The Secure and the Obscure and the Love Score

“Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice.”

Ezekiel 33

            Yesterday, I sat on the walking bridge in Liberty Island State Park. The park itself provides a view of the back side of the Statue of Liberty and the New York skyline. From there the city feels both smaller than me yet larger than life.

The Secure

It as if I can stretch the span of my arms and hug the city, while hit with the realization that I was just one looking across at a city of 8 million.

I imagine that would be how the Statue of Liberty feels all the time. She, a symbol of “freedom” and “enlightenment” and “independence from a control” staring or perhaps watching over a city that never sleeps. She is the cities watchman…

…on an island alone. Sometimes when you are alone for a good bit of time, alone in your thoughts or in your surroundings or in your loneliness, God, the only, comes and reminds you of your calling. Alone in your loneliness comes the Omnipresent to remind us of a purpose.

Which is why in chapter 33 of Ezekiel, after various conflicts including the death of his wife, the overtaking of his home nation and the fall of surrounding nations, God whispers, “Hey Zeke, you’re a watchman, remember. Remember what watchman do; they hold people accountable and warn them of what is coming. They are both the eyes, ears and mouthpiece. I need you to be the watchman I’ve called you to be.”

The Obscure

Ezekiel is a watchman for a group who shouts back, “God’s ways are not full of justice” or in other words these people think their definition of justice trumps Gods. We live in a generation that purports to know what is just.

But whether or not this generation does have a good idea of justice or whether politically charged sensibilities even matter at all is a different discussion.

As has been the case with my entire reading of the book of Ezekiel, I am more interested in what Ezekiel’s life and obedience has to say to you and me even more than his prophetic messages. Because the books consistent theme is, the majority of the people will reject Ezekiel’s message and ultimately God, and they will suffer ruin. It’s consistently a generation that pretends to listen and speak of love but are greedy for an unjust gain (33:31).

Even though Ezekiel is heard as a prophet, he is obscure. Sometimes obscurity looks like total irrelevance, and sometimes it is visibly misunderstood. Ezekiel is a Statue of Liberty, a reminder of something good, in Ezekiel’s case a reminder of God, but alone on an island.

The Love Score

I’ve never loved New York City and there are days when I wished I never loved. I don’t hate New York City and there are days when I think I’d like to get away with letting myself embrace hatred. But I can’t and I don’t or moreover God loves me too much to let me.

God designed a love song sung with a beautiful voice on an instrument played well with an audience to hear, but that’s sometimes where it ends.

But then there also is this Ezekiel 33:33 “When all this comes true—and it surely will—then they will know that a prophet has been among them.” Often there is a promise attached to our calling.

In Ezekiel’s case the promise is recognition of standing for truth and for God and a legacy of writing in Scripture. That’s pretty good if you ask me.download

Often I have forgotten both the promise, the calling, the good feelings from God. But I can’t forget God’s mercy and love.

It’s too unobscured.

My hope and my joy is to put into practice the song God sings over me.

When the Crowd Becomes the Villain

Heel – the term for the villain in professional wrestling.

Jacob – grasped at the heel of his brother Esau, tricked his brother out of the rights of the firstborn, wrestled with God

It might be a stretch but Jacob cheated his way through much of his life. His tricky tactics brought Him places, until He wrestled with God and God changed his name to Israel. After that Jacob turned face (another wrestling term for the good guy).

Heels in wrestling cheat, they imagesVWV8RLEIjeer at their opponents and the crowd. But there is a phenomenon in the last 20 years or so where the heels of pro-wrestling are cheered and celebrated.

As much as I can and love to talk about wrestling, that’s not why I’m here. I’m here because Good Friday is one week away.

I love Good Friday for the irony that we call a day good in which the perfect son of God, Jesus, was crucified. We call it that because of the implications of what His later resurrection meant for humanity. Follow me, I’m going somewhere, I promise.

What got Him to the cross was a few villains, a betrayer that once was a friend, a religious stable that was blind to the reality of God, and finally a crowd that became antagonistic. A crowd that asked for a heel in Barabbas to be free in place of Jesus.

The crowd compelled Pilate to turn Jesus over to be crucified and as God would design in a divine mystery the Son of God became sin so that in Him, we, the crowd of villains, might become the righteousness of God.

The serpent struck Jesus’ heel dealing him death only for Him to rise again and smash the serpent’s head.

If you haven’t noticed the crowds lately, no matter how loud, they rarely cry out for genuine justice because they don’t know it.

They rarely recognize truth and will often turn their back on things like compassion and mercy to get their way. And even in the moments where a cause is genuinely worthy, there is often so much vitriol and baggage with it that it feels more toxic than enticing.

It’s sometimes feels that the cry for justice is a mask that allows for the ridicule of those we disagree with or have been hurt by.

The reason I’m not a protester is not because I don’t care, it’s because I know the crowd. What the crowd needs is the Christ not a cause. We need mercy if we must march. We need a loving gospel more than a loud gong.

You can sound an alarm whether there is a fire or not. The difference lies in who is pulling people out of the flames.

Jesus does that by extending His hand not grasping at heels.

The Ones We Barely Know

I have this friend, in her late 50’s, a blogger, who writes about addiction whom I’ve never met or talked to. That’s grounds for friendship, right? When I read her writing, I feel some of her pain and some of her hope. If not for our perspectives on suffering and our relationship with God, we likely share very little in common. I’d venture to say nothing else in common, but I’ve never met or talked to her.

Somehow in the darker seasons of the last 5 years she has been there with me. My prayers have been there for her, during her considerably darker seasons because I have nothing else to offer her. She has not leaned on my writing or gleaned from my suffering. I have not suffered from her experience or endured her success. Despite, barely knowing, I feel like I know her well. By her words, she knew how to give me hope when others could not because of pain.

Pain is incredible in its ability to bring people together and equally incredible in its ability to isolate. The emotional weight of pain drives people in a direction that in many ways is determined by their perception when they feel no pain.

What are people good fblurry-visionor? If I perceive that people by in large are out to use me, or I view relationships in terms of usefulness, I will surely isolate or come across as disingenuous in my times of suffering. If relationships are essential for my fullness of life, and if I go out-of-the-way to spend time with people simply because they are people I will be more inclined to seek out those who can help soothe my suffering.

This is where my friendship with my late 50’s female blogger friend comes in. She freely allows herself to feel and express, while maintaining a confidence that God is despite what might have happened or is still to come. Her friendship with God is palpable.

She wrote this recently: “Like my father who I thought cherished me forgot all about me. It hurts my feelings. I remember my friend Anna writing in Rare Bird about how she was disappointed with God more than angry. Now I understand what she meant.”
For those of you I barely know, I realize, I barely know God. More often than not I feel like I’m reading about someone who lives elsewhere; I’m singing to someone who touches me from above but doesn’t get too close too often. Or maybe I don’t get too close, too often.

And I, like my friend, find myself disappointed with God more than angry which in turn leads to disappointment within myself.

It leads me to question how well I even know myself.

Which leads me to the only answer I’ve been content with in the last year or so:

It’s okay not to know very much.

It’s okay to never know why.

I might even only know one thing.

And at times that one thing, I even sometimes have trouble knowing, remembering.

Jesus loves me, He knows me,

and for today that is enough.