Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC
Saturday, December 5, Morning
By Rev. Timothy Best, Senior Associate Pastor
A New Heart
Read Ezekiel 36:24-28
“I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. Then you shall live in the land that I gave to your ancestors; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.” (NRSV)
Ezekiel is one of my favorite Old Testament books. If it were a movie it would be some sort of experimental art house film for sure. Ezekiel uses strange images and metaphors to express the pain and the need of his people. The prophet Ezekiel is working and writing in the wake of a communal trauma. The temple has been destroyed and much of the population has been captured and led out of their own land into Babylon. Every other Advent, I felt like I needed to work hard to help people see that Advent is God’s promises to a hurting and grieving world. The bright colors and music that starts in earnest well before Advent can serve to distract us from the central proclamation that what we are getting ready for is the one who can address our deep needs and aching pains.
The promise of Ezekiel 36 is a promise of renewal. God promises to remove the community’s heart of stone, the heart that leads to idolatry and indifference, and replace it with a new heart. Not only a new heart, but God’s own Spirit will rest within us, too. After the last year, I yearn for renewal. I yearn for God’s Spirit to purify and cleanse. After these verses promising a new heart and the indwelling of God’s Spirit, Ezekiel grants us a vivid image of what the hope looks like; it is like a valley of dry bones that are given new life and new breath by the Spirit of God. In Jesus, the life-giving, life-renewing, kingdom of God is revealed and draws close to us. In Jesus, God takes on human flesh so that humanity itself will be renewed.
Even as the last year has been one full of challenge, division, and suffering, let all Christians pray that once again the Holy Spirit will renew us in our love for Jesus and his kingdom. Come, Lord Jesus, come.
Lord Jesus, renew us again for service to your kingdom. May we greet you as our promised Lord and King, the one through whom the whole world will be blessed. Amen.
Rev. Timothy Best is the Senior Associate Pastor at Church Street UMC.