2019-09-23 St. Matthew – SELC Circuit Conference
“But you, son of man, hear what I say to you. Be not rebellious like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you.” A hand was stretched out to me, and behold, a scroll of a book… and there were written on it words of lamentation and mourning and woe. And he said to me, “Son of man, eat whatever you find here. Eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel” (Ezek 2:9—3:1). These words come from the account of Ezekiel’s ordination to the office of the Holy Ministry. And while you were not granted a vision of the heavenly throne at your ordination, the same basic events still took place. God Almighty stretched out his hand to you, entrusted you with the scroll of his book, and commanded you, “Eat whatever you find here, and go, speak these words to the house of Israel.”
You were not sent to the pagans on the mission field in Madagascar or New Guinea. If you had been sent there, they would have listened. Instead, you were sent to the house of Israel, to the people of God, to fifth-generation Lutherans who are too busy taking their kids to football practice to listen to the words of God. And when they do listen, there is often protest. Why? Because written on the front and on the back of the scroll are words of lamentation and mourning and woe. When people budget out one hour of their week or month for God, these are not the words they want to hear.
Sometimes as pastors we would like to blame our people. If only I had better members, my ministry would be more successful. Perhaps I should put my name up for a call. But a new congregation won’t solve the problem. Why? Because you have the same problem that your parishioners have – a rebellious nature that does not want to hear God’s Word. There is nothing about the truth that appeals to the Old Adam. When he looks at the words of the scroll, whether on the front or the back, they are words and lamentation and mourning and woe. This is the Law.
“Well, maybe if we look at the words from the right angle, in the right context, we can find a different message – a message that will be well received, a message that agrees with my sinful nature. Many pastors have done this. But you must not. You cannot. You are bound by the command of God, “Be not rebellious like that rebellious house. Open your mouth and eat what I give you. Take this scroll and eat whatever you find here.” And so you speak as you are commanded. Whether they hear or refuse to hear, you must speak. It is not given to you to measure the harvest or tailor the message. It is given to you to speak – not the words that you would like to say, not the words that people would like to hear, but whatever you find written on the scroll.
“Son of man, feed your belly with this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it. Then I ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey” (Ezek 3:3). Only the words of Jesus, which at first appear full of bitterness, can give true sweetness. Only in the dying of the Old Adam can the new man come forth to live before God in righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. Only after we have felt the cutting sting of the Law, can we taste the lasting comfort of the promises of Christ. Today, as we prepare to come to the he has set for us, hear his words to you, “Be not rebellious like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you.” The sweet delicacies of this world always turn to ashes, but the Bread of Life that Jesus places into our mouths bestows the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. Come and be filled. Amen.