Jutlus 18.07.2021 -  Luuka 9:28-36
Õpetaja Gustav Piir

Tänapäeval, Israelis Tabori mäel, seal, kus arvatakse, et Jeesuse kirgastamine aset leidis, on frantsiskaanlaste klooster, mille juures seisab Itaalia päritolu frantsiskaani mungast arhitekti Antonio Barluzzi projekteeritud imekaunis Kirgastumise ehk Kristuse Muutmise kirik, mille ehitus rajati varajasemate kirikute varemetele ja mis valmis 1924. aastal.  Palverändaja, kes sellele mäele tõuseb ning kloostri juures olevasse kirikusse siseneb ,võib tõdeda, et pilt, mis talle altari suunas vaadates avaneb koosneb nõndanimetatud grotist – ehk alumisest kabelist ja siis tõstes oma silmi, siis ülemises kirikus on altariruum , mille altari seinas on seitse kitsast vertikaalset akent ja peaaltar. Lisaks sellele avaneb vaatajale pilt ülestõstetud kätega Jeesusest, kelle mõlemal poolel on inimfiguurid: Tabori mäel kujutatud Jeesus on üles tõstetud kätega ümbritsetuna Moosesest, Eelijast ja jüngritest: Peetrusest, Johannesest ning Jaakobusest. Moosese ja Eelija kohalolek annab meile üheltpoolt teada, et meil on tegemist Vana Testamendi kahe olulise osaga: Käsu ja Prohvetitega. Tegemist on Jumala ilmutusega Jumala rahvale läbi Pühakirja tunnistuse. Teisalt on meil teada, et Jeesus on samas liinis prohvet nagu Mooseski on prohvet ,kellele ka Mooses ise omakorda vihjab. Iisraeli traditsioonis, Prohvet Eelija ilmumine kuulutab Issanda Päeva tulekut. Nende kahe Vana Testamendi suurkuju ilmumine viitab ka sellele, et Jeesuses läheb terve pühakiri täide.
Lisaks sellele on veelgi sidemeid Moosese, Eelija ja Jeesuse vahel: Pärast ristilöömist ja ülestõusmist tõstetakse Kristus üles taevasse. Kui Mooses suri ,siis väidetavalt Jumal mattis ta orgu Moabimaal , aga keegi peale Jumala tema matusepaika ei tea. Mooses on üks vähestest ,kes on näinud Jumalat palgest palgesse ja tulles alla Siinai mäelt , säras ta nägu nii intentsiivselt, et Iisraeli lapsed polnud suutelised ta temaga palgest palgesse vaatama ja Mooses pidi oma nägu katte all hoidma. Eelija kohtub Jumalaga koopa suudmes Hoorebi mäel ,kui Jumal ilmub tasases sahinas, millele reageerib Eelija, et ta katab oma näo kuuega selleks, et mitte Jumalale otsa vaadata. Eelija tõsteti taevasse keeristuule saatel tulise vankriga. Kristus on Jumala Poeg, kes on koosolnud Jumalaga maailma algusest saati, näinud teda näost näkku. Õlimäel, Betaania lähedal, Jeesus tõsteti taevasse pilve varjus.
Kui tänapäeval  külastada Tabori mäel oleva kiriku sisemust leiame, et seal on kolm grotti mis kuulusid varajasema Ristitüütlite poolt ehitatud kiriku juurde. Need kolm grotti – kolm väikest kabelit ,mida nimetatakse tabernaakliteks - esindavad need kolme lehtmaja, mida Peetrus tahtis püstitada Jeesusele, Moosesele ja Eelijale.  Grott ,mis pühendatud Kristusele on kiriku ida osas. Grott , mis asub kiriku lõuna torni all, on kabel pühendatud Eelijale ja grott põhja torni all on kabel pühendatud Moosesele. Milleks siis on rõhuasetus pandud Eelija ja Moosesele Tabori mäel asuvas kirikus?  Esiteks, Eelija ja Mooses arutavad Jeesusega tema eluotsast ja sellest mida tal tuleb Jeruusalemmas täide viia. Varsti ongi Jeesus Jeruusalemmas täide viimas seda, mis on ettekuulutatud , aga sedakorda ristil , mis asub Kolgata mäel.
