Ezekiel 33:7-11 (NRSV)
Verse 7So you, mortal, I have made a sentinel for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. Verse 8If I say to the wicked, "O wicked ones, you shall surely die," and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but their blood I will require at your hand. Verse 9But if you warn the wicked to turn from their ways, and they do not turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but you will have saved your life.
Verse 10Now you, mortal, say to the house of Israel, Thus you have said: "Our transgressions and our sins weigh upon us, and we waste away because of them; how then can we live?" Verse 11Say to them, As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel?
This reading is one of those smokers that Old Testament prophets are famous for. It is about calling out sin, lancing hypocrisy, speaking truth to power, and grace for the afflicted. The prophet Ezekiel is addressed as “Mr. Mortal”—literally, “child of Adam”— i.e. he is just like everyone else in town. He is not immune to suffering and sin. He is not above the hypocrisy and prejudice he is called to condemn. He is himself afloat in the same complicated mortal stew, as are we all.
Prophetic authority—authority for ministry of any sort—begins in our mortality. If we want to serve anyone in any way, we need first to establish the fact of our common humanity. We are mortals, never gods, called and redeemed by the shared grace of the Creator.
I am a child of Adam, too. Forgive me for pretending otherwise sometimes. Equip me by your abundant grace. Amen.