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
“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. They go from strength to strength ’till each appears before God in Zion.”
Psalm 84:5, 7
Our pilgrimages to worship are short ones, these days, our Father … not to Your sanctuary but to a room in our own homes. Yet we know that You have promised to meet us and impart all we need to live our lives in Your sustaining presence. Though we miss the faces of those who usually gather around us in worship, we thank You for every remembrance of them … and look forward to the days when we shall gather together physically again. It is in the name of the one who promised presence in all circumstances, even Jesus … amen.
Today's Message: You Are What You Eat
Ezekiel 2:1 - 3:3
1 He said to me, “Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you.” 2 As he spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard him speaking to me.
3 He said: “Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have been in revolt against me to this very day. 4 The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says.’ 5 And whether they listen or fail to listen—for they are a rebellious people—they will know that a prophet has been among them. 6 And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or be terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people. 7 You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious. 8 But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not rebel like that rebellious people; open your mouth and eat what I give you.”
9 Then I looked, and I saw a hand stretched out to me. In it was a scroll, 10 which he unrolled before me. On both sides of it were written words of lament and mourning and woe.
3 And he said to me, “Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the people of Israel.” 2 So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat.
3 Then he said to me, “Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it.” So, I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth.
We might not feel too uncomfortable as we begin to hear our Bible reading this morning. After all, God’s command to Ezekiel, “Son of man, stand up on your feet (2:1) …” is something we’re used to when God’s word is being shared. It has been the habit of many churches for years to ask folks to stand as the scripture is being read, as a sign of respect and awe …
But that’s where the comfort level changes, at least for Ezekiel (and perhaps for us). One command leads to another … “Son of man, I am sending you (v. 3).” We have seen in scripture as well as our own lives that when there is a problem and the Father is involved, others may get a tap on the shoulder. And in Ezekiel’s case, he is being called in such a way as to exercise the office of prophet … and this will be a challenge for him, for a couple of reasons.
First, he is being called to a role that has been frequently misunderstood. We often think of this job as involving telling the future, a kind of crystal ball exercise. Though there may be some of that, the role is usually more accurately understood as one who brings meaning to a situation. For Ezekiel this will be a challenge, since the Hebrew people are going through a crisis. By the time he comes along (around 593 B.C. or B.C.E. if you prefer) the Hebrew nation has already faced one mass exile, with another to follow in 586, courtesy of the current world power Babylon. They are supposed to be the people of God … how could this be happening?
But the second difficulty in all of this for our hero comes up in v. 5 … “for they are a rebellious house” the voice tells him. Oh, there had been many problems for the Hebrew nation through the years … justice issues, when the poor were mistreated; shallow worship, which was supposed to be their strong suit; and the blending of their proud faith of Judaism with the faiths of other nations close by. But these were only symptoms of the real issue … this nation had rarely grasped its true role, articulated for the first time in Abram’s calling recorded in Genesis 12. It was never supposed to be about mighty armies, powerful kings or the promised land … rather, the essence of their nationhood was to be their willingness to be a mission nation, sharing the good news of Yahweh’s love for His world.
And maybe that’s where we come into the picture. The current COVID-19 crisis has caused a lot of us to look for meaning. While waiting in line outside Home Depot back in the spring when all of this was rolling out, I got into a conversation with a retired nurse standing the requisite two metres behind me. She was reflecting about her cleanliness concerns, not just within the hospital she had been working at prior to retirement but across our community. “We have gotten pretty lazy” she quipped. I think we can all agree that she is right … we’ll see some changes in this area and in others as well, because of this terrible experience. But there is more than improved hygiene at stake here …
Upon reading and reflecting myself, I wonder if one area of meaning over these past few months has to do with the assumptions, we held going into it. All of the progress in the world … the speed with which we communicate, our widespread and rapid travel, the storage of data in our technological age, a distribution network for goods and products that links the entire world, to name only a few … has caused us to assume that, with enough education and research, we can solve nearly anything. Yes, the world has changed much in the last generation or so. But, look at the pictures of those who faced the challenge of the Spanish flu over 100 years ago. Apart from their clothing styles and the black and white photos, they’re wearing masks just like us. It’s like the old saying …. “the more things change, the more things stay the same.”