Lisaks mainin siinjuures, et  Luukas on ainus evangelist ,kes viitab oma evangeeliumi 9. peatükis 51. salmis ka Jeesuse ”ülesvõtmispäevale” – taevaminemisele , mis sünnib Betaanias Õlimäel.
Kolm sündmust, kuid sama sisu. Tabori, Kolgata ja Õlimäe mäed. Jeesusega lõppes vanatestamentlik käsu ja seaduse ajastu Moosese ja Eelija ajastu ning algas evangeeliumi ja armu ajastu. Jeesuse kirgastumissündmus muutmise mäel oli ajutine. Tema ülendamine ristilöömises, ülestõusmises ja taevaminemises oli aga igavene. Kuid Kirgastamise Mäel kõige dramaatilisem selgitus küsimusele, kes Jeesus on ,tuli Jumalalt eneselt, kui hääl pilvest kostis ”See on minu äravalitud Poeg, Teda kuulake”. 
Ja see ongi, kuhu tahan, et me täna oma mõtete, südame ja usuga jõuame – Kristuse juurde, kelle poole meie palves pöördume, kelle sõna peame kuulama ja kelle sõnade kohaselt tegutsema ja elama.
Palves olles otsime Jumala vägevat kohalolekut meie endi, lähedaste ja kogukonna elus. Kuid tuleb ka meeles pidada, et koos jüngritega ,kes olid Kirgastamismäel, tulevad ka dramaatilised kogemused ,mis omakorda viitavad sellele, et kui sõna kuuleme ja ustavalt Issanda järel käime ,tõuseb eslile hinnaline kuulekus Issanda kutsele: ”Võta oma rist ja järgne mulle”. 
Ühegi kiriku rajamisel, taasrajamisel, edasiehitamisel ega ka renoveerimisel ei ole muud mõtet, kui luua inimestele koht, kus ta kohtub ja õpib tundma Kristust. Kirik on koht, kus Kristus on ise kohal sõnas ja sakramentides. Ta on ise juures, kui ristime ja kui me võtame teda vastu sellel altaril pühitsetud armulauas ning me kohtume temaga siit kantslist kuulutatud sõnas või puldist loetud lektsioonides ja selle oreliga saadetud laulus pöördume ta poole palves või kiites Tema nime.  See Jumalakoda siin Vanalinnas Pühavaimu tänaval asuva kõrgendiku peal olgu meie kõigi muutumise mäeks, kohaks ,kus viibides me tunneme Jumala puudutust, Tema viibimist meile nii lähedal, et võiksime Peetruse kombel öelda: “Õpetaja, siin on meil hea olla!”

Sermon for July 18th 2021 – Mark 6:30-34

As we continue to follow Jesus and his disciples in our Gospel reading form the Gospel according to Saint Mark, we read that after the death and burial of John the Baptist  the mission of Jesus and his apostles’ had just begun. Today our reading takes us to a private and secure place, the wilderness. Here as before one is able to rest and recuperate. Yet locating a place to eat leisurely was becoming increasingly difficult for Jesus and his group of followers. The reference to food again expressed how Jesus’ mission was directly tied to basic economic realities.  Food and eating were two prominent themes and thus we will have the two “feeding” narratives. Next week we will have the lesson of “the feeding the 5ooo” from the Gospel of John.
While the success of Jesus’ “apostles” loomed large for the future of the mission, the death of John at the hands of Herod loomed larger.  The mission may not be completely defeated, but drastic persecutions would be part and parcel of the operation. Last week we read that the message of Herod was clear: Do not expect to take on the ruling authorities and not suffer the consequences. That is a familiar message for many a Christian community even today. That was and still is the warning for all present and future followers of Jesus. Yet in our Gospel there is a very serious warning for us who like to see ourselves as “Christian leaders” or “examples of Christian leadership” and are part of the institutionalized Church. There is nothing wrong with an institution if it is doing the work it is supposed to be doing, with the right people, for the people, responsible and accountable before God.
So having said this, there is one very important theme that crops up with today’s Gospel reading: the phrase “sheep without a shepherd.” All references to this phrase (“sheep without a shepherd”) in the Old Testament, that is the Hebrew Bible, are in the scenes in which God stands over against abusive shepherds, abusive leaders who no longer care or have never cared for their sheep. We can find examples in the Book of Ezekiel 34:2-5 and the Book of Zechariah 11:4-17. In the Book of Numbers 27:17-18 Moses requested that the people not be left as “sheep without a shepherd” in light of his own failing, to which the Lord responds by suggesting Joshua “in whom is the spirit”.
