2023-10-01 Pentecost 18
Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen!
“The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge” (Ezek. 18:2). What a weird saying this is! Way back in the prophet Ezekiel, chapter 18 we run into this proverb of sorts. I think it was the ancient version of an internet meme! Short, pithy, perhaps funny little sayings designed to get a rise out of people. But this little saying really paints a stark picture of human nature. And that stark picture is this: people don’t like accountability for their actions. We don’t like accountability for our actions. Instead, what do we like? Blame. The Blame Game! We love to blame others instead of admit that perhaps, just perhaps, we were wrong!
I don’t know if you can relate to this or not, or if this is sermon better suited for everybody else! If something goes wrong at work, it’s far better to simply pass the buck along to our fellow coworker! That’s the whole point of having other people around, isn’t it? God designed relationships for exactly this purpose. Blame our friends and family and loved ones when things go amiss! We love the blame game. 2 year olds fighting over a toy. Who’s at fault? The other kid of course. Homework not done by the teacher’s deadline at school? Blame the teacher’s demanding schedule … or the infamously hungry dog that ate it yet again. Two young kids intentionally run over an old guy on a bike and post it social media laughing the whole time, society is to blame. The entire Canadian House of Commons gives a standing ovation to a literal Nazi who fought for Hitler in WWII and no doubt, it’s Vladimir Putin’s fault. We love the blame game!
Accountability. This is a word we instinctively do not like. And it is because we feel judged. Someone is telling us we are wrong. That something we have done or said is bad, sinful, immoral or illegal. And, we really, really hate that feeling. Our first instinct is to disagree with such an accusation, even if it is true. We don’t instinctively confess our sins and iniquities. No, no, no! We dodge the bullet and deflect it to someone or something else. Just rewind the tape back into the Garden of Eden. Genesis Chapter 3. What happened there? God gave the people one rule. One thing not to do in paradise. Don’t eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Don’t even touch it. You touch it, you break it. You break it, you buy it. Well we all know what happened. They ate of it. They touched it. And they broke it. Adam and Eve destroyed the perfect life God had made for them. And when God calls them on their sin and wrong doing, what does Adam do? What does Eve do?
“God said, “Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The WOMAN whom YOU gave to be with me, SHE gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The SERPENT deceived me, and I ate”“ (Genesis 3:11-13). From the very dawn of time, people have been running from accountability, hiding from God and passing the buck. The very first words people speak to God Almighty are seasoned with good old fashioned blame. It’s the Woman’s fault! It’s YOUR fault God! The Devil made me do it! Yadayadayada, repeat. That pretty much sums up all of human history.
This is the fallen human condition. No ifs, ands, buts or maybes. All of us do it, have done it and will be doing it tomorrow. This is where our Old Testament reading from the Prophet Ezekiel is at today. Good Ol’ Zeke is trying to get the message across that people surely are accountable for their sins. Each of us will certainly answer for them. God is righteous and holy and just and good. While people are anything but. However, as we know from our own lives, we don’t readily admit it. We push the blame button and move on with life. God’s people were doing just that while Zeke was preaching up a storm in their midst. Ezekiel, which means “God strengthens” was calling people on their sin, trying to urge them to repentance. But the people had their handy little proverb to throw back in his face: “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge” (Ezek. 18:2).
That is to say, the current state of life can be blamed on the previous generation. Blame those who came before you. God’s people were in captivity, exiled to Babylon when these words were written. It was their parent’s generation of sinners who brought them to this point of despair. But is the current generation repenting of their sins? Is the current generation seeking the Lord while He may be found? Imploring the Lord for forgiveness, healing and help? No. No they were not. Instead, they were content to blame their life circumstances on others. Hence the little proverb about sour grapes. At first it seems like a weird expression, but we quickly see exactly what it means and why people are chanting it!
Blame. It is a tricky beast. And truly, it is a waste of time. But the Government and the fake-news Media just thrive on it. Whenever something goes wrong, there is never a careful analysis of the problem at hand. There are never logical solutions put forward to dealing with said problem with the goal of preventing them in the future. Instead we usually see the opposite. There is just a fanatical assignment of rage and blame! A mentally disturbed teenager goes through a school with a gun and unspeakable tragedy ensues. Who is to blame? Not who but rather what - guns! Guns are to blame! An inanimate object used for evil purposes gets the blame rather than the sinful person pulling the trigger. Blame. Tremendous forest fires engulf zillions of acres of Canadian forests and what gets the blame? Climate change! This despite the police arresting arsonists who literally started the fires! Blame. Blame. Blame. Our society seeks to continually turn the blind eye the root cause of the problems - sinful people. Instead, like ancient Israel, we blame every other external reason under the sun to explain our unhappiness, frustration or anger. We might actually succeed in making other people feel guilty as we blame them, but we will never ever succeed at actually healing the root cause of it all.
Praise the Lord that He graciously intervenes for us and all of mankind! He says that He will judge us for our sin. All of us. And He is no catch-and-release Canadian court judge either. He knows the truth about us. He knows how we are quick to blame and resistant to fessing up. And His holy and righteous Word will certainly crush those who will not repent. That is, recognizing our sins and iniquities, confessing them and turning away from them. The Lord is quick to forgive and offer help and healing to those who will receive it. But to those who won’t, who stubbornly refuse to admit they are wrong and at fault, watch out! It may not be today or tomorrow, but rest assured, that hammer will fall. And nothing escapes the hammer of God! Hebrews 10:31 gives us the shocking reminder: “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
That’s God’s Word of Law, shining like a mirror and showing us our sins of blame. “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live” (Ez. 18:30-32). Turn. Live. Repent. This is the Lord’s will for us. Confess sin. Accept responsibly for actions. Be accountable. For the Lord is truly rich in mercy and grace. His Word certainly is a Word of Law for us. But it also is a Word of Gospel too. The cross of Christ our Lord and His empty tomb prove that without the shadow of a doubt. He is more than ready to help and to save His people as they put away their sin and quit playing the blame game. For God who is faithful and just will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. And that is a very, very good thing for a bunch of sinful blamers to hear, trust and believe. Thanks be to God. Amen!