Sermon for September 7, 2014

Never Gonna Give You Up
Ezekiel 33:7-11

Imagine with me being in a foreign place. A place where you have been brought against your will. You have seen your home ransacked. Your city devoured. You were there as the invaders infected everything you held dear.

You, along with the others your tribe have been dragged nearly 1,600 miles through desert. Bound captive you are walking through the scorching heat of the Levant Sun. You are in a group of exiles who tried to rebel against the Babylonian Empire. You fought and you lost. The words of the prophets ring in your ears. Echoing their warnings. Weary you finally arrive in along the river Chebar. In despair you are surprised when you are allowed to build a home, a new way of life. You are allowed by the Babylonians to settle in this new land, not as slaves, but as exiles – away from your home, your temple, seemingly your God.

As your roots begin to grow along the banks of the new river, you begin to hear rumblings about another rebellion starting in Jerusalem. And as you do, you remember the words that were called out before your exile, “TURN AROUND – REPENT”, says the LORD, “TRUST ME! Do not trust in your own might but in the Lord of the fighting angels.” As these rumblings of revolution reverberate, a voice comes from the walls of your new city.

A voice set as a sentinel, screaming his message to Jerusalem. Ezekiel, whom you thought just got into some of the weird mushrooms, has been sending prophetic warnings back to Jerusalem. The man, born in the line of Joshua and a priest of the temple, gives warning to the inhabitants of his homeland.

The warning he shouts is the same as the prophets prior, “Turn around and Seek the Lord. If not, destruction will fall upon Jerusalem – the mighty edifice of the temple like the walls of Jericho will come a tumblin’ down.” He shouts, because he has no choice, for he has been set there by the hand of God to be the warning blast, he shouts, “Why do you seek death, day after day, for the Lord desires life?”

Through his tears, the priestly prophet, speaks, “The Lord says, I hear your questions. You ask why you are suffering, why you are abandoned. I tell you, it is because you have turned from me. Destruction will happen unless you repent. Unless you turn your face to me. You have brought this on yourselves for becoming a self-centered people. By continuing to turn to yourselves, you will bring your own destruction. Why do you keep seeking death. I am never going to give up on you, I will keep sending prophets, watchers on the wall, I will keep screaming, but unless you turn around and see me – see each other as I see you, you will die. Seek life, and you will be saved. I have no desire for this. My joy comes when you seek life.”

As the prophet shouts, you mourn for your homeland, that they will seek life and not be far from home like you. On, the willows there, you hang up the lyres, unable to sing for joy, but instead join in the prophets cry.

****

I don’t know about you all, but I am happy to be starting a new weeks. This past week is over and it is one I hope to not experience again – for good long while.

The news this week has not been one to instill hope in the human race.

Another journalist was slain by a group of people so evil that life to them is nothing but a joke. Life, unless lived in their very misguided and uninformed interpretation of their holy word, Life is worth nothing. The miss that their prophet calls for people to live in cooperation. Their prophet seeks for community be be built rather than destroyed. Yet, they take one word, one phrase, and use it to interpret all of their scriptures. Blood is on their hands. Blood is on their hearts. And one more of many is left laying in the desert sand.

The dogs of war are barking. They are braying for us to intervene and attack. Dogs of war, those hell hounds, are blood thirsty in seeking revenge. They are hungry to avenge the death of one while ignoring the path of destruction left in their wake. They do not see those left in their dung grow into the very groups they seek to avenge. The perpetual motion of war and revenge is countered by resistance and hardness of heart. These spin in a dance of death, that does not hear the cry of the prophet – turn around and seek life. The deadly dance spirals ever more and ever more inward until all the world outside blurs into one indiscernible blob of nothingness.

The news this week has not been one to instill hope in the human race.

Self centered greed mocks those who are risking their very livelihoods to demand a wage that pays enough to provide for their families. Those who dare to think they are owed a wage that would grow hope are mocked and ridiculed for being somehow deficient and less than. They are tuned into objects of derision. They are told they are stupid and insufficient members of the human race because they are the ones who serve us. They are the servants to the ruling class. How dare they seek to survive.

