Sixth Sunday after Pentecost – June 30, 2024

Posted on July 1, 2024, Pastor: Pastor Lara Forbes

Sermons are preached within the context of a particular worship service, and are most meaningful when experienced in that way. We encourage you to view or listen to the entire worship service. 

June 30, 2024

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Ezekiel 47:1-12
Revelation 21:10, 22–22:5

Worship Service Video Sermon Video Sermon  Audio

Sermon Text:

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of our hearts, be acceptable to you, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

When I was on sabbatical in 2018, I had the blessing of being able to spend two and a half weeks on the island of Iona, off the western coast of Scotland. Iona is only one mile wide and two miles long so, while I was there, I explored almost all of it. But I had my favorite places.

There’s a bay on the western side of the island where I spent quite a bit of time. And the first time I ventured to it, I followed the road up from the guest house where I was staying and only made it partway because there was a gate across it. And the road continued beyond it, but there was also a farm behind the gate, and the road passed through the middle of it.

And the gate was closed, so I turned around and ended up taking the long way around. Later on, I asked one of the caretakers at the guest house about it and he said, “Oh, you can go through. There’s public access. The expectation is that you’ll pass through. But with that, is the expectation that you’ll also be responsible – that you’ll close the gate behind you and not harass the livestock or bother the people or their belongings.”

And, sure enough, that’s how it was. And it was my first experience with that type of relationship to land. That, yes, someone owned it – or, at the very least, managed it. And that it was also okay for others to be on it, even if it was just to pass through and get from one point to the next.

I think about that experience a lot, especially when it comes to how humanity tends to relate to creation – and whether we recognize that we’re connected to it and to God, and the dynamic nature of that relationship. That it always exists, whether we’re aware of it or not.

Last Sunday, we talked about the consequences of not caring for creation and the holistic relationship between it and God, and God and humanity. And the consequences that were described were pretty brutal. And I promised you that today would be better because it’s all about renewal – and it is. It’s all good stuff.

And, despite the overlap in imagery, our readings are from two completely different sections of the Bible – reflecting two different faith traditions and their interpretations of how extensive God’s renewal of creation will be.

The book of Ezekiel was written before and during the exile to Babylon. Like the other prophets, Ezekiel had told the Israelites they needed to turn back to God and live according to God’s way. And that things would go sideways if they didn’t.

And they didn’t, so things went sideways. Besides the territory being invaded, God physically left the temple. Specifically, through the east gate. And God abandoning the temple is part of the reason for the destruction of Jerusalem.

And we’ve talked about this before, but when the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem – it was almost uninhabitable by the time they were done. And they sacked and looted and leveled the temple itself.

It was an awful time for those who were sent into exile and for those who remained.

But the vision that we read today is a glimpse of hope for the future. It begins in chapter 43 when God comes back into the temple – through the east gate. And once God came back in through that gate, it was sealed to respect the holiness of God. No one else could go in or out through it; not even the water Ezekiel talks about here goes out that gate.

Which is why Ezekiel also had to take the long way around to get to the east side of the temple.

And “east” is important, because east of the temple is the desert and the Dead Sea. And the water is flowing from the temple to the desolate parts of the land bringing life into the desert, and it’s a miraculous shift from what has been.

It’s a new act of creation in a place that is known for not having life in it at all. And its source is God. This reading puts God back at the center of all things, and reminds the people that God is the source of life in the world.

The vision that John describes in Revelation echoes this and expands it to include the whole world. God is at the center there, too. Both visions describe life and healing, and give hope for the future.

There are many Christians who, when they read these texts of renewal – especially the one from Revelation, they take it as a literal script for the end of the world. And they use that vision of renewal that God will bring as an excuse, and even just cause, to not care for the environment today.

Their logic is that, since God’s going to completely renew it anyway, there’s no reason to take care of it now. But both of these readings suggest that our future dwelling with God will be on a radiant, life-filled earth.

And what Ezekiel shows us is that we can become springs of life in the world now. Because the way God most directly enters the world is through communities of faith. So, for us as Christians, however God decides to create the future doesn’t remove the need to care for God’s creation in the present.

If anything, it amplifies the need. We are called to be protectors of the abundance of creation, to live in ways that accomplish that so that it can be shared among everybody. When we don’t do that in the way God calls us to, that’s when things go sideways.

We focused on “relationship” in this series because, when it comes to caring for creation, Google tells us what we can do to accomplish that – the actions we can take. And when we Google “why” we should care for creation, the responses are typically all the statistics we hear in the news and other reports.

But as Christians, our “why” is deeper than statistics. Our “why” begins in Genesis and ends in Revelation because our “why” begins and ends in God – in Jesus. The reading from Ezekiel, and others like it, are stepping stones on that path.

As Christians, we can’t just quietly think about creation care and keep it to ourselves, we have to talk about it. In the same way that we are called to talk about Jesus, we are called to talk about this because he’s in this, too. And we’re not just called to talk about the “crisis” stuff; we’re called to talk about the hope and healing, too.

And more than that, we’re called to live in such a way that that hope and healing become part of the world. Because God’s vision is the healing of the world. When we keep that at the center, we keep God at the center.

And we remember God’s creative power, the way it shows up again and again in our world, and the ways God works in it through us. One person at a time, one action at a time. Connecting us to God, and to creation, and to one another.

Bringing life into places that are desolate, and giving us hope for the future. Thanks be to God! Amen.