Scripture: Ezekiel 37:1-14
Over the past few weeks of March, Benita has shared with me how her class topics for seminary have eerily lined up with different events within the church. (Power during week of Dismantling Racism, etc.) Similarly, when I re-read this week’s pre-planned Scripture, I felt it matched up with what we are experiencing this week all too well.
The intent for this Sunday in Lent was to use this Scripture as a jumping point for our role in Creation Care - how we play a part in the covenant of care for God’s Creation, for Earth. We’ll still touch on that, AND I hear a strong message of hope in this Scripture to us as we are living through this odd moment in history.
Before we dig into a message from Ezekiel, for all you zombie apocalypse fans out there: no. No, I do not believe that this Scripture is giving any type of forecasting for a zombie apocalypse. I believe this was a vision, a metaphor for God’s intentions with Israel. So, we’re going to shut that down right now.
The backstory to this Scripture is that the people of Israel were exiled - they were separated from their homeland through force. They had lost economic standing. They had lost social standing in the wider region. They were struggling to hold on to their identity as God’s people.
As I simply read the Scripture, the things that stood out to me upon reading this selection:
This vision is one of a valley - the lowest point between two peaks
The bones were dry - they had been there a while
Ezekiel was addressed as “mortal” - highlighting he (and we) are not God, not divine.
The human was the one to prophesy. The human held a responsibility for action, led by God’s power.
The bones were not fully alive, even with layers of tissue and skin, until they had God’s breath in them.
Does any of this sound familiar to you?
Feeling like you are at a low point, possibly being there for a while.
Feeling like you have lost hope or faith.
Wanting/needing a breath of fresh air? A breath of divine air?
For this moment in history, we no doubt may feel that we are in the valley of bones - literally feeling cut off because of physically distancing ourselves from our normal social circles. Outside of this moment in history and dealing with COVID-19 restrictions, you may feel you are in a valley for a completely unrelated reason (mental health struggles, relationship challenges, faith questions, etc).
I believe this vision of Ezekiel teaches us that we can still have hope. The bones, the people of Israel, defined themselves as hopeless, but God did not. Having hope doesn’t mean that we ignore the problems in front of us and adopt a pollyanna attitude, but instead we are honest about how we wish to see the future outside of this valley.
I believe this vision of Ezekiel teaches us that, like Benita so encouraged us last week, to take action. Note that in the Scripture, while it is God’s breath and power that gives life to the bones, it is done through the prophesying of Ezekiel. The mortal, the human, does the action of speaking the words. Similarly, we can act right now - by staying home, by sewing face masks, by mailing letters, by picking up groceries for more at-risk neighbors.
I believe this vision of Ezekiel teaches us to pray for God’s breath & inspiration. Pray to hear God’s leading. Pray to feel God’s presence. Pray to be assured of God’s power in this world.
Whether we are faced with a pandemic or an environmental devastation or an individual crisis, we can be encouraged by this vision. We are not without hope. Particularly, think about the imagery of all the layers that go into these bones being resurrected...bones came together, tendons were formed, skin was laid upon the bones, breath was breathed in.
This was not one snap of a finger and *poof* the genie was out of the bottle and the bones were fully alive.
For us to come out of the valley of quarantine or out of the valley environmental pollution or out of the valley of personal crisis, it is not solved alone or in one quick step. There are many layers, working together, to “develop...and form justice systems that restore life.” (Rev. Dele, Sermon Seeds, ucc.org)
There are many parts and many actions that work together here.
I am encouraged by the number of you who have contacted me saying “let me know what I can do!” or “I’m doing _____, do you know anyone else who can help?” or even “I need _____, who can help?” It’s a team effort to go through and out of the valley.
But the other side of the valley does exist. As we are empowered with God’s Holy Spirit, we will see it. We will see these dry bones dance.