Ezekiel 1:1-3; 2:8-3:3 Contemporary English Version
Five years after King Jehoiachin of Judah had been led away as a prisoner to Babylonia, I was living near the Chebar River among those who had been taken there with him. Then on the fifth day of the fourth month of the thirtieth year, the heavens suddenly opened. The Lord placed his hand upon me and showed me some visions.
“Ezekiel, don’t rebel against me, as they have done,” The Lord said. “Instead, listen to everything I tell you. And now, Ezekiel, open your mouth and eat what I am going to give you.”
Just then, I saw a hand stretched out toward me. And in it was a scroll. The hand opened the scroll, and both sides of it were filled with words of sadness, mourning, and grief.
The Lord said, “Ezekiel, son of man, after you eat this scroll, go speak to the people of Israel.”
The Lord handed me the scroll and said, “Eat this and fill up on it.” So I ate the scroll, and it tasted sweet as honey.
Ezekiel 1:1-3, 2:8-3:3 Xylophagia is a condition involving the consumption of paper. Its causes are multiple, including developmental delay, psychiatric illness, learned behavior, or a malabsorption condition like celiac disease. Today’s lesson from the strangest book in the Bible, the book of Ezekiel, uses Xylophagia as the guiding image for receiving a revelation from the Divine.
Ezekiel, a wealthy priest of the temple in Jerusalem, was carried into exile after the city was captured by Babylonia. He lost everything in this calamity and struggled to make sense of how this has happened. He was inspired to explore the causes of the destruction, and what the outcomes mean for his community’s future and relationship to God. There is a lot of difficult, condemning words in his writing, but also one of the most beautiful movements of Scripture. Specifically, in chapters 9-11, the Spirit of God moves out of the temple in Jerusalem and into the hearts of the people in exile. The idea that God is present where the people are was a new concept in the history of theological reflection in ancient Israel.
“Thus says the Lord God: Though I removed them far away among the nations, and though I scattered them among the countries, yet I have been a sanctuary to them for a little while in the countries where they have gone.” - Ezekiel 11:16
It’s a hopeful message for us today – that God follows God’s people where they are. All of this because Ezekiel was inspired to think in a new way during a difficult time.
Inspiration is a beautiful thing. We are likely to find it, especially in times like these, when all of our usual ways and means are disrupted. And who knows that will grow out of a new insight, learning, or revelation.
Ignaz Moscheles was a prominent composer and piano virtuoso in 19th century London and Leipzig. He grew up in a musical home with his father playing the guitar and hoping that his children would become musicians in adulthood. When Moscheles’s older sister resisted piano lessons at an early age, they were transferred to the younger Ignaz. And he was hooked. As a ten-year-old, Moscheles spent his free time at the library, searching for new and exciting sheet music, much to his piano teacher’s dismay. His piano teacher warned Ignaz about studying more eccentric pieces, “before developing a style based on more respectable models.” One day, the young Moscheles discovered Beethoven’s Sonata Pathétique in the library and was overwhelmed. Unable to afford the sheet music, he transcribed the entire piece out of the library copy, note by note, and took it home. There, against his teacher’s wishes, he practiced the piece over and over. Beethoven’s Sonata Pathétique especially, and later, the rest of Beethoven’s catalog would inspire and influence Moscheles’ for the rest of his life.
Sammy Angstman has recorded the first movement of Beethoven’s Sonata Pathétique. To listen to this, go to https://youtu.be/VSqqoFZAzO8.
May we seek inspiration. Who knows what new idea, practice, or insight will stay with us when this present trouble has ended.