On a beautiful cold and crisp December evening couple weeks ago, a group of about 15 people from Faith Church and First Baptist Church (who rents from Faith Church) walked around a local neighborhood, ringing doorbells and singing Christmas Carols by candlelight to people. We wanted to share the joy of Christmas, as well as briefly communicate the story of Jesus. We would sing one or two brief carols, then finish with “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” and move on to the next house. Most of the people who came to the door expressed happy surprise. One person, however, surprised us! He quietly exited his house from the rear, then suddenly showed up suspiciously asking what was going on. Once we assured him that we were from the church a couple blocks away, and we were going house to house singing carols, he warmed up and thanked us. We had only one truly negative response. A person came to their door with a look of frustration, clearly communicating that they were not thrilled about us, that we were barging in to their evening, forcing them to stand at their door and pretend to be welcoming. They didn’t pretend very well, or maybe didn’t try to pretend at all, as midway through the first song, they turned around, went back inside and shut the door.
This got me thinking about the oddness of what we were doing. In decades past, Christmas caroling house to house was somewhat common. But no more. Instead, our little group walked uninvited to people’s homes, and just started singing. We didn’t ask if they were interested in being serenaded. True, the majority expressed appreciation, but I wonder what the unhappy man thought in the days to come. Did he hold a grudge? Was his impression of Jesus boosted or decreased? Clearly we were hoping for a positive impression.
As we think about talking to people about Jesus, how do we go about it in a world where fewer and fewer people care about religion or faith? It can be very intimidating. We can fear that we are being unfaithful or ineffective disciples of Jesus, that we will push people away. We tend to clam up. We tend to be silent. As we will see this week in our continuing study of Ezekiel, there is a time to be silent and a time to speak.
As we learned in the previous post, Ezekiel has been a silent prophet, only speaking when God gave him a prophetic word. By chapter 33, at least seven years have passed since God imposed silence on Ezekiel. Seven years!
That’s a lot of silence.
In chapter 33, verses 1-20, which we are studying this week, we read Ezekiel’s final prophetic word before God opens Ezekiel’s mouth, allowing him to speak freely. No longer will Ezekiel be the Silent Prophet, which is why this past Sunday at Faith Church we had a silent sermon. I started the sermon with a video titled “Noise” by Rob Bell, who does a great job introducing the importance of silence. (You can purchase the video inexpensively here.) Bell suggests that noise is all around us. Sound, images, and other kinds of noise. Meanwhile, God calls us to listen for his voice. Are we living such noisy lives that we cannot hear God?
In the middle of his forced silence, Ezekiel heard from God. What he heard is an important message that we need to hear as well.
Here’s what God says in Ezekiel 33:1-6, “The word of the LORD came to me: ‘Son of man, speak to your countrymen and say to them: “When I bring the sword against a land, and a people of the land choose one of their men and make him their watchman, and he sees the sword coming against the land and blows the trumpet to warn the people, then if anyone hears the trumpet but does not take warning and the sword comes and takes his life, his blood will be on his own head. Since he heard the sound of the trumpet but did not take warning, his blood will be on his own head. If he had taken warning, he would have saved himself. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes the life of one of them, that man will be taken away because of his sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for his blood.”
This week we learn what it means to be watchmen.
A watchman, God says, is one who sounds the warning that trouble is one the way.
A watchman must be alert, focused and willing to tell the truth.
How are you at telling the truth when the truth is difficult?
In verse 6, God says he will hold the watchman accountable for not telling the truth. I don’t like the sound of that because there are plenty of times when I find it quite difficult to tell the truth.
But there are plenty of people that need to hear the truth. During our sermon discussion group this past Sunday, we talked about this further, and one person asked, “Is it okay if we just pray for people?” It’s a good question. There’s no doubt that prayer is important. We should absolutely pray for people. Furthermore, there is the famous phrase, “Share the Gospel at all times, and when necessary use words.” That statement is very similar to the idea that actions speak louder than words. We evangelical Christians, however, have long emphasized communicating the content, the information of the story of Jesus, as if gospel actions and deeds are of secondary importance.
What did Jesus do? He practice all three habits, that years ago the now defunct Lighthouse Movement described as Prayer, Care and Share. We should pray for people, care for them, and share the story of Jesus with them. A Watchmen prays, cares and shares. We are all watchmen. We all should practice all three habits of Jesus as we seek to communicate his good news to all people.
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