Advent E Devotion II – Stubborn

Ezekiel 2
4He said to me: Mortal, go to the house of Israel and speak my very words to them. 5For you are not sent to a people of obscure speech and difficult language, but to the house of Israel— 6not to many peoples of obscure speech and difficult language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely, if I sent you to them, they would listen to you. 7But the house of Israel will not listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to me; because all the house of Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart. 8See, I have made your face hard against their faces, and your forehead hard against their foreheads. 9Like the hardest stone, harder than flint, I have made your forehead; do not fear them or be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house. 10He said to me: Mortal, all my words that I shall speak to you receive in your heart and hear with your ears; 11then go to the exiles, to your people, and speak to them. Say to them, “Thus says the Lord God”; whether they hear or refuse to hear.

I wouldn’t have thought that stubbornness would be a spiritual attitude. As Christmas approaches we all can probably picture a child in some store stomping his or her feet, pitching a fit, and throwing a tantrum. Face it we’ve either suffered through this as a parent or grandparent or witnessed another adult deal with a stubborn child. Being stubborn just seems so contrary to what we think of as “Christian nice”. However, in some instances being stubborn is evidently a spiritual strength. And that is because unlike a child (or even an occasional adult) God isn’t whining about some toy, desert, or petty preference.

God has an important and life changing word for us. And that’s the problem. Often we don’t want to hear that word. We don’t want to be told to stop; we don’t want to be told to change. We think the way we are doing and being is good enough. The problem is good enough isn’t Godly enough. Our divisions do not please God. It does not make God smile to see so many hungry children and families, to hear the sound of weapons of war, to have her creation used and abused. I could go on and on, because that’s what God chooses to do. Since before the prophet Ezekiel, till now, and till whenever, God is going to go on and on. And when we stop and think and pray about it we can give thanks for Godly stubbornness. We give thanks that God is in this match of wills with us because God:
WILL NOT back down
WILL NOT give in
WILL NOT abandon
WILL NOT leave
WILL NOT forsake
WILL NOT give up on us!

Faith action: During these days of list making, sit down and make a “God List”. What is important to God? How does it compare with what our world says is important? Carry that list with you as you shop, as you go to work, as you go about your days.

Prayer – God of Holy stubbornness, help us to discern what is worthy of such a strong stance. Help us to pray, speak, and work for your peace and justice in this world. Help us to welcome your stubborn expectations, your stubborn forgiveness, and your stubborn love for all. Amen.

Abbott and Costello, Peanut butter and Jelly, Sodom and Gomorrah . . .What the?

 

Abbott and Costello

Romeo and Juliet

Batman and Robin

Tom  and Jerri

Peanut butter and Jelly

Laverne and Shirley

Thelma and Louise

Shaggy and Scooby

Ketchup and mustard

Adam and Eve

Sponge bob and Patrick

Barbie and Ken

Bread and butter

Click and Clack

Divide and conquer

Jekyll and Hyde

Bonnie and Clyde

Bacon and eggs, well for some bacon and just about anything.

Some things just go better together.

There are so many famous pairs.  And, as you might have heard in that list, infamous as well.  This morning we read about a particular pairing.  A pairing of two cities.   Sodom and Gomorrah.  Even if you haven’t read the story from the 18th chapter of Genesis, you may be familiar with these two names as they are infamous for being examples of God’s wrath.  We are told already in chapter 13 that the people of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord.

 

So eventually the outcry, the sin of those two cities becomes so bad that in chapter 18 God sends two of his messengers to check it out.  Upon entering the walls of the town they are greeted by a man named Lot, who begs them to come and stay with him at his house.  Soon word has spread that there are two strangers in town, and a crowd of the men start to attack.  And this is unfortunately where the link between Sodom and homosexuality comes in.

 

However, that’s not as simple as some would like it to sound.  A careful reading of the passage makes it clear that the crowd is out to beat, abuse, even rape and eventually murder the strangers.  Needless to say, that is not the same thing as being gay or lesbian.  What is happening at Sodom and Gomorrah just a sexual sin.  It is most importantly a sin against God’s command to show hospitality and welcome.  Remember this is the world before a McDonalds on every other corner, before there are motels and hotels.  Travelers are literally at the mercy of those they meet.  The proper response is to open your door, feed the stranger, give them your bed to sleep in.  But this takes a generous spirit that was shared by the people of Sodom and Gonorrah.  As the prophet Ezekiel in chapter 16 tells us: “This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty, and did abominable things before me; therefore I removed them when I saw it.” 

 

Unlike a sin just a crowd of men could commit, this violent greed is something the whole community could be guilty of, so that there wouldn’t be even 10 righteous in the bunch. So that in passage after passage, and there are about 45 passages in the Bible where  Sodom and Gomorrha is paired with God’s judgement and destruction-an example of utter desolation.

 

Which brings us to our first reading for today from the prophet Isaiah, which if you were paying attention may seem to be a strange choice for us to read together on a Sunday morning.  After all, aren’t we here with offerings, with prayers. And while ‘re not sacrificing rams, bulls, goats, we do sacrifice our time and the many other things we could be doing on a Sunday morning you know like-soccer, shopping, coffee and the paper, laundry, running, ok– sleeping in.

 

But we a here, and shouldn’t it count for something?  Well according to the word of The Lord we heard from Isaiah, it does.  It counts against.  It counts against if worship isn’t paired with a changed life.  Just as important as what we do here for an hour is what we do every other hour.  The prophet Isaiah and prophet after prophet, up to and including The Lord Jesus is asking us, “How does what we do and say here week after week change what we do day after day?”  How are we working to make sure our city isn’t one of violence, but is of peace?  How are we doing our part to make sure that our country isn’t one of weapons and walls, but of welcome.  Because if it isn’t we’re wasting our breath, wasting our time, and worse wasting God’s.

 

Because some things just go better together, and that’s not just some catch phrase, it is the gospel truth.  For at the heart of the gospel of Jesus is the bringing together–the bringing together of the rich and poor, the outcast and the powerful, the hungry and those filled with good things, and ultimately the sinner with God’s love and forgiveness.  That is why our worship is not meaningless, because we believe that it’s not just tradition, not just convenience, not just habit that bring us together.  It isn’t because we have a sign on a wall somewhere that says that we are reconciling in Christ, but because God wants us gay and straight, rich and poor, black, white, asian, and everything else under the sun, immigrant, documented, and undocumented, young and old, victim and offender, all of us are welcome not just to sit in the sanctuary but to struggle together to change one another.  It is in this togetherness that we become more than stereotypes–the rich are not all out to get the poor, the poor are not all lazy.  The stranger moves from guest, to friend, to brother or sister in Christ.  When this happens worship is not offensive to God but is genuine. It is a pure expression of love for God, for the God of us all.  Worship that praises God’s giving,saving, proclaiming, sharing, God’s love lived really, lived fully, lived radically because in Christ, we people are better together.  Amen.