Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

Courage for our time and place

dusty sandals
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July 7, 2024

First Reading
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Commentary on Ezekiel 2:1-5

The book of Ezekiel situates us in an exilic community of Israelites in Babylon. This is some years after the Babylonians besieged Jerusalem in 597 BCE and decimated the city in 587 BCE, including the Holy Temple. Ezekiel is a priest, an elder, caring for his fellow Jews in a foreign land in the wake of trauma. This book of his oracles begins with tough love for a stubborn and rebellious people and moves toward visions of hope and restoration for the people of Israel.

An awesome sight

Thirty-year-old Ezekiel was living among his fellow exiles by the Kebar River when the event that launched his prophetic career took place (1:3). Kebar in Hebrew means “joining.” I wonder what it means for the man to receive a vision and the role of prophet from and for a community of exiles beside the water of “joining”? I wonder how important joining is to a people who have been cut off, separated from their homeland?

Through an apocalyptic vision, Ezekiel is invited to be a catalyst between Yahweh and the diaspora in the rebuilding and reorganization of a restored Jerusalem. This is his God-given task, even if the people to whom he will speak resist the words that lead to restoration.

If you wonder why he was knocked down, start with the first chapter of the book, where this divine council of architects for Yahweh’s redesign is described. Ezekiel likely struggled to find words for what he saw in this vision. Interspecies, androgynous creatures—Ezekiel mixes gender language and verb agreements as he recalls what knocked him off his feet when Yahweh’s hand rested on him (1:3).1


Spirit is an essential character in the book of Ezekiel. We meet Spirit (ruach) here in chapter 2—Spirit (wind, breath) to give life and reanimate that which seems no more. As Yahweh speaks and sets up a distinction between the divine one and the mortal (or “man,” depending on your translation), Spirit bridges the gap and dances between the two as kinetic energy.2

Spirit also acts in mighty ways in one of the most beloved visions of Ezekiel (chapter 37). Here we have an invitation to hold space for Spirit to take center stage in the season after Pentecost. Spirit in this text can be understood “in the sense of vigor or even courage” for the human to respond to God’s call to share the vision of God with fellow mortals.3

Where do you need courage, preacher, to speak words that lead to restoration? Where does the church need the courage to respond to God and reorder our lives according to God’s vision of flourishing and justice?

Courage for our time and place

Many in our communities may not know that we are in exile from the neighborhood/society that God desires for us to cultivate and inhabit. We may not know that life as it is now—with rampant gun violence, impatience, fear, anxiety, and war—is an exile from the kin-dom of God we can choose to live within, on earth, not just someday in heaven.

I am not a fortune-teller. I do not know what you, preacher, and your community have read in the news or experienced in your community this week. But I know that this is Fourth of July week for the United States of America, and that Canada Day was recently celebrated as well. I know that it takes a spirit of courage to address the ways our nations miss the mark of their own ideals, let alone the greater ideals of God. I know that it is challenging to hold in tension the gratitude many feel for their nation and those who have sacrificed for freedom. And I know that Christian nationalism—isms of any kind—threaten the flourishing of our communities.

And then, of course, there is still the trauma of Palestine/Israel—the lands on which our sacred texts were formed and where Jesus’ feet touched the earth. I know that it may seem useless to speak of a gospel that transcends any one nation when so many people in many nations on this blue-green marble have stubbornly grasped a message of national-religious chosenness and superiority as the good news for us and bad news for anyone who tries to get in our way.

Yet, that is our task. And we can trust that the same Spirit of courage that ignited Ezekiel ignites us today.


  1. Priests for Equality, “Ezekiel,” in The Inclusive Bible: The First Egalitarian Translation (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2009), 301.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Moshe Greenberg, “28–3:15 Ezekiel’s Call: The Commissioning (1:28bβ–3:15),” in Ezekiel 1–20: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (New Haven: The Anchor Yale Bible, 1983), 60–81, accessed April 13, 2024,