The River of Life

Photo credit here

S (Scripture): Ezekiel 47:1 When he brought me back to the temple’s entrance, I noticed that water was flowing toward the east from under the temple’s threshold (the temple faced east). The water was going out from under the temple’s facade toward the south, south of the altar. 2 He led me out through the north gate and around the outside to the outer east gate, where the water flowed out under the facade on the south side. 3 With the line in his hand, the man went out toward the east…
6 He said to me, “Human one, do you see?” Then he led me back to the edge of the river. 7 When I went back, I saw very many trees on both banks of the river…
9 “Wherever the river flows, every living thing that moves will thrive. There will be great schools of fish, because when these waters enter the sea, it will be fresh. Wherever the river flows, everything will live…”
12 “…on both banks of the river will grow up all kinds of fruit-bearing trees. Their leaves won’t wither, and their fruitfulness won’t wane. They will produce fruit in every month, because their water comes from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for eating, their leaves for healing.”

O (Observation): The Temple was at times the locus of worship, the center of God’s presence on earth. Ezekiel is given an extremely detailed explanation for the Temple’s layout and function. In this particular text, he is shown a river that flows from the Temple, outward. And where that river flows, life springs forth! Abundant life, at that. Like trees that bear fruit every month! Like fish being plentiful!

And not only does life spring forth from the fruit of the trees, but also the leaves of those trees are for healing.   

A (Application):   Knowing that God provides life and healing is comfort that I need.  I try to muster up healing and actions on my part that will provide what God promises…and yet I fail.  

As life goes on, I realize more and more that I am simply NOT God.   We all know that, but if we’re honest, we try to prove to ourselves and to others that we can keep our sh!t together.  That we can provide life and sustenance on our own. That we can be on top of all things.  That we can handle this thing called life.

The thing is, we will never have our lives completely together.  We will have days where we drain life from others, rather than give life.  We will cause pain, instead of healing.   

So, our complete hope is in God. Not in our hands alone, but God working through our hands.  Not our voice alone, but God working through our voice.   Not our hearts alone, but God calling us together into one heart that is bent towards loving God and loving our neighbor.  

May we share in the hope of the river of life that brings true life to all!

P (Prayer):  Lord, keep us alongside your life-giving waters, always.  Amen.  

500th Anniversary of the Reformation!!!


Photo credit here.  

Check out the Lutheran World Federation’s live streaming of commemorations of the 500th anniversary of the Refomation from around the globe!!!

S (Scripture): Ezekiel 36: 22 Therefore, say to the house of Israel, The Lord God proclaims: House of Israel, I’m not acting for your sake but for the sake of my holy name, which you degraded among the nations where you have gone. 23 I will make my great name holy, which was degraded among the nations when you dishonored it among them. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord. This is what the Lord God says.

When I make myself holy among you in their sight, 24 I will take you from the nations, I will gather you from all the countries, and I will bring you to your own fertile land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be cleansed of all your pollution. I will cleanse you of all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. I will remove your stony heart from your body and replace it with a living one, 27 and I will give you my spirit so that you may walk according to my regulations and carefully observe my case laws. 28 Then you will live in the land that I gave to your ancestors, you will be my people, and I will be your God.

O (Observation): As a prophet, Ezekiel continues to share God’s word regarding the sinfulness of the people and God’s mercy and grace.    Notice what instigates God’s mercy:  God’s own desire to cleanse God’s people.  

This element of grace cannot be overstated!   God’s people are not doing a special act!  They are not even repentant until they are shown the distance between their actions and God’s grace.  They are to look at themselves in the mirror, and see what they truly are: a people who have taken their stature as God’s children for granted.  

God decides to sprinkle clean water on God’s people… and to put a new heart and a new spirit in them…God will even give back to God’s people the land they once were given…and it is promised to be like the Eden of old.   

God graces God’s people.  Not for what they’ve done, but because God desires it.  

A (Application):  To be sprinkled clean…to be given a new heart and spirit…this is the hope of a Christian baptism.  We retain our identity, and yet something has changed.   We are transformed. We say we “die with Christ” in baptism, so that we might be raised with Jesus and live a new life. 

The sprinkling of water in this text reminds us of baptism.   We are also reminded of the fact that baptism is SO MUCH what God does.  Then, we live our lives in response to that grace and mercy.  

