Tuesday of Pentecost – Ezekiel 37:1-14

1 The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”

So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.

11 Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. 14 And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.”

I have been blessed to be present for the birth of my three children. I think that many men in my father’s generation spent the hours of their wife’s labor and their children’s births anxiously sitting in a waiting room. I am glad I was able to be there to hear my children draw their first breath. That said, if I was the one in charge of designing how a human life came into the world, I might have made some changes. I probably would have made it somewhat less messy, less painful, and less dangerous. Yet, in so doing, I would have likely ruined it as well. We are physical beings and each one of us has been born in all life’s messy reality. I think my solutions would make us less, not more, human.

Ezekiel saw in this vision another birthing, a new birth, which is equally and perhaps even more surprising in how it happens. Ezekiel preaches to bones. I have preached to some congregations which seemed rather lifeless, or perhaps better said, asleep, but I have never preached to a room full of lifeless bones. I have heard that there is a church in Czech Republic which is decorated with the bones of some 40,000 victims of medieval plague and war. I would not like to preach there. If I were called to do so, would I preach with the expectation that those bones would hear me?

God asks Ezekiel to do something which makes no sense. Preach to bones and then preach to the winds, another obstinately deaf audience. But Ezekiel preaches and life comes to these lifeless bones, flesh comes upon them, the breath of life enters their bodies, they stand and live, a mighty host.

What do you expect to happen this Sunday when you come to church? Should you be looking for more? What if you are the preacher, looking out over those familiar faces of your congregation? What do you expect to happen when you preach that sermon and absolve those sins? Ezekiel preached to the bones and the winds. Look what happened!

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