Jesus saw a growing number of followers who attempted to track him down. Many of them running faster of foot than those travelling by boat. All are intent on locating Jesus.  Jesus viewed these people as “sheep without a shepherd,” which is after all an image of their vulnerability. Jesus’ reaction is compassion. Could it be that Jesus’ reaction is also a critique of Herod in the previous scene. Herod held feasts for the “leaders of Galilee,” with plenty to eat and drink but Jesus fed common people with two fish and five loaves. Jesus in feeling compassion stands in contrast to Herod who shows no compassion. Now these two “shepherds”, these two “leaders” Herod and Jesus, stand juxtaposed to one another and their activities though centered on issues of food and associations. Herod, entertained courtiers, officials and the leading men of Galilee – the political action committees of the day - while Jesus “shepherded” the “sheep” of Israel, the people who are in need of being led – those who are disenfranchised, left behind, on their own and are in danger of becoming collateral damage in the games played by the rich and famous in the name of power, wealth and entertainment.    
Now Jesus’ actions will also be a reminder of how Moses provided food for the people of Israel in the ancient wilderness. Going even further let me suggest that our reading today, following as it does the narrative of John’s beheading, serves as an indictment of Herod. The people of God have become precisely what Moses and Ezekiel warned against, sheep without a shepherd, weakened and scattered and vulnerable. The people are longing for, even chasing after, the true shepherd who will bring them into that kingdom. Like many of the usages of shepherd language in the Old Testament, here in the New Testament  the language of Jesus as shepherd serves as a scathing critique of Israel’s false leaders.
Ezekiel 34, for example, lambasts Israel’s kings for enriching themselves while ignoring the needs of the people: “Thus says the Lord God: Ah, you shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not the shepherds feed the sheep? … You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, you have not brought back the strayed, you have not sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled them. So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd; and scattered, they became food for all the wild animals”
By healing the sick, the weakest and most vulnerable members of a community, in this space, Jesus is subverting the economy of this world through the very inauguration of God’s kingdom economy.
While the marketplaces of the world belong to the rich and powerful, in the Kingdom of God this most political and commercial of spaces is occupied by those with the least. In the age to come, Jesus proclaims, “many who are first will be last, and the last will be first”. That age is now breaking into this age; we who seek to live God’s kingdom here and now must follow Jesus’ subversion of worldly power and wealth.  In today’s world want to stop war, violence, terror, injustice and get rid of greed? Cut off the finances of the powers of evil and get rid of the financiers who facilitate abuse. Bring on the economy of the Kingdom of God!

 

Jutlus 11.07.2021 -  Luuka 6:27-31
Gustav Piir, koguduse õpetaja.

Meie tänasele evangeeliumi lõigule Luuka evangeeliumi 6. peatükis eelneb Jeesuse lagendiku jutluse õndsakskiitmised ja hukkamõistmised. Seal on kirjutatud: „Õndsad olete vaesed, sest teie päralt on Jumalariik“ ja meie tänane lõik lõppes sõnadega: „Ja nõnda nagu te tahate ,et inimesed teeksid teile, nõnda tehke neile“.
Kuidas siis elada ja kuidas siis toimida eriti kurjas maailmas? Sülitamine on seotud vanas maailmas kurjuse peletamisega. Kõik ,mis seadis ohtu oma abikaasa, lapsed ja perekonna, selle peale sülitati kolm korda, et eemale peletada kurjust. Sülitati oma vaenlaste peale, nende peale, kes vihkavad, nende peale ,kes neavad ja nende peale ,kes siunavad.
