Good morning First Baptist.
We welcome you to worship this morning. Be sure to remember your brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the week as you pray for them, and as the Holy Spirit brings their faces to your mind. Be sure to also connect with them in the ways that are possible. And if you have any questions or would like to talk to someone, please don’t hesitate to contact the church through the church telephone and leave a message. (519-733-4144)
Call to Worship
“Among the gods not one is like thee, O Lord; no deeds are like thine.”
In a world where many causes, interests and “gods” compete for the devotion of humankind, we gather on this day, having discovered with the Psalmist that “no deeds are like thine.” We are so glad to have You in our lives. In the strong name of Jesus, we pray … amen.
Call to Worship: Ezekiel 3:4-15
4 He then said to me: “Son of man, go now to the people of Israel and speak my words to them. 5 You are not being sent to a people of obscure speech and strange language, but to the people of Israel— 6 not to many peoples of obscure speech and strange language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely if I had sent you to them, they would have listened to you. 7 But the people of Israel are not willing to listen to you because they are not willing to listen to me, for all the Israelites are hardened and obstinate. 8 But I will make you as unyielding and hardened as they are. 9 I will make your forehead like the hardest stone, harder than flint. Do not be afraid of them or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people.”
10 And he said to me, “Son of man, listen carefully and take to heart all the words I speak to you. 11 Go now to your people in exile and speak to them. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says,’ whether they listen or fail to listen.”
12 Then the Spirit lifted me up, and I heard behind me a loud rumbling sound as the glory of the Lord rose from the place where it was standing.[a] 13 It was the sound of the wings of the living creatures brushing against each other and the sound of the wheels beside them, a loud rumbling sound. 14 The Spirit then lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness and in the anger of my spirit, with the strong hand of the Lord on me. 15 I came to the exiles who lived at Tel Aviv near the Kebar River. And there, where they were living, I sat among them for seven days—deeply distressed.
As we return again for our weekly worship experience some might be wondering what we can gain by reflecting on the life of a somewhat obscure Hebrew prophet who reluctantly began his ministry about 2600 years ago. The reason might lie in a question that was on the minds of many within the Hebrew nation at that time, a question we ourselves ask from time to time … “why is this happening to us?” Though Ezekiel ministered so long ago perhaps some of the answers he finds to this question may be helpful to us as well …
As we arrive at chapter 3, we see that Yahweh is still giving instruction to the prophet regarding the specific nature of his call. The Lord God informs his young recruit that, even though his audience will be able to understand the words he will speak, they will probably not be willing to listen (v. 5-7). This is likely due to the nature of the message … that they include “words of lament and mourning and woe” (see 2:10). As we have mentioned before, the current state of the Hebrew nation is only partly due to the shifting winds of power … it is due to their rebellion as well. In all of this, they have abandoned their true role as a “mission people” to conduct their affairs like other nations around them. A part of any gospel message, even in our own time, must deal with the biblical teaching of human sin … but it sometimes is as difficult for a contemporary audience to hear as it was in Ezekiel’s time. New Testament commentator Howard Marshall puts his finger on the issue when he writes:
“Probably few people would deny that acts of deliberate, clear-cut evil are incompatible with true religion. What they do deny is that any of their own acts fall into that category.”
There is no doubt that this young prophet is being called to a difficult task … to preach a blended message of hope and repentance during a national crisis. How can he possibly achieve what he is being called to do?
By developing a hard head (v. 8-9a)
Apparently, Ezekiel is a sensitive young man … so the Lord God is promising to toughen him up. We are reminded of Jesus’ own words as he instructs his own band of new disciples, recorded for us in Matthew 10 … “you must be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” The effective follower of the Lord is not naive when it comes to life’s realities. We are not unfamiliar with the crude words we hear as we make our way through public life but we choose not to use them … we are aware of the available (and now legal) mind-altering substances that see widespread use amongst many but we find our “buzz” in safer and more lasting ways … we are clued into the, not so subtle media bombardment that suggests sexual expression is necessary to be truly human but we know there is no such teaching in scripture. We are not shocked by human behaviour (i.e. “wise as serpents”) … but we share the wonderful good news that life doesn’t have to be this way (i.e. “harmless as doves”).
