Yesterday, I suggested that this world needs more prophets like Ezekiel, in contrast to what the modern church has done with the more fire-and-brimstone, truth-and-judgment prophets (and to be honest, that's a pretty unfair reading of them, too). But that's tough for us because Ezekiel was so, well, weird.
But weird is what this world needs.
Everything that's weird about Ezekiel is exactly right for what it means to be a witness in this world. When we talk about a prophet who spent more than a year lying on his side, only to flip over and spend another almost-6 weeks lying on his other side, we're talking about a prophet who lives what he preaches. We're talking about a guy who doesn't just talk. He's an example to the world, and you can see it in the way that he acts. That's the kind of witness this world needs - a witness that's done just talking and ready to live it out. They need to see a faith that has a real, tangible, meaningful impact on our lives, not just one that entitles us to some kind of hypocritical self-righteousness. If that means lying on our sides, let's do it. Let's have a faith that requires as much of us as we want to require of "sinners" (who, by the way, we must be counted among).
When we talk about a prophet who does not grieve when his wife dies, who instead does what God has asked him to do and goes about his daily life, we're talking about a prophet who actually believes what he says he believes. He believes that he can trust God. That's the kind of witness this world needs - a witness that actually believes what it claims. So often, we talk about things like peace, joy, and forgiveness. But then the line at the Wal-mart takes too long, the waitress brings us slightly undercooked french fries, the bill exceeds the paycheck, and we're just like everyone else. Where is this God that we said we believed in? Oh, we don't believe in Him now. Not for any practical things. Our faith in God is kind of, you know, philosophical. It's the kind of thing we think about when we have the luxury of thinking, but in the process of living? Forget it. And this world sees right through us. They need to see something different. If that means standing up, washing our faces, and setting out into this broken world all over again, then let's do it. Let's have a faith that is what we say it is, especially in the times when we so desperately need it to be.
When we talk about a prophet who has these wild visions of angels, we're talking a prophet who trusts in the imagination of a created people. He know that what he's seen is indescribable, but he tries to tell his story anyway. Why? Because it's important. And even though he's specific in his details, he knows that not everyone is going to get what he's trying to say. But they might come close. That's the kind of witness this world needs - one that trusts in their imagination. We've gotten so scared that someone might think something different about God than we do, that they might not come to exactly all of our conclusions. So we spend much of our time and testimony trying to tell everyone what to believe, exactly what to believe. This world has forgotten how to dream about God. They have forgotten how to conceive of Him. They don't know what it means that He is beyond their imagination because modern Christendom has told them there's no room for creativity, that we can't trust them to play with the image and figure it out. And they're missing so much of Him. We have failed to give them so much of Him. Why? Because we don't know what they'd do with it. Let them dream! Give them enough to spark their imaginations. Let them be creative in the image of their Creator. If that means painting bizarre images, I'll get the brushes. Let's have a faith that imagines, that dreams, that depends upon this creativity.
When we talk about a prophet who watches dry bones come alive, we're talking about a prophet who confesses the limitations of his knowledge. He knows how bodies work, roughly. He knows how bones come together. He knows how muscle and tendon and skin are vital to a human being. He understands, he thinks, death and dryness and decay. But what he doesn't know is how dry bones become flesh - there's something there he can't understand or explain, except to say that it is God. That's the kind of witness this world needs. We got so interested in pretending that we have all the answers, that we've got it figured out, that we know everything - and if we don't know, we make something up. But there's an incredible mystery in God, and our firm answers just don't do it justice. The world needs to see us saying there are some things we can't understand; we can only believe. Let's have a faith that knows the limits of its own knowledge, that makes room for the mystery of God.
When we're talking about a prophet like Ezekiel, we're talking the kind of living witness this world needs - a witness that's actually acting out the faith that is what it claims to be, that dares to imagine and that knows the limits of its own knowledge. And so many other things (need we also be willing to eat our own words sometimes?)....
...even if it is weird.