When the Heavens Open Up                                   Ezekiel 1:1-5, 15-20

There is a phrase that is sometimes used when a storm blows in quickly and the rain begins to pour down from the sky.  The phrase to describe this kind of situation is, “the heavens opened up.”  I guess the idea is that a cloud is full of water up in the heavens and so if it is raining, that cloud must have opened up so the water came out.  The ironic thing to me is that when a storm rolls in with heavy clouds, it feels more like they are closing off the sky rather than opening it up.  I suppose if a place was going through a really dry period of drought, however, it might feel as if the heavens were closed off. It might feel like a place was closed off to the rain that could bring life to a dry and weary land.

When we first meet the prophet Ezekiel in the Bible, it says he was down by the river among the exiles.  He is among his people who have been driven out of their home country into the land of the enemies who conquered them.  He is among people who have experienced great loss and tragedy. They are going through a dry and weary period of their faith. Yet it is there among those people in a place that is foreign to them that the Bible says, “the heavens open up” and Ezekiel has an incredible vision that seems to be saying the mysterious, almighty God has not abandoned the people.

Jesus is also among the people as he is baptized in the Jordan River.  These people have not been physically exiled from their homes, but perhaps they are spiritual exiles feeling out of place in the religion that they have grown up with and are now looking for revival.  It is in that place of yearning, in a wilderness area among the common people that Jesus sees “the heavens open up” and God’s spirit coming down.

When we are in an unfamiliar place either literally or spiritually, among other people who feel a sense of loss, we might begin to wonder where God is. But it might also be in those very same places that “the heavens open up” and we experience God in a new way that again makes God seem real in our lives. Have you ever felt God’s presence in a more powerful time during a stormy season in your life?  Has a crisis or difficulty ever driven you actually closer to God?

-Pastor Erik Goehner