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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, June 18, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Ezekiel 17:22–24

Thus says the Lord God: I myself will take a sprig from the lofty top of a cedar; I will set it out. I will break off a tender one from the topmost of its young twigs; I myself will plant it on a high and lofty mountain. On the mountain height of Israel I will plant it, in order that it may produce boughs and bear fruit, and become a noble cedar. Under it every kind of bird will live; in the shade of its branches will nest winged creatures of every kind. All the trees of the field shall know that I am the Lord. I bring low the high tree, I make high the low tree; I dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish. I the Lord have spoken; I will accomplish it. (NRSV)

This poem comes directly after an allegory that describes two eagles who pluck and plant and replant, but these eagles represent first a king who was an invader and then a king who was a betrayer and breaker of oaths. The sprig that they plant withers and does not flourish or bear fruit.

But then God creates a new story, a new allegory. In this story it is not an eagle who plucks and plants, but God’s own self. The words create a sensation of God’s presence. “I myself, I will. I bring low, I make high, I dry up and make flourish. I the Lord have spoken; I will accomplish it.” It paints an image of a God who is intimately involved in the nitty-gritty details of plucking and planting, of creating balance and transforming outcomes—the low brought high and the high low.

But if God did not avert the war referenced in the first allegory, if God did not save the lives of soldiers or prevent the Babylonian exile, then how do we know that God cares? How will God “accomplish” making a tiny sprig become a noble cedar under which every kind of bird will live?

My answer today is a question. What if this poem is planting a seed, a sprig, in us? What if the allegory changes what we think is possible and we act differently because of that? Maybe it’s not so much God’s hands as our hands doing the work, precisely because we feel close to God and we have a vision of God’s dreams for the world. Might God “accomplish” the transformation described in this poem by changing us?

Dear God, help me align myself with your vision of hope, peace, and justice in the world. Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me. Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me. Amen.

Written by Nanette Sawyer, Associate Pastor for Discipleship and Small Group Ministry

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