The message Ezekiel received reveals God’s prescription for the remnant of the Hebrew nation as they face their crisis … and perhaps it is a helpful word for us as well. “You must speak my words to them …” (v. 7), the scripture reads. In all their attempts to survive as a people most individuals in Israel, from the leadership to the rank and file citizen, had forgotten the important role of “the words” and the vital component of worship. The spiritual side of life is often neglected in our post-modern life as well. So many folks assume that, if the economic side of life is healthy then we can proceed merrily along, figuring that we are accomplishing what needs to be done. A world discouraged by a slow recovery from an unexpected pandemic needs to be reminded of eternal values that never change and that take us beyond this life. As churches we must continue to “speak his words” to perplexed people who assumed we were clever enough to meet any challenge.
This word may often involve some tough language. When the scroll is unrolled for Ezekiel, we read that it incorporates “words of lament and mourning and woe (v. 10).” We must never shirk from incorporating the biblical teaching on sin as we “speak His words” … but it must always be delivered with compassion and never separated from the good news of redemption!
So here is the prophet’s role, outlined in these last few verses … and we must pay attention, for they are instructive to us as well. In the first verse of chapter three he is told to “eat … then go and speak.” We might be tempted to rush out with the message which we fervently believe everyone is ready to hear. The exercise of “eating”, which means preparation, is necessary for the proper spreading of hope.
The third time the prophet is told to “eat the scroll” (3:3) we find along with that and a further word … “fill you stomach with it.” The stem of the Hebrew verb in this instance indicates an intensity of encouragement. As we go through the exercise of “eating” or preparing we need to avail ourselves of every tool available to accomplish this. To be certain, regular Bible reading is so helpful … get yourself a Bible you can read, no matter the translation, and “eat.” Of course, being a part of a small group of believers, for fellowship and encouragement, is helpful as well, along with the regular exercise of worship no matter what format this may take. But don’t neglect to incorporate other tools as well to fill our spiritual stomachs. The theologian Karl Barth was fond of saying that his career as a scholar and pastor was facilitated by keeping “the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.” Follow your interests and let your reading, viewing and listening prepare you as you speak and live His words.
Finally, after being encouraged three times to eat, Ezekiel complies, as we read in the latter part of verse 3 … and the result is encouraging. “So, I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth.” The prophet would need this as he served during the challenging years of his ministry. I can personally attest to this experience. Over my career as a pastor, I was always thrilled to arrive at my study on Tuesday mornings. I had found through the years that no matter what was happening in the churches I served, even during discouraging times I could count on “the scroll” to keep me buoyant. Indeed, each week when I began to “eat” there was a sweetness that propelled me to go on and serve. I can only hope this experience for you as well.
O gracious Father we praise You this day for words that bring life and light to us … and for the words that have been fortified by lives well lived, that give us models as to how we should conduct ourselves as Your people. We would love nothing better than to follow in the proud tradition of Ezekiel. Grant us the strength so to live … and the daily inspiration of Your word “tasting as sweet as honey in our mouths.”
We confess, O Father of Lights, that we sometimes shrink from the grandeur of the ones who grace the pages of scripture. Through the help of Your Spirit, may we begin to see the humanity of this titan of the faith … and somehow grasp our role in this great enterprise of scroll eating that you have watched over for lo these many centuries. Remind us of the universal calling and the broad giftedness You have promised to all who have been called.
Finally, our God, we have been reminded again this past week of the frailty of things we once thought were so dependable and strong … the application of human knowledge to meet all challenges, the lasting nature of truths of government which we assume are self-evident to all and the trust which undergirds all of our endeavours and relationships. In all of our cleverness and achievement we know again that we need Your care and wisdom in our lives. Develop in us a conviction that this work and mission of the church is not simply a pleasant sideline but the very essence of life. In the strong name of Jesus, we pray … amen.
“You will know his power today … if you will listen to His voice.”