Is God good, merciful and forgiving or is God angry, vindictive and merciless? That’s the problem that the parable seems to be dropping us into. A God who has two faces. On the one hand a gentle ruler who is moved in the depths of his guts by the plea of the slave who somehow has ended up owing him 10 million dollars, so moved that he writes off the debt and lets go a fortune, just like that. On the other hand an angry tyrant who is able to change his mind and hand someone over to the torturers until they’ve paid up.
Now which is it? Because the parable seems to paint the portrait both ways: infinitely forgiving and dangerously punishing.
September 15th, 1996
I hate Ezekiel. He’s a prophet to give prophets a bad name: While Jeremiah is driven near mad with having doom to speak and Amos is overwhelmed by his passion for the poor and even Isaiah seems at least genuinely hurt by the word of exile he bears, the voice of Ezekiel always seems a little too happy to be heard, always a little too happy to intimidate and to threaten disaster. And our readings open today with Ezekiel’s excuse, a veritable busy-body’s charter, — if I don’t echo the voice of Adonai then I’ll pay for it. Your Honor, I had to do it — it was me or him. I was only following orders.
But, like ‘em or loathe ‘em, we will always have self-righteous Ezekiels. And that’s because there’s always injustice and division and hurt in the world, in the church, and in our communities. Always … and all too real. And that’s what the readings today force us to remember. For every Ezekiel there is a Cain — that first of many murderers — with his question: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Somehow we have to handle hurt in our midst and division in the church and injustice in the world and handle it with neither the relish of Ezekiel nor the cynicism of Cain.
September 8th, 1996