Näkku sülitamine on tänapäeval üks suurimaid solvanguid – seda tehakse kas otsese aktina või ülekantud tähenduses.  Usundilistes kategooriates kõneledes on näkku sülitamine teise inimese oma jõu alla võtmine või temalt tuleva jõu blokeerimine. Mitmed Eesti pärimustekstid kinnitavad, et kui kuuldi ebameeldivat uudist, siis tuli jällegi sülitada, vahel isegi sinna juurde vanduda, et siis neutraliseerida sõnade halba mõju. Seltskonnaajakirjanduses näeb aeg-ajalt Eesti kuulsusi, kes ütlevad, et nad kasutavad üle õla sülitamist enda kaitseks. Tõenäoliselt, sellise väikse rituaali kordamine annab turvalise tunde. Aga kuidas on olukord siis Jeesuse õpetusega seoses vaenlasega? Kas sülitame selle peale ja peame seda utoopiaks, ebareaalseks, ohuks, millest tuleb ennast ja enda järeltulijaid eemal hoida ja kaitsta?
Toomkoguduse abiõpetaja Joel Siim oma käsitluses tänasest perikoobist kommenteerib: „Väljajutluses esinev käsk armastada vaenlasi on tuntud mitmetes varasemates traditsioonides.
Akkadikeelne tarkuskirjanduslik tekst, mida tuntakse „Tarkuse nõuannete“ nime all, märgib: „Ära vasta kurjaga inimesele, kes vaidleb sinuga. Vasta headusega sellele, kes teeb sulle halba, naerata oma vastasele.“  Ka Egiptuse päritolu „Amenemope õpetus“ tõdeb: „Aeruta, et kuri inimene jääks kaugele, sest me ei toimi tema kurja loomuse kohaselt; aita ta üles, anna talle oma käsi ning jäta ta jumala kätesse. Sööda teda oma toiduga, et ta kõht saaks täis ja ta jääks häbisse.“
India kandist pärineb vägivallatuse  põhimõte, mille tuntuim pooldaja ning levitaja oli Mahatma Gandhi, kes laiendas põhimõtet igasse eluvaldkonda, eriti poliitikasse. Gandhi vägivallatu vastupanu liikumine mõjutas tohutult Indiat iseseisvumiseni välja ja levis sealt ka Läänemaailma, mõjutades muuhulgas Martin Luther Kingi tegevust. Gandhi ei välista kõigi elusolendite ning asjade respekteerimist ja vägivallast loobumiste juures ei käsitle ta samuti üksnes füüsiliste vigastuste tekitamist, vaid ka teatud vaimseid seisundeid, näiteks kurje mõtted, halbu sõnu, valelikkust ja valetamist ,millest kõik loobuda.  Gandhi vaateid on peetud ebarealistlikeks, Gandhi kriitik Sri Aurobindo võttis omaks pragmaatilise mitte-patsifistlikku seisukoha, märkides, et vägivalla õigustamine sõltub olukorrast.
Probleem meile ei seisne selles, et Jeesuse sõnadest oleks raske aru saada ,vaid selles ,et nende taga on selge tähendus ,mis moodustab meile suure väljakutse. Meie oleme harjunud maailmaga ,kus jõukus, toidu küllus ja nõndanimetatud head ajad on meile loomulikud, sest meie oleme need ära teeninud. Kui kõnelda vägivallast  loobumisest siis on mitmed suurkujud, nende seas meile tuntud Tolstoi, Ghandi ja Martin Luther King (noorem), võtnud Jeesuse sõnu kui sotsiaalset kriitikat ja strateegiat, millega läbi viia muudatusi ühiskonnas ning maailmas.
Ghandi imetles Jeesust ,aga kui küsiti tema käest: milline on suhtumine kristlusesse? Väidetavalt vastas ta: „Oo, see on tõeliselt imeline liikumine“. Kuuldes Jeesuse sõnu ja neid rakendades praktilise eluga et kõik näeksid vaid pilku riigist, mis on tõesti vajalik rahu loomiseks ja Jumalariigi tõeliseks saamiseks läbi kristliku perspektiivi.  Kuid kristlus on siiski ka enamat, võttes näitena Maarja kiituslaulu  , milles Maarja laulis Jumala tõotustest. See on laul Jumala ustavusest.  Jumala ja Jumala rahva Iisraelile vahekorrast mis sisaldab õiglust ja õigust kuid ka hoiatusi neile kes on rõhujad, vägivaldsed ja võimukad.   Jeesus kõneleb samuti Jumala tõotustest ,mis käsitlevad terve loodu taastamist ja tervikust ,millest saavad osa kõik rahvad. Kuid rahu tulek tähendab ka kohanemist, kohanemine muudatusi ja muudatused ebamugavust. Jeesuse oma külarahvas reageerib tema sõnumile vägivallaga.
