The Rev’d Robert Warren
There was a choice of Old Testament readings this Sunday and the Rector’s eye fell upon Ezekiel 33 as somehow being “just the ticket”. Oh, here we go: wickedness, sin and death. Clergy are a jolly lot, aren’t they? As the 10:30 AM services at the Royat chapel kick off again for the year might we suspect that a new era of fiery preaching (in a tasteful Episcopalian mode bien sur ) is about to begin?
Know this, first of all: The passage relates to a growing self-awareness on the part of the people that all is not well with them. The preaching of the prophet in troubled times has hit a nerve. They say “Our transgressions and our sins weigh upon us, and we waste away because of them; how then can we live?”
They have come to believe there is no remedy for what ails them.
God’s question to them - through the words of the prophet Ezekiel - is this: Why should you die in your sins? It is not necessary. It is not the pleasure of God that men and women should find no remedy.
So it usually goes with the people of Israel in their lower moments. Life is Egypt as slaves, life under the occupation of foreign oppressors, life lived with a corrupted religious life or under the leadership of violent and corrupt Kings - it’s just the way it is. It’s their lot in life. They’ve made their beds somewhere along the way and now need to lie in them. Bring on, then, successive and eternal chapters of the same damned thing.
And the question - “why” - well, it’s a child’s question, isn’t it? Our kids ask it from the back seat of the car with the innocence of believing that one can always redraw a picture if it’s no good.
Still, it’s a tantalizing question. The question that God asks the people through the prophet Ezekiel might even nag us. What is it that ties us down to weakness, failure, sin and unhappiness? Do we not know of a better way?
“Why’ does it need to be the way it is?