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Can These Bones Live?

May 19, 2018

This past Sunday after lunch, we drove into Rocky for a bit of refreshment and renewal. It was interesting to walk up Trail Ridge Road past the barricade at Rainbow Curve and see what I normally don’t get to see for obvious reasons while driving. We were in and out of the clouds, but I was able to capture this beautiful view of Sheep Lakes. That drive and walk were much needed as both Denise and I processed a rather unusual and difficult Mother’s Day.

This week in the midst of meetings, conversations, and ministry, I found myself pondering Pentecost from a different perspective. I have been a part of congregations and chapels where there are balloons and they sing happy birthday to the church. In my mind it almost seems to cheapen and trivialize what was a HUGE moment in the life of the Disciples and the world beyond Judaism.

While it is important to reflect on the miracle of everyone hearing the Gospel in their own tongue from the mouth of a simple fisherman named Peter, there is something else I think we in the church need to focus on. The reading from the Hebrew Scriptures attached to the Pentecost Year B cycle in the lectionary is Ezekiel 37:1-14. It is the familiar story of Ezekiel’s vision of the Valley of the Dry Bones.

In a vision the Lord takes Ezekiel to a valley filled with dry bones. Was it the site of some ancient battle? We don’t know. What we do know is that God begins by asking Ezekiel a question… “Mortal, can these bones live?” Far from answering the question for himself, Ezekiel makes a statement of faith and hope. “O Lord God, you know.” (Ezekiel 37:3) Only through an act of the Almighty can these bones live! Thus the sequence of events begins to unfold.

Prophesy to these bones, Ezekiel! Give to these dry bones the Word of the Lord! At the Word from the Lord the bones began to gather together and flesh, skin, muscle, and sinew began to form the dry bones into human bodies. It was at that point that God told Ezekiel, you need to prophesy again. Only this time it wasn’t to the bones or even the reconstructed bodies. Prophesy to the breath! “Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.”

Breathe your Spirit into these dry bones that they might live again! Jesus came to breathe new life into a nearly dead and lifeless religious system in his day. During the Reformation, I believe the Spirit was breathing life into an institution that was in a similar state. Many believe that the church today is in the midst of another birthing process. Phyllis Tickle called it a Great Rummage Sale. The Spirit is being called to breathe new life into an institution that has lost its way. Instead of being a voice for the voiceless, the church in many cases has either become a part of the system which oppresses or has made itself irrelevant to the world.

Some believe that if we only returned to the good old days, the church would be great again. I ask, what good old days? The days when segregation was the law of the land? The days when slaves were bought and sold? The days when people of color were lynched by self-proclaimed “christians”? By the way, the lower case is intentional… Or back to the days when women and children were told to keep their mouths shut since the old white men knew what was best for them?

At the first Pentecost, something bold and new was being born. Just as Jesus had turned the idolatrous worship of the Law and the Temple while ignoring the call to love God and to love ALL neighbors, the Spirit was breaking down barriers through Peter. What? This Way of Jesus was not just for the Jewish believers? You mean it is for the Gentiles? It is for the rest of the world?

Dear reader, I believe the church is being called to not just have a new Spirit breathed into its tired old bones, but we are being called to be transformed! Just as the dried bones in the Valley were transformed by the very breath of God, so must we be transformed by the same Spirit.

What is this new body going to look like? I am not sure. However, I do know it will look much different from what too often passes for the church today. In this body, there will be no room for racism, sexism, hatred, misogyny, fear mongering, greed, or so much of what I see in too many leaders and their followers today.

My prayer is that we will be open to the blowing of the Spirit of the Living God who calls us to love one another, to love even our enemies… then, in the words of Amos, “Justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:24)

Only then will these dry bones truly live!

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