As I looked, a stormwind came from the North,
a huge cloud with flashing fire enveloped in brightness, from the midst of which (the midst of the fire) something gleamed like electrum. Within it were figures resembling four living creatures
that looked like this: their form was human.
Like the Prophet Isaiah, Ezekiel was astonished with the Glory of God by a spectacular, complex and very meaningful epiphany. Where Isaiah saw the Lord seated on a stationary throne in the temple, Ezekiel saw him on a throne on a chariot in the clouds over Babylon. Both agree he is Lord of Hosts; his power, authority and glory fill and sustain the Universe. There is no God but our God! There is no time or place where he is not God! But Ezekiel's vision is mobile.; he moves with the swift, terrifying ease of a storm cloud. No place on Earth is far from God, nor is he ever far from his people.
This vision set the tone for Ezekiel's ministry. Far removed from Jerusalem, the Jews wondered if they would ever return home. Would they lose their faith, their tradition and their identity as their children grew up in this distant city with its strange language, food, clothing and customs? Could they hope to return home, and would it be the same home they had left?
But there is no return to the past. As the Greek Heraclitus was saying at about that time, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.” Ezekiel saw that God would remain with his people, even in a land far from home, and lead them into the future.
This was something new in the world. Even today people say "Foreigners should learn our language and our ways and forget their old customs. They have nothing to give us." But the Lord was leading the Babylonians too, by placing among them the people they had conquered, whose homeland they had destroyed.
When I visited England I was surprised to see Indian Sikhs with their turbans. They didn't fit my image of English. When I hear news reports of France I don't expect to encounter Muslims. But the English ruled India for many years; so of course Indians came to England and live there to this day. And Muslims came from French Morocco to live in Paris. And people, impoverished by American imperialism in South America, the Caribbean, Mexico and the south Pacific, move to the United States. They may wish to return but their homelands have disappeared just as mine did in nearby Louisville. The house, the street and the neighborhood look nothing like they did sixty years ago.
Why is it that Americans think they must defend their way of life against immigrants when their "way of life" is altered beyond recognition every two or three years? The "next big thing," whatever it is, will make August 2018 seem like the good old days by next Christmas. If anything, impoverished immigrants remind us of the simpler life, when we worked hard, wasted little, and enjoyed the basic pleasures of family and children.
Ezekiel saw the Lord riding on a cloudy chariot, thundering about the heavens and remaining always close to his homeless people. Through the sacraments we have seen the Lord abiding with us in every part of the world, in every age. As a chaplain I often remind the Veterans, "The Lord is with you here in the hospital." So long as he remains with us we will always be homeless and never far from home. Our tradition, ever changing and ever unchanged, ever ancient and ever new, is Jesus, the Son of God.