“You Will Live” Ezekiel 37
The Sanctuary Sermon for 7/5/20
The Sanctuary Sermon for 7/5/20
“You Will Live” Ezekiel 37
I saw a cartoon last week with the caption, “2020 be like…” and the picture depicted an ice cream truck coming around a corner but on the side of the truck it read, Liver and Onions. In the foreground were two roly-poly boys hiding behind a huge rock, their eyes wide with terror. Yep. 2020 be like that for sure, though I do kinda like liver and onions. Oh well. It did make me chuckle and would even be funny if the nation weren’t a dumpster fire right now.
Let’s entertain the text.
The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. 3 He asked me, “Mortal, can these bones live?”
I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”
4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”
13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’”
Who would have thought we’d be in this dry valley place right now? Five months ago, high school seniors were making plans for graduation, plans were being made for vacations, retreats and reunions. Instead we went into lockdowns and stay at home isolation. We may not be in isolation so much anymore, but we’re hiding behind masks and keeping distance watching some states begin to close down again. The economic impact affected business and commerce across the country. Then morphing out of that, we talked about lines being drawn last week. Lines drawn concerning race, privilege, what lives matter, and the place of historical monuments in our country. Violence, anarchy and fear have replaced the summer of love as the cancel culture pushes on in its historical purification. Can this republic live again? Sovereign Lord, only you know.
Last week we were drawing lines, this week we’re in the valley of dry bones. This vision of Ezekiel’s begins as a nightmare. The valley is a lifeless place as bleached, dry bones mean that they have been there a long time. How are we to see this vision? Is the valley a place of a terrible battle—maybe for a culture, an ideal and its people now forgotten, where many died, their bodies desiccated in the blast furnace of the desert? Is it some kind of monstrous cemetery where the bodies of the dead have not been well buried, but left behind, exposed to the elements and the carrion creatures that feed on lost carcasses leaving only the dry bones?
Actually, here’s the thing. The valley of dry bones is a story of hope. It’s a story of promise. It’s a story about a people who through great adversity have a future. “you shall live” is the theme that runs through the valley of dry bones.
It’s exactly what we, our country, and our world need to hear today.
“Mortal, can these bones live?” the Lord asks Ezekiel. I suspect it’s a question most of us are wondering about. Can we recover from all of this, personally and collectively as a nation? And, if so, when and how will that happen? What will our future look like?
Ezekiel responds but he doesn’t answer the question. He just says, “O Lord God, you know.”
I so appreciate the honesty in what Ezekiel says. I hear his uncertainty. I sense his feeling of powerlessness. I picture him looking around and shaking his head at the overwhelming enormity of it all. His people are at the lowest of the lowest points in their entire history. They’re in exile, they are even forgetting who they are. They’re giving up on their God. These “dry bones” that God is showing Ezekiel is an image of their condition. They’re dead.
I’ve thought of late that God only knows if these bones can live, if this republic can hold together.
That’s how I feel every time I read the newest numbers of cases and financial hardships that Covid has wrought, whether real numbers or manipulated. That’s how I feel when I watch the uber bipartisan politics being waged while our streets burn, and the world’s greatest experiment of democracy is being tested. And I’m guessing you might feel the same way. Today we are all Ezekiel. “Oh Lord, God you know.”
I know how easy it is to focus on and despair over the number of dry bone issues we’re facing right now. But I also know that is not the final story of God and God’s people. So, I want to give you some other numbers to focus on: ten and three. They’re sacred numbers. They’re numbers on which you can bet your life and future – and it would be a good bet.
In the entirety of this passage, God promises ten times to do something about the dry bones, even to the point of repeating God’s self:
“I will cause breath to enter you”
“I will lay sinews on you”
I “will cause flesh to come upon you”
I will “cover you with skin”
I will “put breath in you”
“I am going to open your graves”
I am going to “bring you up from your graves”
“I will bring you back to your land”
“I will put my spirit within you”
“I will place you on your own soil.”
Ten times God promises life and wholeness. Ten times God promises return and homecoming. Ten times God promises that the dry bones of this valley are not our final reality. Throughout those ten promises – at the beginning, the middle, and the end – God says, “and you will live.” “You will live” is the river of reassurance that finally flows through the valley of dry bones. The living river of the breath of God.
Then God says it three times: “You will live. You will live. You will live.”
Perhaps the vision of these dead, dry bones speaks something else to you today. It’s likely that some are dwelling in a personal valley that has left them parched, bleached and dry. Maybe you’re disconnected, separated and feel like you’ve been forgotten. Your spiritual ‘bones’ are dry and dusty in need of the fresh breath of God to put life and flesh in and on them again. This promise is for you as you come to his table today. The Lord says, “I will put my spirit in you, and you will live.”
Those promises and reassurances are the path we walk in this valley. So, the next time you hear the numbers in the news, the next time your get scared, the next time you feel anxious and overwhelmed, remember those other numbers, ten and three. Remember God’s promises. Remember God’s reassurances. And then listen for the rattle; the rattling of “bones coming together, bone to its bone.”
That rattling sounds like faith, hope, and love. It sounds like courage and a refusal to be ruled by fear. It sounds like people drawing righteous lines. It sounds like life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It sounds like church bells ringing and doves ascending. It sounds like helping those who have lost jobs or work hours. It sounds like patience, gentleness, and compassion for others and ourselves. It sounds like people asking, “Are you ok? Do you need anything?” It sounds like an openness to the future and a way forward. It sounds like life, and life abundant.
So, let’s rattle this valley. Let’s rattle this valley like it’s never been rattled before.
Let freedom ring.
This is the Word of the Lord for the day.