Calling the Kettle

Scripture Focus: Ezekiel 24.11-12
      11 Then set the empty pot on the coals 
         till it becomes hot and its copper glows, 
         so that its impurities may be melted 
         and its deposit burned away. 
      12 It has frustrated all efforts; 
         its heavy deposit has not been removed, 
         not even by fire.

Psalm 72.4-7
      4 May he defend the afflicted among the people 
         and save the children of the needy; 
         may he crush the oppressor. 
      5 May he endure u as long as the sun, 
         as long as the moon, through all generations. 
      6 May he be like rain falling on a mown field, 
         like showers watering the earth. 
      7 In his days may the righteous flourish 
         and prosperity abound till the moon is no more. 

Reflection: Calling the Kettle
By John Tillman

Ezekiel’s pot is too filthy for use. Caked, rotted food is encrusted inside. Cooking anything in it would be unappetizing and unhealthy, perhaps poisonous. 

This pot is black. This kettle is filthy. “It has frustrated all efforts,” God says. 

If you have never stood looking at a pot with food so encrusted and burned to the bottom that you were tempted to just throw it away, then you’ve been luckier in the kitchen than I have. Yet, God did not cast away Jerusalem, nor us.

Psalm 72 tells us what the pot was intended to be—a blessing to the world. Saving the afflicted and the needy, crushing the oppressor, and causing the righteous to flourish was its purpose. (Psalm 72.4-7) Yet Jerusalem became the opposite of that. 

Instead of crushing oppressors, they became them. Instead of saving the afflicted and the needy, they became the source of affliction and the cause of need. Instead of causing the righteous to flourish, they cultivated corruption into a flourishing garden.

This Psalm speaks of earthly kingship but prophetically points to a different king. David was not fooled by the golden age he lived in. He knew better than most that human leaders, especially himself, were incapable of bringing the kind of glowing, incandescent justice he wrote of. He looks instead, past his son, Solomon, to Jesus, the king God promised would come.

The bright, shiny kingdom David wrote from would become the blackened, filthy, pot of Ezekiel’s vision. We, or our nation or our church or our community, can easily be like this pot. It doesn’t happen all at once, it happens over time.

But we are blessed with a God who refused to simply toss away the worthless pot. God is a reclaiming God but often the first step of reclaiming is a scouring, burning, cleaning that strips us bare. The only option is to set the pot on a fire so hot that its metal glows, incandescent heat burning and melting away its gross deposits.

Have we frustrated God’s efforts?
Of what corruption do we need to be scoured?
What flaking varnishes of sin need to be stripped and sanded down?
How hot will the coals have to get before we allow our hardened hearts to melt and be purified?

Only then will God call our kettle back. Purified, he calls us to be used as a blessing to the world.

*And speaking of refurbishment and restoration of the corrupt…September 21, for millions of Christians across the world, is a day to celebrate the calling of Matthew, a publican and tax collector, a corrupt “pot” called and chosen to carry the account of Christ’s compassion to us in his gospel.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure; wash me, and I shall be clean indeed. — Psalm 51.8

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Ezekiel 24  (Listen – 4:13)
Psalm 72 (Listen – 2:21)

Read more about Confession Destroys Denial
Nothing destroys denial except confession. Nothing repairs the damage of denial except repentance.

Read more about Blind to Injustice, Deaf to Oppression
Many modern, Western democracies would do well to take up this prayer’s wrenching confession of obsession with wealth and power at the expense of the disadvantaged.

Hope Still Rises :: Worldwide Prayer

Psalm 69.29, 33
But as for me, afflicted and in pain—
   may your salvation, God, protect me.

The Lord hears the needy
   and does not despise his captive people.

Reflection: Hope Still Rises :: Worldwide Prayer
Prayer of Hope from South Africa

This prayer we feature today was originally published in a book of prayers prepared for a worship conference in Berlin in 1998.

In the years prior to that conference, Nelson Mandela began his first term as president and the end of Apartheid was in the immediate past. In 1995, the Rugby World Cup was hosted and won by the South African team. In 2009, the story was turned into an inspiring film starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon. But as powerful as sports metaphors are and as inspiring as any movie might be, the struggle for greater peace and freedom in South Africa was just beginning and 1998 saw bombings in South Africa and attacks scattered over the entire continent.

Today, in Africa, peace and freedom are often in short supply. The problems lifted to God in this prayer, still exist in one way or another, popping up in one country, then another. Abuse, disease, rape as a weapon of war, and mass killings motivated by tribal conflicts or religious radicalization are still common events, even though they rarely make the current events section of Western newspapers. Often the chief victims of these events are women.

We join this prayer today for the people of Africa and for all people across the world experiencing oppression, violence, disease, and exile because of their religious beliefs.

May the church follow Christ’s footsteps as he moves to help those affected by these persistent signs of the sinfulness and greed of our world.

A Prayer of Hope
Oh, God,

You can do anything, anywhere, any time.
All knowing, all seeing God,
There is nothing hidden from you.

You see the women of Africa:
Who are refugees,
Fleeing their war-torn countries
With babies on their backs and luggage on their heads.

Some who are victims of human rights violations, abuse, infected with AIDS.
We put our hope in you, oh God.

For you hear even our unmentioned prayers
You watch not only the sparrow, but you see us too.
And your hands guide us all the way.

Above all, you offer us the gift of eternal life.

We praise your holy name.

*Prayer from Hallowed be Thy Name, L. A. (Tony) Cupit, ed., Hallowed be Your Name: A collection of prayers from around the world

Prayer: A Reading
Then he told them a parable about the need to pray continually and never lose heart. “There was a judge in a certain town,” he said, “who had neither fear of God nor respect for anyone. In the same town there was also a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘I want justice from you against my enemy!’ For a long time he refused, but as last he said to himself, ‘Even though I have neither fear of God nor respect for any human person, I must give this widow her just rights since she keeps pestering me, or she will come and slap me in the face.’ And the Lord said, “You notice what the unjust judge has to say? Now, will not God see justice done to his elect if they keep calling him day and night even though he delays to help them? I promise you, he will see justice done to them, and done speedily.” — Luke 18.1-8

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Numbers 26 (Listen – 7:47) 
Psalm 69 (Listen – 4:04)

This Weekend’s Readings
Numbers 27 (Listen – 3:08) Psalm 70-71 (Listen – 3:29)
Numbers 28 (Listen – 3:51) Psalm 72 (Listen – 2:21)

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Read more about Where Martyrdom Begins Part 1
Does martyrdom begin when a knife is held to your throat? If laying down our lives for another shows the greatest love, is it not possible to show that love unless our lives are taken in violence?

Read more about Reflecting the Unity of Christ :: Worldwide Prayer
Help us to share the blessings of knowing you with others and be at peace with you and with each other.

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