Spring is finally in the air. With the melting of the snow we are able to once again see the grass and the signs of life that accompany the steady increase in temperature. Birds are busy looking for seeds. The squirrels have run out of stored food and are back gathering food. I always know it is spring as the racoons start prowling at night again in the neighbourhood.
Of course the trees are still barren; the branches representing the frame that soon will be lush with life as new leaves grow. We are in a season of renewal, new life and growth is all around us. In a month flowers will start bursting forth from the ground and our lawns will be a riot of colour. It is a beautiful thing to behold. It happens every year and still I am astounded by it. Walking the dog through a local nature trail, day by day I am amazed by the change that is constantly occurring. It seems as though God uses the discarded leaves of the previous year as the bones or foundation for new life.
Life – Audio Sermon
We are not yet at Easter and already the theme is resurrection. Both in our Gospel story and Old Testament reading are the themes of resurrection and new life. However, before we explore the themes of life I want to spend some time in the Valley of Bones that Ezekiel describes. I want to examine what those bones mean for us today as individuals and as a community of faith. I believe we would be remiss if we did not stop to consider what the bones themselves are telling us.
Ezekiel is writing to the Israelites while they are in exile. He is speaking to a future hope when the people will be free and the land will be restored. The bones represent a sense of hopelessness that those in exile would ever find their way home. Ezekiel’s vision is a promise to the people that yes; there these bones can live. However, I think that before we can examine the issue of life we need to explore further the bones before us. I believe that metaphorically the bones in Ezekiel’s vision represent a challenge to us.
If we can understand that challenge and what it represents then we can move forward and embrace the life that is breathed back into the bones.
The question that Ezekiel’s vision raises for me is: Do we currently reside in a state of exile?
I think we can ask that question individually and collectively.
Are there ways that our own faith life is lacking? Perhaps in our prayer life or in reading scripture? Have we truly live out the command of Jesus to love neighbour as our self? Have we reflected on what that means and do we understand how we might go about living that command on a daily basis? Or is our faith life made up of smaller moments? Do we think about God only when we are at church whether it be Sunday morning or at a meeting during the week? In what ways might the bones of Ezekiel’s vision illuminate to us the dust that exists in our own life of faith?
As a church, both locally and nationally, are there important issues within society that we do not have a voice on? Have we become too inward looking, unable to play out a prophetic role within society. What are the needs and ills in society that go unaddressed that we can work towards? What are the questions which go unanswered for which we can provide a voice? As we journey towards Jerusalem with Jesus can we put flesh on our bones?
The theme of bones represents a return to God’s purpose in our lives. It is a journey of exile that we experience in our separation from God, though we may not know it or experience it as such.
So, what does it mean to have new life? What does it look like? As we prepare to enter the season of resurrection how do we recognize new life in ourselves and in our community of faith?
What do the dry bones in Ezekiel’s vision say to us today? Do they speak to the state of the church in Canadian society? What can we learn from the times in our journey with Christ that are challenging? What are the lessons that we can take from this vision?
Is God asking us very important questions about the way we live out our faith?
Is God urging us to put new flesh on our understanding of faith? Are we being asked to find a way to revitalize the church both locally and nationally? At its heart our passage from Ezekiel speaks to us about new life. The bones which are wrapped in flesh and given life represent God’s promise to us, just as it represented a promise to the Israelites long ago.
However, they also represent a core belief about our Christian faith. One of the ways in which Jesus is described is as the Cornerstone which the builders rejected. Yet, Christ is our cornerstone and firm foundation. The life and ministry of Jesus provides the bones for which we live out our faith as followers of Christ. We follow in Jesus’ footsteps. As the church we represent the flesh that is on the bones, and empowered by the Holy Spirit we have breath. We have life abundant!
In the final words from our passage in Ezekiel God says, “I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord.” I believe these words are a powerful message of God’s providence and plan for our lives. That God has a place and a purpose for us. That God wants us to have life and that our life is purposed.
This theme of life leads us into our Gospel story, a story that is well known to all, the raising from the dead of Lazarus. A story that combined with our reading from Ezekiel points us towards Easter and towards life. As we journey with Jesus towards Jerusalem in these days of Lent the passages we have read today force us to ask fundamental questions of ourselves: Do we believe in the God of life who created all? Do we believe in Jesus who died and rose again from the dead that we might have abundant life? Do we believe in the divine breath, the Holy Spirit, which brings new life in all places?
Do we believe that these bones can live?
That is the question God is asking us today. God wants to know if you have faith in the promise which was made so long ago?
At this point in our Lenten journey this is what God is asking us. To search our hearts out, to commit to the promise that was made to us and for us. To respond to the gracious outpouring of love that we receive in Jesus Christ. To share in that love and to not be ashamed of that love.
Friends, if we believe the promise that God has made for us.
If we believe that these bones can live.
If we believe that the breath of God is the breath of life; then friends we can move out of a state of exile.
We can journey with God, knowing that God is always present with us.
We can turn with Jesus towards Jerusalem. We can walk through the gates of the city and say Lord, here I am. I stand with you. I am ready to receive life, the life that you have promised. By affirming that these bones can live we are released from the possibility of death that can enslave us and our communities. By examining the bones, the very structure and foundation of our faith, we ask the primal questions that haunt us, fill us with shame and guilt. In affirming that these bones can live, by accepting the breath of God we are freed from any sense of oppression, fear, anxiety and loss.
We walk confidently with God, knowing that God is at work in our lives.
Friends, can these bones live?
I say yes and I am excited by the life that comes. Amen.
Text: Ezekiel 37: 1-14