind the scenes to accomplishes his purposes:

Jesus said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”   (Mark 4:30-32)

God might begin small. For awhile it may not appear that anything is happening. The growth may be imperceptible at first. But before we become fully aware of what he has done God has accomplished his purposes.

This is true for us who are a part of the growth of his kingdom here on earth. We may not believe that we are making any progress. We must be patient. We must trust the Lord. We must remain grounded in his word.

I love red bud trees. I bought one that was on sale. It was just a small stick of a tree. When I put it in the grown the root-ball fell away. Half of the tree lived and the other half died. I started to pull it up because I thought that there was not enough left of the tree to be attractive. Nonetheless, I cut off the dead part and hoped for the best. Today the tree is quite large and has a beautiful shape. All this one done by the grace of God.

God loves us more than tress. He wants us to flourish. He wants his kingdom on earth to flourish. This will happen when we remain planted in him. If we are not planted in him then his kingdom will still flourish, but we will not be a part of it.

We want to be a part of the mustard seed because we want to be a part of a Mustard tree that will never end. It started small, but it will grow into a beautiful tree whose eternal glory will never end.

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Day of Pentecost, Year B

Send Forth Your Spirit

The Day of Pentecost is traditionally a celebration of the birth of the Church. Perhaps the church in America needs more of a rebirth than a birthday celebration.

The nation of Israel needed a rebirth. It had fallen so low that it appeared Israel would never recover. The people were in exile with little hope of ever returning to their homeland. What was sad for them is that they remembered their homeland and how wonderful it was when they were under the protection and blessing of God. But they moved away from God just as many in our nation have done the same. When this happens there are consequences.

Fortunately, God intervened in their moment of complete despair. He spoke to his prophet Ezekiel:

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 around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.”   (Ezekiel 37:1-6)

Notice that Ezekiel did not have the answers to God’s questions. Nonetheless, God would put the answers in the prophets mouth. God was doing a new thing, but Ezekiel must declare it to make it happen. I believe that God is ready to do a new thing for America and for the church in America. Are we listening and are we ready to speak?

Apart from God we can do nothing. In fact, there is no life at all apart from God, only death. Life begins when God breathes upon us the Spirit of life. The psalmist wrote:

You hide your face, and they are terrified;
you take away their breath,
and they die and return to their dust.

You send forth your Spirit, and they are created;
and so you renew the face of the earth.

May the glory of the Lord endure for ever;
may the Lord rejoice in all his works.   (Acts 2:30-32)

When life was first formed we read that the Spirit was hovering over the waters:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.

God breathed his Spirit and  life became possible. We need him to breathe on us again. The Apostle Paul wrote:

We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.   (Romans 8:22-25)

Have we given up hope on our country? Have we given up hope on our church? Paul tells us that in hope we were saved. it is time to put our salvation into practice. We must not give up. Rather, we must speak out. That is what Ezekiel did:

So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.   (Ezekiel 37:7-10)

The Day of Pentecost is a reminder that God started the Church. The disciples did not do it. We cannot do it. The promised Holy Spirit of God came upon the followers of Jesus and breathed into them new life. In the Old Testament, the Spirit would fall upon certain prophets. By his  death and resurrection Jesus prepared the way for everyone to receive his Spirit. In today’s Gospel Jesus is speaking to his disciples about his Spirit:

Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because they do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.   (John 16:7-11)

The world was wrong about three things: sin, righteousness, and judgment. This is still true today. The Church should not be governed by this false understanding. Yet much of it has been captured by the world. First, sin is real and sin brings death. We must confess it. Secondly, we are not righteous except by the blood of Jesus. Yes, we are saved by grace through faith, but without the shedding of the blood of Jesus there would be no cleansing on sin. We must still confess the blood of Jesus. And thirdly, the world is under judgment to this day. America is under judgment because it is governed by wicked leadership which the church has not challenged. We are starting to see some of our wicked leaders fall, both in the government and the church. Are we ready to move out from being under this corruption?

A great awakening is occurring. We cannot afford to be silent any longer. We must speak out and declare the new life in Christ that God is offering our nation?

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.   (Ezekiel 37:9-10)

Let us pray: “Send Forth Your Spirit and renew the face of the earth.”

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Filed under Day of Pentecost, homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, Pentecost, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon preparation, Year B