An Advent reflection for Saturday, December 9th by Rev. Beth Knight, MAPC
Lectionary reading for 12/09/2023: Psalms 85:1-2, 8-13; Ezekiel 36:24-28; Mark 11:27-33
Selected passage for reflection: Ezekiel 36:24-28
Ezekiel 36:24-28 New Revised Standard Version
24 I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. 25 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. 26 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. 27 I will put my spirit within you and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances.28 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.
Ezekiel lived amidst an era of turmoil for Israel, witnessed terrible kings, the Babylonian siege and wicked, hardened hearts. Ezekiel hailed from the tribe of Levi, the tribe specifically consecrated for priesthood. Although he was unfortunately exiled, we know he pursued God passionately and remained hopeful. God sent him many prophetic visions, one of which is our text today.
In the world we navigate, much can come towards our hearts and be off-putting, hardening our perspective and ways of being. We lose our warmth and tenderness. In our humanity, much can tarnish how God designed us to truly be. But Ezekiel prophesied that one day it does not have to be that way. Our hearts can live into a different posture if we allow God to be our God.
On October 23, the world was stunned when a released Israeli hostage, Yocheved Lifshitz, turned and looked back into the eyes of a Hamas captor and said “Shalom” as she walked to freedom. Many of us could not comprehend this woman’s heart. What she modeled is extremely counter-cultural and an example of a heart dedicated to peace.
Ezekiel prophesied of a time when there would be cleansing of tarnished hearts, newness would be placed within us, and no more would there be hearts hardened (like stone); but rather hearts of flesh would observe God’s ordinances. Jesus showed us this new way repeatedly in the Gospel stories. A classic we often recall is the story of the Good Samaritan. In that story we see passersby whose hearts are perhaps hardened by many life circumstances and do not stop to come to the assistance of the one in need. But the heart of one Good Samaritan was full of the spirit within and cared for the other.
Recently, I picked up and began re-reading a book that had been sitting on my desk and began to contemplate further the thesis of Professor Roberta C. Bondi in her book “To Love as God Loves” (Fortress Press). Such a tall order in a complex world that we live in. And I also reflected upon what John O’Donohue states in his book Eternal Echoes (HarperCollins): “The huge stone over Christ’s tomb that was rolled away is a powerful image of smashing open the inner prison of our hearts."
This Advent, many of our hearts may be troubled or even hardened by politics, wars, social justice disputes, and economic concerns. We may have differing opinions on any given subject; however, we are named as God’s people in this text by extension of our being “grafted in.” And as God’s grafted-in people, the land of the globe is about to experience (once again) the celebration of the Christ child’s birth and the love of God which burst upon us. That great love provides access to wholeness and newness as image bearers of God. That great love calls to us to allow spirit to come within and do a new work within us. That great love beckons us to a truly new heart.
Read Psalm 51:10-12 “Create in me a new heart.”
Ask yourself what hardens your heart.
Place one hand upon your heart and feel it beating. Place a second hand upon the first. Breathe in and then exhale. Repeat several times. Notice the life force within you. Imagine spiritual newness pulsing through your heart and veins as a disposition of God’s grace. Share this disposition through eye contact and a smile with a stranger.
Strength of our hearts ~ turn us towards the warmth of your Spirit and infuse our hearts anew with grace to love as only you can love. Selah.
About the Author
Beth Knight, MAPC, is an alumna of Asbury Theological Seminary-Orlando, holds a Certificate in Spiritual Direction from Seeking the Spirit in Anchorage, Alaska and is commissioned through Federation of Christian Ministries. Based out of Clermont, FL, she serves as a Pastoral Counselor, Spiritual Director, Retreat Leader, pulpit supply and On-line Chaplain.
Instagram @delenabeth_knight or Website: bethknightministry.com