Monday, August 16, 2010

More Than Words

In Ezekiel 4, God commands Ezekiel to prophesy without saying a word.  Instead of speaking, Ezekiel is to carry out a series of symbolic acts that represent the siege which God through Babylon is about to bring upon Jerusalem.  He is commanded to take a brick and draw the city of Jerusalem on it and then build a miniature battlefield around it.  Then he is commanded to lay on his left side for 390 days to represent the 390 years of Israel's exile and then on his right side for another 40 days to represent the exile of Judah.  But in all these instructions there are no instructions to speak.

Most of us have heard our whole lives that "actions speak louder than words" but I think that in reality that slogan takes much more patience, trust, and perseverance than most of us are willing to commit.  At some point in those 430 days, as Ezekiel lay there watching the same people pass by as he had for so many days before, people who had now seen him lay there for so many days that they didn't even bother to mock him any more, he must have wondered what the point of all this was.  No one was repenting of their sin.  No one was consulting Ezekiel about what words had come from God.  Wasn't this a waste of God's time as well as Ezekiel's?  Wouldn't another sermon about the wrath and judgment to come be just as effectual as laying here doing nothing?  Nevertheless, God commands and Ezekiel obeys.

It's not that words aren't important.  Ezekiel will do a whole lot of speaking before the book that bares his name comes to an end.  But Jesus washing the disciples' feet, healing the sick, turning over the tables of the money changers, sharing the passover meal with the disciples, all say something that mere words can not.

This is a prophetic tradition in which we, the Church, find our feet firmly planted.  We too are called not only to prophetic speech but also to prophetic acts, not least of which are things like baptism and communion.  At times, the water, wafer, and wine may seem plain, ordinary, and ineffectual things.  They may seem powerless to affect any real change in our world.  They may seem about as meaningful as laying on our side for 430 days.  And yet, our constant gathering around a broken and bloodied Lord says something that no sermon can speak.

No comments: