I saw the documentary amazing Grace – legendary 1972 footage of Aretha Franklin singing gospel in church. It’s an overwhelming tribute to her talent and her faith that keeps rolling round in my head.
I started to Google about her personal faith, but of course I’d seen it, heard it and felt it. She says not an audible spoken word in the whole movie, but her singing is like Jacob’s ladder to heaven.
How drab did Ezekiel 9 appear, all this Doom and gloom, talking about the indiscriminate destruction of the faithless in Israel.
I want the lovin’stuff… “How I got over” not how I went under!
But it’s all connected.
Ezekiel got off to a thrilling start when the glory of the Lord appeared to him next to a river in Babylon. This chapter reveals the ghastly truth implied by that rolling splendor, God is no longer in the temple.
Israel is becoming the unchosen. In this chapter the creatures holding up God’s throne in Ezekiel’s vision are revealed as cherubim. The things with wings covering the ark of the covenant. As a priest, Ezekiel would never have seen those, even they didn’t enter the holy of holies, only the high priest, once a year.
Yet here they were, rolling around the world at large. And the temple is full of people worshipping idols. Ezekiel sees God’s messengers slay first them, then people through the whole city.
The war that fulfilled the prophesy of Israel’s judgement was just another banal war. The New York Times estimated that in the past 3000 years there have been about 200 without war, if you define it as a conflict in which at least 1000 people die.
That says all you need to know about human nature.
A few, the remnant of the Jews, are marked in Ezekiel’s vision literally with the sign of the cross, a letter ‘t’ in ancient script. They escape.
Another messenger comes to Ezekiel, who is in deep sadness and distress about the vision, and comforts him about the few with the mark.
But the scene I watched of Aretha singing in that scruffy looking church in a converted cinema, full of the spirit. The sense of the spirit myself and my brother felt sitting in that cinema watching it, is because God lives in people’s hearts after Jesus, after Pentecost.
The glory is still rolling (and rocking?) and the wars are still happening.
The joy of her singing triumphed over the pain that inspired the civil rights movement and her own often pretty scummy life.
So I’m thinking about the connection of it all, and about how you have to have the prophets.