As Lutheran Christians, we baptism at any age.  Baptizing adults is the norm from Scripture.  The believer makes promises to live into the covenant of baptism.   God promises to be present in, with, and under the water, effecting change in the believer.  Faith alone makes this sacrament possible.  

Martin Luther and cohorts – 500 years ago – reminded the Church that God’s grace was not for sale.  And not just this, but that God’s grace was comes to set us free to love and serve our neighbor.  This shift causes us to focus less on our own salvation, and more about serving others.  

The word from Ezekiel today (though not often used to help explain infant baptism), is yet another example of how far God’s grace reaches.    At no point in this text are God’s people repentant.  God makes it all pretty clear:  I’m doing this for my name, alone.  So we believe in infant baptism, as God’s grace – alone – is instilled in us.  Parents and baptismal sponors make known their desire to aid the infant or child in their rearing.  They promise to raise the child in the faith and to aid them in their faith development.  And these actions are all born out of what God has already granted to the child: namely, mercy and grace.  

Part of our weekly worship is a time of Confession & Forgiveness.  In this rite, we confess our sins, then we hear the words: “in the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven of all your sins.”   Why these words?  These are a reminder of God’s baptismal promise to cleanse us…to give us a new spirit and a new heart.  

May today – the 500th anniversary of the Reformation – be a reminder to you that you are forgiven, loved, and made new in Christ Jesus.  And may that forgiveness be what inspires you to examine your motives and actions every day.  

P (Prayer):  Lord, remind us that you are not an angry God, but a God of grace and mercy.  Amen. 

Our Past Can’t Hold Us Back!


Photo credit here.  Pictured is a food shelter located in Murfreesboro, TN.   LoveGodServePeople.org.  

S (Scripture): Ezekiel 18: 14 But suppose [a person] has a child who sees all the sins that his father committed. He becomes alarmed and doesn’t do them. 15 He doesn’t eat on the mountains or pay attention to the idols of the house of Israel. He doesn’t defile his neighbor’s wife. 16 He doesn’t cheat anyone, either by seizing collateral for loans or committing robbery. He gives his food to the hungry and clothes to the naked. 17 He refrains from oppressing the poor by taking neither interest nor profit. He observes my case laws and follows my regulations. He won’t die because of his father’s guilt. He will surely live. 18 As for his father: If he exploited the weak or committed robbery, or did anything else that wasn’t good for the people, he will die because of his own guilt.

O (Observation):  Physical death awaits us all, but in this life, Ezekiel points out that true life exists in looking to serve the interests of others, and not just one’s own interests.   Ezekiel is sharing God’s message about sins not necessarily being visited upon sons and daughters simply by default.  

Rather, God is opening up the minds of God’s people to realize that one is not defined by one’s parents – or one’s own past, even.   Rather, one might have one’s eyes opened to see that – all around us – people need to be fed and clothed.  Acting on those needs brings life to the recipients of that food and clothing, and in return, new life is brought to the person who gives to others.  

Funny how “giving away” actually brings the new life promised by God.  

A (Application): Pretty soon, a group of white supremacists will rally at the courthouse square to raise their message of disdain against immigrants and all people of color.   They have already shared flyers in the campus of Middle TN State University to recruit more to these bigoted groups.  

The vision is bleak for this town, when people see this stuff.   And yet, hope remains. 

We repudiate the words and actions of any group showing hate for another.  We will engage in a nonviolent response, in an alternate physical location.    And we will show love and care for our neighbors.    And we will share a vision of a future that is colorful, where cultures will learn from one another…and maybe we will catch a glimpse of the Kingdom!

Our past does not define us.   Jesus made sure of that by taking on and overcoming our sins – once and for all!  A shared vision of the future will bring many of us together…a future that includes being kind to one another, regardless of skin color, nation of origin, or language.  This is Jesus’ way.  

God always keeps open the door to loving our neighbor.   And feeds us so that we can keep on feeding others for the rest of our days.  

Is your past holding you back?  If so, be free today, in Jesus’ name!  Shake off that burden by seeking forgiveness.   Then go…and feed a need in your community today. 

P (Prayer):  Lord, we thank you for setting us free to go and serve our neighbor in need.  Amen.