See sõnum , mida Jeesus meile toob ja seda, mida ta meilt siis ootab on meile kui inimestele, rahvastele, riigile ja maailmale koormaks ning raske täide viia. Kuid see sõnum nõuab meilt visiooni, ehk nägemust ja muudatust meie käitumises. Vastuseis muudatustele on ajendatud hirmust. Hirm muudatuste ees ja ka hirm nende ees ,kes võivad meilt võtta seda ,mida meie oleme nii raskelt endale saavutanud ja üles ehitanud.  Siin Jeesus hoiatab meid. „Ja nõnda nagu te tahate, et inimesed teile teeksid, nõnda tehke neile“.  On ilmselge, et meie tahame end kaitsta ja et meid kaitstaks. Nii ehitame müüre mõttelisi ja füüsilisi. Sellised müürid võivad kaitsta meie tervist, meie töökohti, meie majandust ja meie heaolu, kuid sellised ilmalikud müürid lagunevad.
2016 aasta sügisel kirjutas  Ameerikas elav teoloog Willie James Jennings essee „Rihtides maailma lootuse poole“ milles ta tuletas oma lugejaskonnale meelde ,et valimised on seotud meie ettekujutusvõimega.
Valimised on andnud ja  annavad võimaluse meil ette kujutada seda , kuidas maailma saaks ümber kujundatud ning kuidas suudetakse esile tuua seda maailma , mida meie oma ettekujutustes näeme nii, et see realiseerub igapäevases elus. Poliitilised valimised on seotud meie ettekujutlusvõimega. Presidendi valik ja kohaliku omavalitsuste valimised ,mis meil ees seisavad pole tegelikult niivõrd seotud meie igapäevase eluga siin maailmas kuid on palju rohkem seotud sellega, kuidas meie sooviksime oma maailma, oma riiki ja kohaliku elu näha demokraatiana. Valimised on võimalused loovaks tegevuseks mis ühelt poolt võtavad hinge kinni ja teiselt poolt kutsuvad esile hirmu teadmatuse ees.“
Jeesus muidugi ei kõnelenud poliitilistest valimistest. Ta kõneleb neist asjust, mis võimaldavad loovat lähenemist, mis võtab hinge kinni ja mis võib häirida ,sest see nõuab ümberpöördumist ja suuna muutmist sellest rajast ,mida on harjutud siiamaani käima. Meie kristlik vaatenurk elust Jumala maailmas toob meid Jeesuse sõnadele lähemale, tema kuulutusele ja nägemusele sellest , mida Jumal oma riigi kohta soovib meile avalikustada ja meie kaudu siis täide viia.
Tänases evangeeliumis antakse meile nägemus Jumala maailmast ,milles leidub vastaseid ja vaenlaseid. See pilt nõuab meilt palju ja võib tunduda utoopiline. Meie eelkäijad apostlitest kuni kirikuliikmeteni tänapäeval on samuti ettekujutanud ja näinud visioone Jumalariigist. Sellised nägemused on pilgud Jumalariigist ,mis kujundavad inimeste tõekspidamist ja ehitavad üles ühiskonda ,milles leidub ühtekuuluvust, vastutust, hoolivust  ja armastust. Seda kõike, mida Jeesus on jutluses lagendikul kord esile tõstis on edastatud põlvkonnalt põlvkonnale selleks, et anda elus suund kätte, mis viib kord Jumala igavesse riiki.      

Sermon for Sunday July 11th 2021 - Mark 6:14-29
Reverend Gustav Piir

We who read of Gospel lesson today have been told that Herod regarded John to be a righteous and holy man and intended to protect him. After his brash promise and for the sake of his reputation, he concedes and orders John’s execution. We know from the Passion Story that Pontius Pilate will be faced with a similar situation when he meets up with Jesus. Pilate is recorded as acknowledging Jesus’ innocence, yet, wishing to satisfy the crowd, Pilate concedes and order’s Jesus’ execution. Pilate plays a game that of trying to please the crowd, pretend to be a populist and the game gets out of hand. We know from Washington D.C: on January 6th of this year what happens when a political game gets out of hand. Years ago, The Washington Post quoted a lavishly paid lobbyist who said: “There are only two engines that drive Washington: One is greed, and the other is fear.” Greed and fear, now that’s a fine description of our Gospel reading today describing Herod’s birthday party.
