Wednesday, May 15, 2013

People of God 2.0

Ezekiel 11:14-25
If you are like me, you can get a little weary of the constant upgrading that goes on with computers and software. Just when I get comfortable with a program or a web site, just when I feel like I finally understand how to use a laptop or iPad, along comes a new operating system, or a new layout, or a new interface. The social media giant Facebook is famous for such changes, but even, the site where I post this blog, has recently undergone a revision. I want to say “Enough already. Stop with all the changing!” But the truth is that there are times and situations where change is not only desirable, it is absolutely essential. One such case is mentioned in our Old Testament reading for today. “I will give them one heart,” says the Lord, “and put a new spirit within them; I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, so that they may follow my statutes and keep my ordinances and obey them. Then they shall be my people, and I will be their God” (Ezekiel 11:19-20). Let’s call this phenomenon “the People of God (version 2)” because according to the prophet, God’s people are about to be completely reoriented and it will begin in the heart.

This message is profound. Though God created women and men in the divine image, over time even God’s chosen people had become hardhearted, unfeeling and unresponsive to God’s will. Hearts made for compassion and love had instead become like rock, unmoved by the needs of others. The result had been calamitous. By the time of Ezekiel’s writing, the people of God had been spread among the nations, awash in exile. God had not given up, however, and though the situation appeared dire, the Lord promised to restore the people by first correcting their innermost deficiencies. Hearts of stone would be restored to their original loving and compassionate forms. The result of this transformation would be a restored community bound together by attention to God’s will and a renewed relationship between God and humanity. Essentially, all that was wrong with the world would be corrected when the people themselves were remade.

Here the analogy with computers and the internet breaks down because with technology there are obvious adjustments that are made, clear examples of change that are impossible to ignore. But with people, change is not always certain, nor is it always obvious. Indeed, it would be difficult to point to a moment in time where God’s promise to instill new hearts was accomplished. Humanity remains afflicted with sinfulness and a lack of compassion. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, however, has proven that God is firmly committed to upholding the covenant even as God continues to call people to lives of faithful obedience. Perhaps it is in Jesus’ defeat of sin and death that you and I find our fullest transformation as humans, our most pronounced “upgrade.” For in the new thing that God is doing in Jesus Christ, we have been given a fresh start, have been recreated. Indeed, God’s work in Christ makes it clear that things are not what they once were, which is to say that compassion and love are no longer exceptions, they are the rule. For this we can say thanks to God.

Prayer: Gracious and loving God, we thank you for the new beginning you have given us through your Son Jesus Christ and for the forgiveness and hope we find in him. Amen.

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