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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, March 25, 2019              

Today’s Scripture Reading | Ezekiel 1:1–3; 33:11–16

In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I was among the exiles by the river Chebar, the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God. On the fifth day of the month (it was the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin), the word of the Lord came to the priest Ezekiel son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and the hand of the Lord was on him there. Say to them, As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel? And you, mortal, say to your people, The righteousness of the righteous shall not save them when they transgress; and as for the wickedness of the wicked, it shall not make them stumble when they turn from their wickedness; and the righteous shall not be able to live by their righteousness when they sin. Though I say to the righteous that they shall surely live, yet if they trust in their righteousness and commit iniquity, none of their righteous deeds shall be remembered; but in the iniquity that they have committed they shall die. Again, though I say to the wicked, “You shall surely die,” yet if they turn from their sin and do what is lawful and right—if the wicked restore the pledge, give back what they have taken by robbery, and walk in the statutes of life, committing no iniquity—they shall surely live, they shall not die. None of the sins that they have committed shall be remembered against them; they have done what is lawful and right, they shall surely live. (NRSV)

Reflection
Ezekiel lived among Jewish exiles, uprooted from their homes and livelihoods, captives in a foreign place, forced to live in a settlement not far from Babylon. Life was pretty miserable for the people of Tel-abib. And despite being responsible for their circumstances, I imagine them feeling alienated and disheartened, wondering what hope they might have in the future, maybe wondering how did it all come to this?

Though they had turned from God, God didn’t desert them. Nor does God desert us. That’s the message here. At first read, this passage is pretty daunting but what is happening here is a leveling of the playing field and also, a powerful assurance God’s message to Ezekiel and to us, we are never self-sufficient. We need God’s forgiveness and grace.

I think about the point in our service of common confession when we ask aloud for forgiveness, reflecting on times when we’ve lost focus, fallen short, failed to care and be kind, to love and support one another. It’s humbling and sometimes really hard to ask for forgiveness. So constant is God’s love that we are forgiven before we ask. But because we ask, we free ourselves. We admit we can’t get through life alone. We need God and we need each other. God assures us we are worthy. God restores our hope. Perhaps more than any other part of the service, the Prayer of Confession helps us reset our focus on God above ourselves. I listen and increasingly lean into the chorus of voices speaking God’s message of redemption and assurance, “In Christ we are forgiven!”

Prayer
Merciful and loving God, I pray that I might love and serve you. I need your forgiveness and your guidance. Help me find strength, freedom, and resolve in my humility. Help me trust your love, do your work and be yours in Christ always. Amen.

Written by Laura Sterkel, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church


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