Let’s recall a little history: In Jesus’ day Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee and Perea, was answerable to the Emperor Tiberius. Most historians remember Herod Antipas as inept and weak. When it comes to our governors, it seems as if some things never change. As part of the background to our Gospel reading we are told of a three-sided triangle: Herod, his wife Herodias, and John the Baptist. Defying Torah, that is the Jewish law, Herod had married his sister-in-law. John had called them out. Believing John to be righteous and holy, Herod admired his accuser. However, nursing a grudge, Herodias wanted John dead.  Herod trying to please his wife while at the same time feeling sympathy for John did something many of us would do in such a situate – he compromised. Herod arrested and jailed under protective custody the threatening preacher to whom he enjoyed listening to. His wife’s opportunity came at a state dinner, at which her young daughter “danced and pleased Herod and his guests”.  
This dance has been made famous through Oscar Wild’s play “Salome” and the poem “The Daughter of Herodias" by Arthur O'Shaughnessy which describes Salome dancing: She freed and floated on the air her arms Above dim veils that hid her bosom's charms...  The veils fell round her like thin coiling mists shot through by topaz suns and amethysts.
The lecherous fool that Herod was, he promised his daughter whatever she asked. After consulting her mother, the girl sprang the trap: “I want John’s head on a platter — right now”.  Herod was caught. Saving face was an issue and worse, defaulting on an oath could be reckoned tantamount to taking God’s name in vain. This birthday morphed into death-day. Ghastly though it be, this tale is told with masterly understatement and with a knowledge of the Bible we can find parallels. Back in the Old Testament it is Elijah, another prophet, who collided with another weak king manipulated by another murderous wife described in the First Book of Kings. In the Apocrypha  in the Book of Second Maccabees we find a righteous and holy man, the  elderly Eleazar, refusing to compromise Jewish principles to avoid state-sanctioned death. In the book of Ester we have the words: “What is your request? It shall be given you, even to the half of my kingdom.” That’s the promise of King Hesperus to Queen Esther. Promises made and promises delivered not matter how violent are part of the Biblical witness.
Yet the death of John the Baptist, however, haunts Herod as it haunts us. Herod misidentified Jesus thinking that John whom he had beheaded had been raised – the one who is dead has returned with awesome power. That is frightening for Herod but what do Herodeas and the daughter think? In our Gospel reading we find out that Herod is so weak in character that the executioner delivers the victim’s head, not to the king as ordered, but to his daughter. After all she is the one who demands the head on a platter.  The portrayal of women in our reading today deserves further mention. Herodias’ grudge against John finally found its satisfaction through no simpler a means than the manipulation of her daughter’s entertainment value. Herodias became the person most responsible for John’s death. This woman of high standing received her name, as well as her prize on a platter. Her reward halted the work and mission of the messenger sent by God, but not for long as Jesus would continue the mission. Not only was Jesus’ mission initiated only after John’s arrest, but Jesus’ continual activity was viewed as intimately associated with John’s. In the Book of Ecclesiastes in 9:12 it is written “As the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time”.
So where’s the good news in in our Gospel reading? It comes with knowing more of the story of John the Baptist and that of Jesus. In the Gospel according to Saint Mark Herod’s banquet is only the first of the two banquets mentioned in the 6th chapter. Jesus hosts the second, in the middle of nowhere for thousands of nobodies with nothing to offer save five loaves and two fish that a young child had brought with them.  At Jesus’ feast greed and fear have no place at the banquet. At Jesus’ feast all are fed and what more, fed to the full, with leftovers beyond comprehension.

Eestikeelsel jumalateenistusel pühapäeval 4. Juulil 2021, „Apostlite Pühapäeval“.
pidas jutluse Soome Kiriku titulaarpraost õpetaja-emeeritus Mårten Andersson

Who is the Prophet and why proclaim Christ?
