If you will, take a minute and read Ezekiel 4:9-15.I have daydreamed about the Sunday morning when I lay on the floor and just make Ezekiel bread; no sermon - just make the bread and lay there. That's what Ezekiel did.
By the way, notice the fuel source. At first the bread was to be baked, '…with dung that cometh out of man, in their sight.' This can mean a couple of things. To this day, dung is used as a fuel source. After it's dry it burns slow and fairly hot, giving off very little smoke. Don't ask me how I know this. So, no surprise that dung is the fuel. BUT (no pun intended) this at the least also means the people knew the prophet was using human dung for fuel. There's an outside chance it has a toe-curling intensive meaning.Ezekiel goes to bat for the crowd and the Lord lowers the bar. Cow's dung is ok too. Thank goodness. There's got to be some symbolism there, huh? I wonder what our fuel source might be if a prophet were to give this type of message today. Imagine bread baked over a pile of porno-filled thumb drives or a stack of divorce-court records. Not that a polite purpose-driven pastor in today's America would ever do such a thing. Doing so might, gasp, lower the numbers!!
But I digress, sort of.Remember, Israel was in captivity. This is one of the darkest times in their Old Testament history. Can't Ezekiel see the people need encouragement and a happy face on Sunday morning? How dare he sit there and make bread! Where's the uplifting message!? Where's the neck-hugging and joking? What about the seekers! Yet, in those dark times, the Lord commanded him to lay there and make poop-fire bread.
Here's where Ned Flanders comes in. He's an effective caricature of what many people think of as 'that' neighbor of theirs who goes to church all the time. Popular notions come from somewhere (so do stereotypes, but that's a different blog entry altogether).Consider Matthew 11:16-19. Jesus draws attention to the fact that he and John the Baptist were two different individuals, like no-duh, really?! John stayed by himself, wore weird clothes (the uncle with the really, really wide ties), ate strange food, and didn't touch a drop. For his efforts people said he had a devil. Jesus, on the other hand, wore clothes that didn't stand out, went to the parties and often stayed in town. People called him a fatty and a drunkard. The wonderful thing is that neither man worried much about all that.
Right about now I'm wondering how many faithful followers are trying to fit into a mold they were never intended to fill. Like, maybe there are a few Ezekiels out there who won't do the bread thing because it doesn't fit what they think everybody else would have of them?Thing is, people are going to talk no matter what. The only thing I control is whether or not they're telling the truth.