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Speaking the Word No One Will Hear
Preparing for the Fifth Sunday of Easter: Three Days Before Sunday (Year C)
Psalter: Psalm 148
Old Testament: Ezekiel 2:8—3:11
Epistle: Revelation 10:1-11
O God, your Son remained with his disciples after his resurrection, teaching them to love all people as neighbors. As his disciples in this age, we offer our prayers on behalf of the universe in which we are privileged to live and our neighbors with whom we share it. Amen.
Surely, if I sent you to them, they would listen to you. But the house of Israel will not listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to me; because all the house of Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart. See, I have made your face hard against their faces, and your forehead hard against their foreheads. Like the hardest stone, harder than flint, I have made your forehead; do not fear them or be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house (Ezekiel 2:6b-9).
It’s called the Dunning-Kruger Effect—”a cognitive bias in which people wrongly overestimate their knowledge or ability in a specific area. This tends to occur because a lack of self-awareness prevents them from accurately assessing their own skills (Psychology Today). To some extent we all suffer from DKE, as I will call it. We can believe we know what’s best for ourselves and are smarter than we think.
God’s people Israel, often suffered from DKE. They knew better than God what was good for them. They believed their future would be fine in their own hands and they didn’t need the Prophet Ezekiel telling them otherwise. In God’s calling of the prophet in chapter two, God warned Ezekiel that his preaching would fall on deaf ears. There may be times when we feel the need to speak the difficult word to someone we know will not listen, but our consciences won’t let us remain silent.
Perhaps this is a moment when God through Ezekiel must speak the direct word to the people he loves, even though they are going to continue in their wayward ways come hell or high water. One would think that in exile, the people would finally have awakened to their own sin and self-deception. Since the Garden of Eden human beings have had a great knack for self-deception. If we think about it long enough, we can justify almost anything. That is why so often the word of truth must come from the outside. Critical self-reflection is difficult because it holds us up to the light of reality. We are not as smart as we think we are. We are not as capable as we think we are. We are not as virtuous as we think we are. It is hard to admit that we need help.
Years ago in previous church I served, we started Stephen Ministry, a confidential one-on-one caring ministry for those in times of need. When we began, it was difficult to get people to accept they needed that kind of help when going through a time of grief, or difficult change. All too many of us were raised with a “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” mentality that makes it hard to accept any kind of ministry that forces us to admit our vulnerability. For the people to whom Ezekiel is preaching to confess their sins would be to admit that they were not OK before God. To ask forgiveness is difficult because it means an acknowledgement that the identity we have constructed for ourselves is warped. Our self-image is cracked.
In reflecting a little more on this passage, perhaps God speaks to Ezekiel not just out of conscience, not only so that God can say, “I told you so.” Rather, it may indeed be the case that God speaks to his people, who are sure they know better, just in case some will hear the words of the prophet and realize they need the kind of saving help that only God can give. Jesus tells the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:1-9) in which the farmer throws his seed everywhere, knowing that most of it will not grow and bear fruit because except for one kind of soil, nothing will germinate or take root. God scatters God’s grace in wasteful fashion in the hope that something will be produced somewhere. Jesus ends this parable and others with the admonition, “If you have ears, hear!” In other words, “If you can hear, heed my words!”
In like fashion, Ezekiel is commissioned to speak the word of the Lord to a people who are infected with the Dunning-Kruger effect in the hope the message will take hold in some; for the way of love must continue its work no matter what.
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