Saint Paul's Lutheran Church

Son of Man, Stand On Your Feet

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

In the name of the king: On behalf of a greater authority, a judges’ verdict starts with this phrase in many countries. In the name of the king, in the name of the republic, in the name of the people, in the name of the federation. This phrase shows one thing: the judge does not speak, does not judge from his own power, he does not decide according to his own will, but he speaks because he was entrusted to speak by an authority and he speaks in the name of this authority, his king, his republic, his people. It is somebody else who judges. He is only the medium.

  1. God Sends Ezekiel

So also Ezekiel. He did not decide by himself to become a prophet to proclaim what he thinks is right and wrong, nor what he thinks that God should think is right and wrong. No, Ezekiel was sent. He was elected by God to be His prophet and to proclaim what He, what God wants to say. God Himself sent Ezekiel to His people Israel. “Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel (Ez 2:3).” God does not look for the theoretically most qualified; if God was a manager of human resources, He would be thrown out of the company…He called for His work Moses, who couldn’t really speak well in public; Jeremiah who was very young and inexperienced; Amos was just a farmer. The disciples had ordinary jobs and who knows if they could even read when Jesus called them and Paul, he was one of the worst enemies of the early Christians. And still, these are the people who God wanted to work for Him. It is you and it is me.

As baptized Christians we are called into the “priesthood of all believers”. We share God’s word, God’s love, God’s Gospel through word and deed in kindness, love and humility.

This call by God to go to the people of Israel for Ezekiel and the call to us, into the priesthood of all believers, and the pastors we call in the Church, is a call to go out and to “make disciples of all nations (Mt 28:19).” It is overwhelming. We can do nothing else but draw back and ignore it and to find – easily – excuses. I can’t speak in public, I am too young, I am not smart enough, I am just a “poor, miserable sinner.”

This could be the end of the story: God calls us and we just can’t do it. We fall short; we fail.

  1. God Enables Us to Proclaim His Word

But God lifts Ezekiel up. It is not Ezekiel who decides to become a prophet. It is not that Ezekiel enables himself to be a prophet. God says to Ezekiel “son of man, stand on your feet.” Son of man – Ezekiel is just a son of man. He is a failure like us. He is weak like us. He is just a normal guy.

“Son of man, stand on your feet.” – Let’s read carefully what follows: “The Spirit entered into Ezekiel and set him on his feet.” I believe that between these two sentences there is a pause. “Son of man, stand on your feet…The Spirit entered into Ezekiel and set him on his feet.” Ezekiel was not able to get up by himself. He couldn’t stand without the Holy Spirit enabling him. It is God the Spirit Himself, who enables Ezekiel to speak in God’s name. It is God’s power; it is the power of the words, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

From the moment of our baptism the Holy Spirit enables us to be what we are: Christians who proclaim the word of God; who live the word of God. It is the moment that we are commanded to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19f) that we go out and make disciples. By this same word we are enabled to do what is commanded. Because Jesus continued by saying: “I am with you always, to the end of the age (Mt 28:20),” we are not alone in the task of proclaiming God’s word. But God gave us the Spirit to lead and to guide us in His truth. That is what we proclaim as Christians, that is what we are as Christians; a proclamation of God.

  1. What We Proclaim is “Thus Says the Lord God”

A proclamation of God: of God’s will, of God’s anger, of God’s love, of God’s grace! The Church shall and can do nothing else than share God’s Word in word and deed, in Law and in Gospel. Ezekiel is not free to say whatever is on his mind, or to say what may please the people of Israel. Rather, he has to say what God wants him to say, what God commands him to say. He is only a real prophet by proclaiming God’s Word. Just like a judge, Ezekiel only speaks “in the name of the king.”

It is like the Balaam narrative, when Balaam can not curse Israel because it was not according to God’s will saying: “How can I curse whom God has not cursed?” (Nu 23:8) Being called to be a pastor or to work in the church you are bound in your preaching to the Bible as God’s Word and to the Lutheran Confessions as the faithful and correct summary and explanation of the Holy Scripture. We often love to argue with the phrase “Luther says…” and that is mostly amazing because Luther said a lot of very good things and he was an incredible theologian, but if the phrase “Luther says” is not in accordance with “thus says the Lord God,” then the first phrase is not Lutheran. Being Lutheran-Christian is defined by “thus says the Lord God” and only by “thus says the Lord God”. This is why we can/have to say: Sola Scriptura, Scripture alone!

At the seminary we learn a lot about how to speak and to preach. When should we use the loud oratorical voice, when should we use the conversational tone, and when should we use the silent but penetrating low voice? It is very important to learn all this, because an orator always needs to attract his listeners to get their attention. What is necessary though is sound doctrine. It is essential to preach what the phrase “Thus says the Lord” includes.

Imagine I would start preaching how God shows His love to us in Shakespeare’s ability to write MacBeth. A great play for sure. The sermon would start with: “when shall we three meet again in thunder, lightning and rain?” Great! with a few more seminary courses in acting, I would even be able to attract you for what I am saying. But I would not preach Christ. It may be an amazing speech, but it wouldn’t be a Christian sermon. Because what is the “thus says the Lord God”, what is it that the Church and Her pastors proclaim? “I am the bread of life (Jn 6:35)”, “I am the light of the world (Jn 8:12)”, “I am the door (Jn 10:6)”, “I am the good Shepherd (Jn 10:11)”, “I am the resurrection and the life (Jn 11:25)”, “I am the way, the truth and the life (Jn 14:6)”, “I am the true vine (Jn 15:1).” We proclaim Jesus Christ as our savior and redeemer through His blood on the cross in our baptism!

  1. The People Hear God Through Us

God equips Ezekiel with his word to go to the people of Israel, a rebellious people. God even calls them goi, the Hebrew term for the gentile nations, for those from whom God in His mercy separated the Israelites. To these people Ezekiel had to go to proclaim God’s will. God prophesizes to Ezekiel that Israel will probably refuse Ezekiel’s warnings and prophecies. But, even though they may refuse him, “they will know that a prophet has been among them (Ez 2:5).” When we proclaim God’s Word to the people, God’s true and plain Word, there will be hostility. This passage shows that faith is not merely a question of pure knowledge. The Pharisees saw Jesus’ miracles, they knew about the empty tomb and they knew that Jesus rose from the dead, but they paid the guards of Christ’s tomb to lie and report that Jesus was still dead (Mt 28:11-15). And so also we -- even though we know what the Bible says -- ask ourselves with the devil deep in our heart: “Did God actually say…?” (Gen 3:1)

But if we proclaim the Word of God, if we proclaim “Thus says the Lord GOD,” then the people will know in whose Name we speak and who lets us speak.

It is not on us that the burden of the spreading of God’s Word falls, but it is God Himself, who calls us to proclaim His Word, who enables us to proclaim His word, who is with us when we proclaim the Word, and who Himself speaks His Word through us.

Because it is God, who speaks through his servants, it is possible to finish this sermon with the word “Amen, Yes, Yes, It Shall Be So!”

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