And yet, as they are mocked and told that we can not afford to pay 10 cents for a cheeseburger – they are told that the assistance they need because they can’t afford the food they cook, they are told their assistance is being cut. They food stamps are being slashed. They medicaid reduced. They benefits the ruling class are paying for to provide – costing more than a 10 cent increase in a quarter pounder – are being cut causing hopelessness. Destitution on multiple fronts.

And as the hopelessness grows and hatred begins it is relentless beat, they tangle with hubris and austerity. Again the black dance of death begins its precious pirouette. It begins the inward spin leaving in its wake resentment and retribution. The hate and hubris blend into one cyclone of destruction. Unable to seek life, death to the enemy would be welcome.

The news this week has not been one to instill hope in the human race.

It makes me want to throw up my hands and walk away. The warmongering, the classicism, the racism, the homophobia, the sexism, the ageism, the relentlessness of the dance of death around me makes me want to give up and run away as fast as I can.

The sin around me, begins to gnaw at me. I am sure at you too. When we are captive to such bad new all the time, the sins of the world make us scream why don’t you get it? And we begin to judge the world. It become a dangerous place to live. We begin to judge those we don’t understand, those we disagree with, those we are afraid of. We begin to see the world as something other than us. And as we do our self-righteousnes begins to twirl with our sense of superiority and we become part of the dark dance, oblivious to anything around us. We become shortsighted and unfocused. We begin to believe we are the arbiters of Justice. We begin to think we are God and are the ones in control.

And as we are caught in our own dances of darkness, we hear a watcher on the wall crying out. We hear the voice of the prophet in today’s text scream at the top of his lungs. “Stop the dance. Face the bandstand. Seek the bandleader. Seek the Lord and see what the Lord sees. The Lord sees a people lost in their pain. Lost in their despair. Lost in their anger. Lost in their wilderness.

“The Lord hears the cries of her people. The Lord hears you saying, ‘Where are you? We know we are broken and need fixin’. How, O Lord, can we heal?'”

The prophet turns to the band leader and and with a nod the the prophet speaks the words of the Lord.

“The Lord, says, o people. O, people of Emerson Avenue Baptist Church, The lord says, ‘Turn and face the band stand. Listen to my words, I ain’t never gonna give you up. I want you to stop your dance of death and dance with me. I want you to seek life. Not just your own but your neighbors and even more importantly your enemies. I want you to dance with me and see me in everyone. I want you to turn around and dance with me.

Because, O my people, because you are mine and I am yours. You are my creation. My love. I hate that which destroys you and want only to be with you. But you often leave me to dance with another. You leave me to dance in the dark with those things which cause you to forget me. Turn around and dance with me. I ain’t never gonna give you up.”

The words of the prophet carry across the eons in into this building. The words of the prophet are calling us to dance with the one who ain’t never gonna give us up. The darkness we face is not of the Lord’s but because we have turned away from the light of the Lord’s stage and sought shelter in the dark. Sought shelter in ourselves.

But in the end, the Lord want nothing more that for us to turn around and see the Lord. To see the glory of the one danced with Miriam on the other side of the Red Sea. To see the glory of the one in whose presence David danced. To see the glory of the one danced as the exiles left Babylon to return to Jerusalem. To see the glory of the one who danced with Esther and Ruth. Who danced with Mary and Elizabeth. Who danced at a wedding in Cana. Danced on the very grave of death.

The Lord calls to us saying I ain’t never gonna give you up. I want to dance with you in you sadness and and your joy. I want to dance with you in your fear and in your rejoicing. I want nothing more than dance with you. Turn around and face the bandstand. I ain’t never gonna give you up. I will keep sending singers to shout my message of love and forgiveness. Of mercy and grace. I will send singers, watchers all along the watchtower, to be bearers of my good news. Turn around and dance with me. I ain’t never gonna give you up.

May I have this dance.

Thanks be to God.

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