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Sermon October 1, 2023

Pentecost 18 A 2023 The Blame Game

Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32

Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

This morning I would like for you to use your imagination for a moment, and picture yourself in a classroom (or work room) working on a project with other students (co-workers) that the teacher (or supervisor) has assigned. 

Unfortunately, the team effort has not worked out well, and as the deadline gets closer and closer for the project to be completed, and as the teacher, or boss begins to inquire how the project is proceeding, the group begins to realize that they will to be able to complete the project on time. 

Knowing that it is going to be difficult to complete the project on time, the group members begin to point fingers at each other, and the discussion goes round and round as each member tries to avoid the blame and pin the blame on someone else.

Does this situation seem familiar? Have you experienced something similar, at school perhaps? Or maybe work? 

You might have even watched the “Blame Game” unfold on the news when there has been a disaster or bad news, as the politicians and government agency’s fall all over themselves trying to shift the blame onto everyone and everything but themselves.

Well guess what?  This is not new.  And the sad thing about it is, is that “The Blame Game” has been going on for thousands of years.  In fact, the blame game has been going on as far back as to the very beginning of time when Adam blamed Eve for giving him the forbidden fruit, and Eve blamed the serpent for tricking her into sampling the forbidden fruit. 

Humanity has used the blame game to avoid taking responsibility for our actions and deeds.  We play the blame game because it is easier to blame someone else for something bad that has happened than to hold ourselves accountable for our part in the negative event.

In our First reading this morning, we are given an example of how humanity plays the blame game with Ezekiel’s words that were written 2,500 years ago. 

The text reads “What do you mean,” Ezekiel exclaims “The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge?” This by the way was a popular saying at the time. 

The people said this because things were not going well.  The Israelites had been conquered by a foreign power, and they had been taken captive and forced to live in exile in Babylon.  And they could not help but wonder why this happened and whose fault it was that they were being forced to live in a foreign land. 

The folks wanted to blame someone.

And so, the folks blamed their parents for their current situation.  And the folks insisted that their parents were the cause for the mess they were in.  The folks said to one another “Our parents ate sour grapes, and now it is our teeth that are set on edge.” 

The folks reasoned that they were living in exile because their parents had sinned, and now they reasoned that they were having to deal with the consequences of their parents’ actions.

The text reminds me of a song that was a hit in the 1980’s.  The song was called “Living Years.”  The words of the song go like this. 

“Every generation blames the one before, and all of their frustrations, come beating at your door.  I know that I’m a prisoner, to all my father held so dear.  I know that I’m a hostage to all his hopes and fears.  I just wish I could have told him in his living years.”

The song writer regrets that he was not being able to reconcile with his father, and set things straight, before his father died. The song ends with these words.  “I wasn't there that morning. When my father passed away. I didn't get to tell him.  All the things I had to say.”  The song writer realized that he had used his father as an excuse for all that was wrong in his life and now realizes that it is too late to make amends.

In our Old Testament passage this morning, God is clearly instructing us to look at the world and our lives in a different way.  Instead of blaming our parents, and instead of blaming everyone else for our problems, we are told to focus on ourselves and contemplate the consequences of our thoughts and the consequences of our actions.

“O House of Israel,” says the Lord, “Repent and turn from all your transgressions; otherwise, iniquity will be your ruin.” 

Ezekiel is shouting out for all to hear: “Confess your sins and rejoice in the promise of forgiveness.  Plead for mercy and know and trust that God is merciful.” 

Our Old Testament text today is inviting those who are living in exile, and those who blame others for their predicament, to repent and turn from their own transgressions, and learn again how to be faithful and obedient. 

Rather than blaming others, we are invited to turn to God and live.  We are invited to allow God to create a new heart and a new spirit in us.

But that is not the end of the story. For you see, six hundred years after Ezekiel told us to stop playing the blame game, Jesus was sent to our world.  And He was not sent to condemn the world but save the world. 

Instead of blaming us for our sin, Jesus took upon Himself the sin of the whole world. And Jesus refused to play the blame game.  Instead, He prayed “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

And Jesus humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a Cross, as we heard in our Second Reading this morning.  With Jesus, there is no more blaming and no more condemnation.  Instead, there is only forgiveness, grace, mercy, salvation, and love.     

We don’t need to blame anyone else.  Christ took it all upon Himself and paid the price once and for all.  And that is the Good News before us today.  We no longer need to obsess over all that is wrong and blame others for our problems. 

Instead, we are invited to fix our eyes upon the Cross, and on God’s eternal love, and on God’s amazing grace for us all.  And to that I say: “Thanks be to God.” 

Let us pray: Lord Jesus, you came to us in our bondage, and led us to freedom by the Cross and resurrection.  May our lives praise you, and our lips proclaim your mighty power to all people that they may find their hope in you.  In Jesus name we pray.  Amen.