Up on Your Feet! (Ez 2:2 Mark 6:1-6)
If you were to paint a picture of the prophet Ezekiel as he first appears in the Bible, you might have him sitting back in a recliner, at peace with himself and confident that the way he saw his world was the way the world truly was.
Then two things happen: The Lord Speaks to him, and The Holy Spirit “sets him on his feet.” No longer in repose nor content with present arrangements, he’s now standing up, ramrod straight, eyes filled with light and muscles taught, ready to step out into a widening world.
That’s what happens to so many in the Scriptures who get lifted on their feet by the Spirit of God. Sometimes we call them prophets, people who begin to envision their world more as God sees it and then start to speak God’s words and be lobbyists for God’s causes. Other times we call them witnesses, individuals who stand up and give testimony to the new things they’ve realized and then, prodded by The Spirit, step out to act on their changed vision. These are the people who let themselves be stretched, who reach out for that something just beyond them. These are the women and men who don’t confine reality to the box in which they hold it, who don’t cling for dear life to their old frames of reference. They let the Spirit ‘stand them up on their feet.’
That’s what happened to Ezekiel. In contrast, that’s just what did not happen to Jesus’ neighbors in chapter 6 of Mark’s gospel. “All these things reported back to us about this hometown boy just couldn’t be true. We knew him when. He’s the carpenter, Mary’s son, our cousin. If he’s doing and saying all they say he is, it must be some trick, or his power must be coming from the Evil One. We have his number. We have him figured out.”
These are the attitudes which bar them, in Ezekiel’s phrase, from “getting up on their feet.” These stances block the inflow of that Spirit of God. Because things don’t fit the familiar patterns, the townspeople miss the truth that this Jesus is God’s own Spirit coming into their town.
It’s not hard to catch crossovers to the present day. Can the newness and the unexpectedness of God’s Spirit manage to break through in 2018? Can we learn from these neighbors who refuse look beyond their hometown certainties? Can we be supple enough to let go of the habitual and be vulnerable enough to the unfamiliar coming from The Spirit — this Holy Spirit who is with us but is also always just out beyond us, just coming around the corner.
This lesson certainly rings true in our social and political world where we’re challenged to be nimble before The Spirit’s prodding, forever nudging us toward the values of Jesus’ Kingdom from whatever direction they arise. Case in point: the other day I spotted a bumper sticker that proclaimed, “Don’t Fox the News!” But there’s a way in which another sticker, “Don’t CNN the news” could also fit. Both might could be bearing something of God’s touch which I refuse to feel because I’m hunkered down on my present take on how the world operates.
Might that warning also apply to what we do when we come together to listen to God’s Word and when we stand around the Eucharistic table. Might the prompt to open my ears prevail as I listen to what I take year after year to be the same-old, same-old Bible readings? Might that prod apply just as much to the Eucharistic ritual itself, this lifting up of the bread and wine which I share in so regularly that I miss what and who is being offered – and more importantly the why of it, the Lord’s love pouring out for us and the whole world.
That same Spirit hovering at a Mass came to Ezekiel and set him on his feet. That same Spirit lived in Jesus of Nazareth and was the chance those townspeople missed to get up on their feet. It breathed in a Vincent de Paul who looked to possibilities with such a creative eye. That very same Spirit is with us now, certainly in worship but also in the different needs and challenges sounding in our world. Can we let ourselves feel the prod of that Spirit and so stand a little taller in our pursuit of Jesus’ dream — His Father’s Kingdom of Peace and Justice and Love showing up here on earth, as it is in heaven. Can we let that Spirit “stand us up on our feet?”