By being a life-long listener (v. 10)
In spite of the fact that Ezekiel has just “eaten the scroll”, Yahweh is still giving instruction. Could this be instructive for us in our walk of faith? There is an understandable “graduation mentality” that can affect us if we’re not careful, for we so long for the time when we can relax a bit, assuming we’ve learned all the lessons needed to equip us in life … yet our Father has much more to teach us. His word remains the same always … but circumstances change and new ways of applying his word emerge. I found this to be true in my life as a pastor. I can remember many a week where my preparation for the following Sunday started so well that I thought this week’s message was going to be a snap. Then I would proceed to visit an elderly lady in a nursing home, whose children were scattered hither and yon; or have lunch with a newly unemployed man in our church; or drop by the hospital to conduct a pastoral call to one of our folks who has just received a rather poor diagnosis. Upon returning to my study that message, which seemed so well on its way a few days before, was taking on new meaning. The Lord wasn’t finished speaking to me … thank goodness!
By Being Faithful (v. 11)
Ezekiel is instructed to share with them “what the sovereign Lord says, whether they listen or fail to listen.” If we can assume in any way that our service might be informed by this prophet, then ours is a simple task. We are not responsible for results … our role is to share the message, perhaps integrally bound up with our own story of calling. Further, an encouragement in all of this may come to us from Jesus’ own parable of the soils. “A sower went out to sow,” Jesus teaches (Matthew 13) … and from there we learn much about the realities of true evangelism. Reading the passage fully, we would notice that there are four kinds of soil … but only one where the seed successfully grows! In our quest to be faithful emissaries of the Father’s plan of redemption, don’t be surprised that many we encounter will not be ready to hear … but we continue to share nonetheless, anticipating a holy openness by the ones who are ready.
By Sitting Among Them (v. 15)
We read here that, having received Yahweh’s call to serve, Ezekiel proceeded to go “where they were living.” No doubt he wished he could have avoided this because it was a tough experience … in fact he was “overwhelmed” by it. The word here can also mean that this experience “caused” the young prophet “horror”. But most of us know that this is when real ministry takes place. As a pastor in training during my seminary days I was blessed to serve as a volunteer in a wonderful youth ministry known as Young Life. Our work involved a weekly meeting where anywhere from 75-100 high school kids gathered for a time of spirited singing, lively skits, and the sharing of the word of God. But as fun and encouraging as those events were, we were taught that it represented only part of our ministry. Each week we were instructed to extend our ministry by meeting with these students “where they were” … in the cafeteria at lunch and at the High School sporting events on Friday nights. Those of us working in this way found that it was a great time to provide encouragement to these Christian kids in their school environment … but there was a “spill-over” as well, as we met some of their friends who had not yet heard of the good news. The Christian faith has to be taken from the confines of the church building, into a world where people really live.
Our world is still in great need for the good news of the gospel. The Father continues to look for workers ... are you hard-headed enough to try?
We praise You this day, our Father, for Your insistence that Your word go out “whether they listen or not.” We remember the words of Jesus when He claimed His word as real food and drink and we admit that our lives would be impoverished without it. How grateful we are for the true nourishment you provide …
As we hear the description of the early days of a prophet’s career, so many of us know his experience of being overwhelmed or being “weary in well doing” as the apostle Paul described it. Yet the field is “white unto harvest”. Teach us anew to find trust in your sending. Give us hard heads and soft hearts as we live and speak Your word …
As we gather into this holy space of worship this day, our thoughts lead us to special ones who face unique challenges at this time. As those in healing professions are taxed to the limit, grant them renewed strength to face the problems and opportunities of each day. And to those who continue to lose loved ones … may the reality of Jesus’ words, “Blessed are those who mourn” be felt in a special way. We pray in the name of the Gentle Healer Himself … amen.
“Thank God! Pray to him by name! Tell everyone you meet what he has done! Keep your eyes open for God, watch for his works; be alert for signs of his presence.”
Psalm 105: 1, 4