Tuesday of Pentecost 7 – Ezekiel 2:1-5

And he said to me, “Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak with you.” And as he spoke to me, the Spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and I heard him speaking to me. And he said to me, “Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel, to nations of rebels, who have rebelled against me. They and their fathers have transgressed against me to this very day. The descendants also are impudent and stubborn: I send you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’ And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them.

I had considered several Calls at this point in my ministry and thus it was not a strange thing to receive a telephone call from a congregational chairman along with another officer, telling me I had been elected Pastor of a parish. This conversation, however, was different. The men on the phone with me sounded disappointed. Indeed, as we spoke, they actively discouraged me from visiting to meet the congregation. They would not fund a visit, in fact.

It came out, as I learned more about the call, that the congregation was deeply divided. All the folks who almost never came to church had shown up for the voters meeting and voted for me instead of the candidate the congregational officers wanted to elect. I was the protest vote. I simply was not that other guy, so one party rallied around my name. The chairman was quite clear. I had won that election by one vote. The congregational leadership did not want me there. They had not gone through the regular formality to make the vote unanimous.

The district president was gracious enough to take my phone call and talk about this situation. Unlike the congregational leadership, he admitted that he in fact wanted me and not the other candidate. His words sometimes still haunt me. He said that this was a valid call and I needed to pray about it and ask what God wanted me to do and not pay too much attention to this congregation. He then reminded me of Jonah who did not want to go to Nineveh and went the other way. We all know how that turned out. The congregation was on the gulf coast. He said, “Phil, there are some very large fish in that Gulf of Mexico.”

God calls Ezekiel in this reading before us. I cannot imagine a more discouraging call vision. God as much as admits that Ezekiel’s mission will not succeed. The people are stubborn, and they are a rebellious house. It is a pattern baked into their very being. And yet the Spirit of God comes into Ezekiel and stands him on his feet and fills him. Ezekiel’s mission would go to great lengths to get the message across. His whole life would become a sort of prophecy. Despite the gloomy call, Ezekiel later records that the elders of the people of Israel did come to him and listen (Ez. 8:1 and 20:1). They might not have liked what they heard, but they came.

I declined that call. It was not a good fit for me in my vocations as pastor, husband and father. God has blessed me in that decision, but sometimes I wonder how He might have blessed me there. I have not taken any cruises on the Gulf of Mexico.

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