Saturday, 4 July 2009

Longer sermon notes

This one is more of an 'internal church' sermon...

God is speaking (Ezekiel 2:1-5 Mark 6:1-13)

I wonder if any of us here would say that God has spoken to us?
Perhaps it would feel strange to admit that (does God still speak to people?) – or dangerous (people might think we were mad) – or just not ‘us’ somehow (that whole booming voice out of the clouds thing).

The reading we heard from Ezekiel talks about God speaking to him – but he’s in the Old Testament, so you expect that sort of thing more. In the bit we read today, Ezekiel says ‘I heard a voice’ – but this isn’t the only way God speaks to Ezekiel, and maybe some of the other ways seem nearer to our own lives.
The very first time Ezekiel is in touch with God, he sees something – a storm coming, then as he continues to look he sees a wheel in the storm, ( you might know the song ‘Ezekiel saw the wheel…”) and as he looks again he sees the glory of God – he is amazed by what he sees and is convinced that God is present in it.

Ezekiel continues to see things and hear things – and sometimes what he hears is described as the voice of God and sometimes he says ‘the Word of the Lord came to me’ which seems to be more an inner conviction that he knows what God wants him to do.

So even for Ezekiel there are different ways of God speaking to him. Directly and indirectly – in what he sees and what he hears.

And then Ezekiel himself is sent to be a prophet – someone who speaks to people on God’s behalf – who speaks out for God.
Ezekiel is like the lamp we thought about earlier – he shines with God’s light, for the benefit of others, through God’s power.

How good are we at being this sort of prophet of God’s loving word?

First, the bad news:
According to a recent study by an American, David Kinnaman, here are the percentages of people outside the church who think that the following words describe present-day Christianity:

* antihomosexual 91%
* judgmental 87%
* hypocritical 85%
* old-fashioned 78%
* too political 75%
* out of touch with reality 72%
* insensitive to others 70%
* boring 68%
Kinnaman concludes “It would be hard to overestimate how firmly people reject-- and feel rejected by-- Christians".

This contrasts very strongly with the attitude of people to Jesus – although as we heard in our gospel reading he too had to face hostility.
The people who knew Jesus best – the people of his own village – were at first confused by him
‘How could this son of Mary be the one through whom God has come to us?’.
Yet they were confronted with the rightness of his message – a message of love and healing and reconciliation. And as Jesus continued to teach and heal, more and more people came to see that this was God become human, God incarnate, God with us.
Now the good news – God still speaks to his church and challenges and empowers us to be prophets of the good news of his love – even to a world which might expect us to say something else.
If, like Jesus we stick at declaring a message of hope and love, ultimately the world will have to think again about the message they hear and the prophets they hear it from.

Jesus sent his followers out to speak to others, to spread the good news of God’s love: like Ezekiel they were prophets, speaking out to others on God’s behalf. We need to get away from the image of prophets as gloomy judgemental folk, or those with an axe to grind. We need, instead, to understand and help us others to see that prophets are those who walk closely with God and are empowered by the Spirit.

We are to be prophets of God’s message of love – present before us in bread and wine.

We need to allow these gifts to speak to us of the love of God in the giving of Jesus’ body and blood - his dying and rising.

Then filled with God’s gift to us we can be God’s own for the world.
To his praise & glory.

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