By Michael Fitzpatrick
A Reading from Ezekiel 7:10-15, 23b-27
10 See, the day! See, it comes!
Your doom has gone out.
The rod has blossomed, pride has budded.
11 Violence has grown into a rod of wickedness.
None of them shall remain,
not their abundance, not their wealth;
no pre-eminence among them.
12 The time has come, the day draws near;
let not the buyer rejoice, nor the seller mourn,
for wrath is upon all their multitude.
13 For the sellers shall not return to what has been sold as long as they remain alive. For the vision concerns all their multitude; it shall not be revoked. Because of their iniquity, they cannot maintain their lives.
14 They have blown the horn and made everything ready;
but no one goes to battle,
for my wrath is upon all their multitude.
15 The sword is outside, pestilence and famine are inside;
those in the field die by the sword;
those in the city — famine and pestilence devour them.
23 Make a chain!
For the land is full of bloody crimes;
the city is full of violence.
24 I will bring the worst of the nations
to take possession of their houses.
I will put an end to the arrogance of the strong,
and their holy places shall be profaned.
25 When anguish comes, they will seek peace,
but there shall be none.
26 Disaster comes upon disaster,
rumor follows rumor;
they shall keep seeking a vision from the prophet;
instruction shall perish from the priest,
and counsel from the elders.
27 The king shall mourn,
the prince shall be wrapped in despair,
and the hands of the people of the land shall tremble.
According to their way I will deal with them;
according to their own judgments I will judge them.
And they shall know that I am the Lord.
After the American financial and housing system collapsed in 2008, it was my first experience as a young adult witnessing widespread national despair. Homelessness, joblessness, suicide, and desperation were carved across the country. I had just completed my tour of duty for the U. S. Army, and was heart-broken to return home to witness so much suffering and hopelessness. And yet when I talked with neighbors, family, and friends, many expressed a kind of resignation in the face of the crisis. “What did we expect? The greed in our national financial institutions, the shootings in our children’s schools, our warmongering abroad, our unwillingess to care for the environment — we’re due a reckoning.”
I reflect back on these conversations often, especially when reading passages like Ezekiel 7. The prophet unambiguously describes a people who have become so sinful that the day of God’s judgment has declared, “Enough!” The wrath of the Lord is on them “because the land is full of bloody crimes and the city is full of violence.” Yet it is the final verse of this chapter which is most arresting: “According to their way I will do to them, and according to their own judgments I will judge them; and they shall know that I am the Lord.”
A restatement of “eye for an eye,” this verse puzzles, for as Christians we know Jesus taught us to let go of “eye for an eye,” to overcome evil with good. The truth of the cross is indeed God’s final word, not this judgment declared over the corruption of Israel centuries earlier. And yet, there is a truth here we must not overlook: that we as humans need the grace of the cross because we cannot endure judgment — even if God were only to judge us as we have judged others. Our own lives testify against us, and if we are delivered, it is because we have an unmerited advocate in heaven, one who testifies for us with his own innocent blood.
Michael Fitzpatrick is a doctoral student in philosophy at Stanford University. He attends St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Palo Alto, Calif., where he serves as a lay preacher and teacher.
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Today we pray for:
Christ & St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, New York, N.Y.
The Diocese of Butere (Anglican Church of Kenya)