Sermon for July 4th 2021 – Reverend. Gustav Piir

In reflecting on our Gospel reading for today along with our Old Testament lesson I discovered that when reading the Book of Ezekiel I find the oracles are deemed severe, very often they are complex, and on occasion one can sense deep pain in the prophet. For this reason, you and I as modern readers of this book may find it is difficult to understand the circumstances that make Ezekiel a prophet worthy to be heard and heeded by us here and now in church and society today. Confronted by a mind-blowing apparition of winged creatures and wheels within wheels, all wrapped in towering clouds, Ezekiel falls on his face. Visions can do that to a person – make them filled with awe – awestruck in a literal way. In Ezekiel we can also sense the prophet’s exhaustion by the suggestion that after the divine commandment “stand up on your feet,” Ezekiel is not able by his own volition to do it and a spirit enters him to set him on his feet.
We as readers of the Bible this Sunday are like bystanders who learn of Ezekiel’s commission. He is sent to Israel with a message so that Israel would know something about the LORD. This is the essential element of Ezekiel’s call. Our text describes Ezekiel’s divine authorization to speak on behalf of the LORD. The message is addressed to Israel, a house of rebels for generations, perpetuating the sins of their ancestors. God brings charges against the people who are described literally as “hard of face and tough of heart.”  The book of Ezekiel does not give us information about the prophet prior to his encounter with the divine and his commissioning, but what Ezekiel experienced transformed him and sent him to a task that on looks impossible and from which there was no release.
What is being described in Holy Scripture is a life-transforming event and Ezekiel had no way to excuse himself. To our modern worldly context the very idea of this commissioning sounds like entrapment and deceit. Such unqualified demands implicit in the statement found in our text: “thus says the lord” with no actual message from God, is more likely to send us running away from the divine, like Jonah, than bending on our knees, humbly listening and then obeying. The fact is: we do not know many details about how Ezekiel experienced his commissioning. Yet, his book speaks about Ezekiel’s capacity to be awestruck and obey his vision of divine intervention in the world. Contrary to Jonah, Ezekiel was not sent to a foreign people as was Jonah to the Ninevites. Ezekiel spoke to his own people even when they did not listen.
Our Old Testament passage from Ezekiel 2 for today connects to our Gospel reading for today from Mark 6:1-13 with the theme of people not listening. In our lesson from Mark, Jesus teaches in his hometown synagogue and receives a less than positive reception. In response to this rejection, Jesus quotes a proverb: “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown.” Our two readings from Ezekiel and Mark share the idea that a prophetic voice is not always heard. Jesus identifies himself as a prophet — standing in continuity with ancient Israel’s prophetic tradition — who, like those earlier prophets, does not find everywhere a receptive audience.
From Biblical witness as well as from history we know that there is risk inherent in speaking for and about God. Prophets take this risk. Some in the audience will hear and respond to the call; others will be more stubborn and still others will scoff and make light of the proclamation. Whatever happens there is one question that remains always: How are we to know that a true prophet has been among us? As our modern, contemporary world shows, many people who claim to speak for God say all manner of things that many others think could never ever have come from God at all. So it is crucial to return to the beginning of our Old Testament reading where Ezekiel has nothing to say. He is incapable of saying anything apart from the indwelling of God’s Spirit. What we have here is a description of humility.
Many people here in Estonia today would agree that we are living in a nation and culture that is more and more characterized by unbelief. If so, we could say that we are living in a Nazareth-world, a culture that is, in terms of public life at best, disinterested in Jesus and suspicious of institutionalized religion as represented by Christ’s Body, “the church”. If so, isn’t it utter folly to think that we as Christians and the Church can change anything in a secularized society by preaching for and witnessing to Christ?  In fact, isn’t any Christian whose life has been transformed by Christ living defenseless in a world and culture where privacy, security and status are calculated commodities?
When I as a preacher stand to speak for God, I must always know that it is I who am speaking. I hope that God’s Spirit infuses my words, but I also know that those words are pouring out of my mouth, infused with my reflection, my research and be it for better or worse, my bias as well. And this is why chapter 2 of Ezekiel is written in the way it is. To speak for God is both wondrous and dangerous. Before we take such a task on, we had better open ourselves up, as wide as we can, so that God’s Spirit might pour in. Having said this, let me point out that we do have one thing those first disciples whom Jesus sent out did not, and it makes all the difference. We have experienced the faithfulness of God in Jesus crucified and risen. So, we may marvel at the unbelief around us, but still we go forth, proclaiming and witnessing to our faith in Christ.