By Justin Rossow
Today we celebrated by niece Karolein’s confirmation as well as her 15th birthday with a special party, the traditional Quinceañera. As part of the ceremony, family and friends got to give gifts of special meaning and share a word of encouragement for the birthday girl, as she stands on the cusp of womanhood. My immediate family had the task of giving birthstone earrings with a blessing and a reminder to listen to God’s Word.
Thinking about what to say, or which of the many Bible verses about God’s Word I could use, I recalled an unusual text from an Old Testament lesson used in worship earlier this summer. I remember it was July 4th because of the irony involved: the pastor preached on our dependence on Jesus while our country celebrated Independence Day. (In my daily calendar where I take brief notes or sketch an image from what I saw in God’s Word that day, I have crossed out the In- and simply marked it Dependence Day, which for followers of Jesus, is a holiday we get to celebrate year round.)
I remembered that July 4 verse, so I was able to go back and find the actual text read that day in worship. The Old Testament lesson that day came from the second chapter of Ezekiel. In Ezekiel 1, the young prophet sees a vision of the glory of the LORD that knocks him down to the ground. Then, in the opening verses of Ezekiel 2, we get these words (my translation):
Then [the LORD] commanded me: “Son of Adam, stand up on your feet and I will speak my Word to you.” And the Spirit/Wind/Breath entered into me as he spoke the Word to me; and the Spirit set me on my feet, and I heard the One who was speaking his Word to me.”
I love the dependence embedded in this verse. Ezekiel is face down in the presence of God and is told to stand on his own two feet to hear the Word of the LORD. I wanted to say the same thing to my niece on her Quinceañera: I wanted her to stand firm and listen always to God’s Word.
But the Spirit, who works both the desire and the ability in us to do the things that bring God delight, doesn’t simply leave Ezekiel (or Karolein, or you, or me) with a command–even a command to receive God’s Word–without the help we need to enact the command.
We joyfully rely on God’s promises without having to depend on our own strength to trust or understand or believe (and without taking any credit for our trust or understanding or faith). We get to receive the promise with open hands, hands that were given to us in the first place; hands that the Spirit pries open again and again when they are closed in anger or selfishness or stubbornness or pride. We get to lean into dependence on Jesus, a dependence that is given, shaped, and empowered by the very breath of God.
So Ezekiel (and Karolein and you and I) receive a command to receive, and even that invitation comes with power from God to receive the invitation. The Spirit (or breath or wind) of God enters into the prophet and brings about what God commands. With the Word comes the Spirit. The Spirit stands Ezekiel on his feet, so that he is able to hear the Word and the One speaking.
So my encouragement for Karo is a promise I hold onto again today. I invite you into that promise, trusting that the Spirit is able to empower your dependence, to stand you on your feet so you can hear and receive a promise and command to hear and receive.
“The LORD commanded me, stand on your feet and I will speak to you, and the Spirit entered into me, and the Spirit stood me on my feet, and I heard.”
Karolein, may these birthstone earrings remind you always to listen and hold onto God’s Word of promise. And may they also remind you of the Spirit who enters into you by the power of that Word, and enables you to stand, and to hear.
God grant this unto us all. Amen.