Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Michelangelo's Ezekiel

<emGo and speak to the exiles, whether they listen or choose not to listen.

[A sermon on the Uniform Series text, Ezekiel 3:1-11, delivered at a small church in southern Indiana.]

There is a famous story from ancient Greece – actually, supposedly from about the 4th century – about Alexander the Great and the Gordion knot. Many maybe already know that story – how a prophetic oracle predicted that the next king of Phrygia would come riding into town on an ox-cart, and sure enough, this happened, so the farmer driving the cart was crowned king and the ox-cart was tied to a post with a really complicated knot, the Gordion knot, where it stayed for a long time; eventually, there was supposed to be a new ruler of Phrygia, who would be the person who could undo that elaborate knot. So Alexander the Great shows up in Phrygia, hears this story, and being Alexander and the kind of person who liked to be in charge, wanted to succeed at this task very much – but after taking a couple of tries at untying the knot, it was obvious he wasn’t going to manage that, so he reasoned it wouldn’t matter how he undid the knot, as long as he did, at which point he pulled out his sword and sliced it in half – presto! The knot was undone, Alexander was the next ruler, and … well, I don’t know whether everyone was happy about it, but that might not have been the point. So that’s the story of the Gordion knot. read the rest

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Shabbat shalom

Image - portrait of young girl

“The seventh day has the flavor of the seventh heaven and was given as a foretaste of the world to come; ot hi le-‘olam, a token of eternity.”
Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2005), 74.

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Questions for Reflection and Discussion (Ezekiel 3 1-11)

Michelangelo's Ezekiel

A hard-headed priest-prophet

Still thinking about Ezekiel 3:1-11, the Uniform Series text for this Sunday; here are some questions we might take up in class:

Ezekiel is warned “not to be rebellious” in connection with eating the spread-out scroll (Ez. 2:8). The scroll is unusual, in that it is covered with writing front and back, making it especially dense; the text conveys lamentation, mourning and woe (Ez. 2:9-10); when Ezekiel does eat the scroll, it tastes sweet (Ez. 3:1-3). How does this story make you feel about Ezekiel, about God, about their relationship, and about what is in store for Ezekiel? If you were in Ezekiel’s position, what would you be feeling and thinking? In light of this, what ideas do you have about what the scroll is supposed to do to or for Ezekiel? read the rest

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On Being One of Them

photo of a university garden gate

The gatekeeper is out of sight

Late last night, I sent the email to the student who had hoped to change the grade in the class that was over in June. No, there is no good way to do this, I finally said. No, I can’t.

Which is true. But not simply true. “The faculty member always has some discretion.” That means power. I could have said “you could make up the work you didn’t do during the semester, and turn it in, and I could grade it, and if it were satisfactory, I could add it to your grade and then it wouldn’t be an F, it could be something else, it could be a D.” I could have said “you could revise the papers you wrote that I said you could revise back in May, you could take those comments I made seriously, you could raise the grade you got on those assignments, and then it could be something else, possibly almost a C.” read the rest

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Christian Doctrine (12)

Image - John Calvin

Let’s talk about God the Redeemer in Christ for awhile.

Summary notes for [and some thoughts on] Chapter 12 of Christian Doctrine1, “Where is God? The Doctrine of the Incarnation”:

Continuing to follow the pattern established in the Apostles’ Creed for reviewing the doctrines of the faith, Guthrie moves on to “and in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,” beginning with “who was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.” Not the doctrine of the virgin birth, although that doctrine is implicated, but the doctrine of the incarnation: the affirmation that God, in the person of Jesus, genuinely became human and lived a full human life on earth, along with all the rest of us – with the significant difference that Jesus lived a human life without sin. read the rest

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Exegetical Exercise (Ezekiel 3 1-11)

Michelangelo's Ezekiel

Ezekiel as depicted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel

The Uniform Series text for Sunday, July 23, is Ezekiel 3:1-11. Here is the text (including a couple of verses from chapter 2; version: Inclusive Bible), along with my exegetical notes:

2:8 But you, mere mortal, heed what I say to you and don’t rebel like them. Open your mouth and eat what I feed you.”
9 Then I looked and I saw a hand stretched to me, holding a scroll. 10 The scroll, unrolled for me so that I would see the writing front and back, held words of lament, mourning and woe.
3:1 Then the Voice said to me, “Mere mortal, eat what is before you. Eat this scroll and then go and speak to the House of Israel.”
2 So I opened my mouth and was given the scroll to eat, 3 as the Voice said, “Mere mortal, eat this scroll I hand you and fill your stomach with it.” I swallowed it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth.
4 The Voice said to me, “Mere mortal, go to the Israelites and declare my words to them. 5 I am sending you not to a people of obscure speech and difficult language, but to the House of Israel. 6 I send you not to big nations that speak a foreign and difficult tongue, whose words you cannot understand – though if I were to send you to them, they would listen to you! 7 But the House of Israel is unwilling to listen to you because its people are unwilling to listen to me, for the whole House of Israel is hard-headed and obstinate. 8 But I will make you as hard-headed and obstinate as they are! 9 I will give you a resolve that is as hard as a diamond, for a diamond is harder than flint. Don’t fear them. Don’t be terrified by them; for they are a rebellious house.
10 “Mere mortal, listen carefully to all that I say to you. Take it to heart. 11 Now go to your exiled sisters and brothers and say to them, ‘Thus says Sovereign YHWH!’ – whether they listen or choose not to listen.”

Continue reading

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Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

fresco of the Prophet Jeremiah

The complete view of the Prophet Jeremiah as envisioned by Michelangelo

[A sermon partly on Jeremiah 1:4-10, delivered at a small church in southern Indiana]

We’re continuing to look at stories of God’s calling in the Bible; this is the prophet Jeremiah’s autobiographical account of his call, which came in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah, in the late 7th century, and whose career spanned the forty years until the destruction of Jerusalem and the final deportation of the people of Judah to Babylonia in 586 BCE. The prophet Jeremiah did not have an easy or a pleasant time, either in the content of his message or in the way it was received by his contemporaries, as we might know. Jeremiah 1:4-10 is the beginning of the story.

Most of us probably consider efficiency and effectiveness – the principle of getting results, ideally with the least expenditure – pretty important values. Most of us think about how to run errands, for instance, so we wouldn’t drive out to WalMart for something and then downtown to the library to drop off books and then back to the Five Star across from WalMart to get gas … that would be a waste of time and money. We’re inclined to spend the most time and effort on the things that people are going to notice and care about – I don’t know about everyone else, but if I get short on time, I will definitely mow the front yard first …  and most of us put some thought into not wasting things, like our time or our effort or our money … read the rest

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