“Breathing in the Words”
Ezekiel 37:1-14; John 20:19-31
Winter is over… I hope, and we are starting to see the new growth happen around our homes and gardens. The grass begins to green, the buds are starting to sprout on the trees, flowers begin to grow and bloom, birds begin to sing. This really is a wonderful time of year as we start to see the awakening of the earth after the long sleep of winter. Of course this means the bugs are starting to come out too, but that’s a whole other story. We don’t need to go there today.
There’s just something about spring that lifts our spirits. There’s more energy in our footsteps. Our homes feel fresher now that we feel we can open the windows and let the air blow through. Children can get outside and run and play and cheer and laugh with one another. We shake off the tired sleep of winter and come to life with the sprouting of spring!
I know you read the Ezekiel story when I was away a few weeks ago after my trip to Toronto, but I wanted to bring it back today. For the next few weeks we’re going to focus on our relationship with Jesus Christ. This seems very appropriate in the time following Easter. I asked the questions over Good Friday and Easter, “Who is Jesus to you?” and “Has he changed you?” So I think it’s appropriate that we continue to explore these types of questions in the weeks following Easter.
There’s no question our churches are struggling, or they if they aren’t yet, they will be. So what do we need to do to bring people back to church? What is the big secret that will open our doors to the world around us and will make people want to walk in?
Let me tell you what I think… I don’t know! I have no idea!
But, let me tell you what I think will help… deepening our relationship with God through Jesus Christ will help. Getting closer to God will help. Spending time with the one who gave his life for us, so that we might be one with him, will help.
So where do we begin?
The story of Ezekiel in the valley of the dry bones is a great story. Here’s this young preacher who has been sent out to a desolate place by God. A place with no life, not even any hope for life as all he sees everywhere he looks are dry, old bones.
And then, God asks Ezekiel, “Can these dry bones live?”
Ezekiel replies, “God, you know!”
I’m sure he has to be thinking, “What am I doing here? All that is around me is death and hopelessness, surely nothing can live here.”
God speaks again to Ezekiel, “Preach to these bones! Let them hear the Word of the LORD! Tell them I will make them live! I will put breath into them! I will give them muscles and skin, and they will live!”
Ezekiel begins to preach these words, and noise begins to fill the valley. It starts off in one corner. It’s a rattling sound and it spread throughout the whole valley. He sees the bones begin to move, they start coming together like puzzle pieces, putting themselves back together. And then tendons and muscles begin to grow, then skin begins to cover them. As the bodies become whole, they just lie there, motionless.
God says to Ezekiel, “Preach to them, preach to the winds and give them breath!”
So Ezekiel preaches to the wind, and from a distance he hears the whoosh of the wind as it makes its way down the valley and passes over the bodies covering the valley floor, and as it passes over them, Ezekiel hears the gasps as these bodies take their first breaths. He hears the excited murmur as these bodies, that were just minutes ago piles of bones, he hears them crawl to their feet and stand and dance and sing as they have regained their lives. A vast multitude have been brought back to life by the Word of the LORD.
And God says to Ezekiel, “These bones, these are my people. These bones were dry and hopeless, but I, the Lord God, am going to bring them back! I will bring you from your graves and deliver you.”
What a moment this must have been for Ezekiel. Ezekiel is living in a time where the people of Israel have wandered far from God. They are living under a foreign government, they have lost their hope and their faith in God. It seems like the only one out there is poor Ezekiel, and he himself is losing hope. That is, until God shows him what only He can do!
How would you rate the spirituality of Sydney Mines? Would you call it “Passionate for the Lord”? Or is it “dry bones”?
I might even ask each of you the same question, “How would you rate your own spirituality?”
It’s easy to feel down about the state of the world around us. We see what is being done to our streets by people who seem to have nothing better to do. We see how our churches are losing members and how no one really seems to care anymore. As a Christian society, we are in the middle of a dark, long winter. There’s no colour anywhere, it’s just shades of grey wherever we look. Some of us may even feel this way ourselves. We may feel like we’ve lost our colour, our passion, our excitement, and we’re living in the dark.
But look at the promise of God he shared through Ezekiel, “I, the Lord God, am going to bring them back! I will bring you out of your graves and deliver you!” What a promise!
So this dark world in which we live, this world which rejects the Word of God, may seem like a huge, dry valley of bones. A place of little hope, a place with no true joy, no true focus for living out the example Jesus Christ has given to us, a place where the we’ve been told to place our own needs above the needs of others.
We need God to bring life back to these old bones. We need the breath of God to come in from all directions and sweep across the land, bringing life, joy and hope to all. But notice how it happened in the valley. It began with Ezekiel preaching the Word to those bones. It began with one person, one of the very few left who was faithful to God, and he shared the Word of God in that valley. And even the old dry bones responded. New life emerged. Joy and hope emerged. A love of God emerged. Just from one faithful man who stepped out into an impossible scenario and shared the prophetic, life giving Word of God. The Spirit of God blew through that valley, bringing life to those dead bodies.
What did Jesus do when he entered the room of the disciples after he rose from the dead? A room where they were hiding in fear, the doors locked tight, the windows closed because they were afraid of what was going to happen.
Jesus breathed on them and said “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
He gave them life. The Gospel of John begins with calling Jesus the Word of God. In the end of the Gospel, the Word breathes life into the disciples and their lives are filled with hope and joy.
In a world full of fear and hopelessness, let us not be dismayed, but instead let us breathe in Word of God. Let Him who gives life give us life. Let Him who breathed life into dry, old bones, let Him breathe life into our tired bodies. Let Him give His word to us so that we may rise from the valley floor and come to know our God passionately.
From there, let us act as the disciples, let us respond to this gift of life. Let us be like Ezekiel and not be afraid to take His Word out into the world, because His Word is life.
Even in the most desolate place on the planet, God’s Word can bring life. Surely the world in which we live has not yet become as bad as Ezekiel encountered in the valley.
Surely we don’t need to be locked into a secret room like the disciples for fear of our lives.
God’s Word is for all nations. For all people. For all of us.
Where do you see dry bones?
Are they in our country? Our community? Are they in our workplaces? What about our homes? Maybe… are they in us?
Wherever these dry bones are, God’s Word is waiting to be shared so only He can bring new life. Jesus, God’s Word who walked this earth, is waiting to show himself to the dry bones so they may see him and believe.
Jesus offers new life to dry bones.
New life, which will bring us out of the valley and into the presence of God.