The text of my sermon preached at St Mary’s Bradley and St Andrews, Kildwick on Sunday 4th July 2021.
The readings were Ezekiel 2: 1 – 5 and Mark 6: 1 – 13
As people begin to think of holidays, I wonder how much packing do individuals take with them.
I know somebody who was going to lead an art group on a Greek Island and she boarded the train at Cononley with her luggage. As she got to the seat a person sitting opposite remarked to her “I see you brought the taps as well!” He was referring to the proverbial packing the kitchen sink on your travels. I tend to favour the approach of Phineas Fogg in ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’ and just take a Gladstone Bag filled with pound notes as my only luggage. Very light and much less wearing on the arms. Not terribly economic.
Jesus commission to disciples
Sent out as six pairs and they travelled very light – just sandals and a staff. That might seem strange but if we check what Ezekiel was like then perhaps less so!
Chapters 1 – 3 summarise Ezekiel’s commission to the Israelites.He was probably a priest and was deported in 597 BC when Jerusalem was captured and taken to Babylon and his prophetic period began about 592 and continued for 22 years. It is thought that he would have been about thirty when he started his work and a lot of his writing is about judgement on the land of Judah.
Just as Jesus was telling the people of his time, both himself and through the disciples, about the kingdom of God, Ezekiel was bringing God’s word to the people fo his time.
He had a number of visions and various metaphors some of which have been described as grotesque.
Although some of the visions are placed in Jerusalem he was actually resident in Babylon.
Some of his feats include:
Laying on his left side for 390 days and then laying on his right side for forty days while eating a special bread cooked on dung – as a concession he was allowed to use cow dung rather than human!
Some of it has been likened to performance art: shaving his head and beard and burning it in a symbolic way.
Eating and drinking and getting the shakes at the same time.
Visions such as we had three weeks ago with eagles in the top of cedar trees.
Not being allowed to publicly mourn the death of his wife.
The vision of the valley of bones that came to life.
Some fairly graphic stuff, depending on the translation used, about donkeys in the story of Oholah and Oholibah.
The commission he had was on a scroll that he had to eat. No wonder some commentators describe it as weird.
But it was all about a sense of judgement, calling to the people to repentance and the fact that God really wanted to restore the people to be in a right place with himself and his creation.
He wanted people to take notice and turn to God.
Variety of approaches
The disciples had a much simpler task – cast out demons, anoint with oil and heal the sick.
Some would suggest that was the approach for then and it is not to be taken literally today – others say that demon-possession is still there around the corner and the problem for much of what is wrong. I have encountered both views and I suspect the truth is a lot more nuanced.
There is a view that the use of the word demons merely is the only way that writers in the first century could describe problems because of the state of medical knowledge at that time although the bible does refer to illnesses as well as demons. Was there more spiritual opposition as the son of God, Jesus, was there in person?
I could spend a lot of time expanding various views on this but more importantly I think we should look at the application for today.
What do we take from this for ourselves today
The idea of a commission for the disciples as for the prophets is a clear example for us today in the Parish fo Kildwick, Cononley and Bradley. As we enter a time of interregnum or vacancy then all are called to be active in promoting the values of the kingdom of God.
We all have a commission to proclaim our faith.
We need to demonstrate it in how we live.
The example we set
The actions we utilise
service to others
worship towards God
appreciation of what God has done
The words we use are important and need to match our actions – as St Francis is reputed to have said “All the Friars … should preach by their deeds”
We may not go far, Ezekiel remained in Babylon but exerted a lot of pressure.
We all have our part as disciples to be, dare I say, prophetic in our living out our faith. We may not be asked to do unusual things like Ezekiel, well I really hope so.
We may not cast out demons as such but we can bring God’s word through our lives and pray for others.
The world is very different to that of 2000 years ago when the disciples were sent out or 2600 years ago when Ezekiel was demonstrating by his actions vividly that God wanted a people who belonged to him and lived by his standards.
So to paraphrase Ezekiel and Jesus the essential message is:
We need to rise up
Get on our feet
And go – family, friends and other folk we know
So that all the people know.
What we take is not a matter of a lot of luggage or little but – just the love of God. Amen.