The Sunday Sermon: November 15, 2020 – 24th Sunday after Pentecost
Scripture: Ezekiel 37:1-7
There are times between times, a week perhaps after ones that preceded it and ones that will follow, when we just might slow down, look back, look ahead, and decide finally that right now is the best place to be. This is one of those weeks.
Looking back, and understanding that stewardship – the care we give to our church and its community, property, and ministries – never ends, we realize that Stewardship Season is over for another year. We’ll anticipate the gifts of God from the people of God for the year ahead here at Pewee Valley Presbyterian in the weeks before us, but we have left that in GOD’s hands and in the hearts of each one of us.
Looking ahead, we have thanksgiving to offer and Thanksgiving to figure out. And then, after that … well, we’ll leave “after that” to itself. Let’s focus in on the now.
This week is one of those rarest of weeks when we get a chance to rest our weary bones and speak to our tired souls. When we get a chance to breathe more deeply than we most often allow. So …
Take a deep breath in … and breathe it out. Breathe in … and breathe out. And listen for the Word of God.
Read Ezekiel 37:1-7 the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
We have an opportunity in this very familiar passage from Ezekiel to understand God and ourselves in a unique way, an opportunity to discover one of the primary purposes for our life of faith, together and individually. This “time in between” offers an opportunity to reflect a bit on our lives in these unprecedented times: What’s working (full life), what’s not (dry bones), and what we can do about the latter? We get some responses from Ezekiel
We begin in a graveyard. Ezekiel is in a trance – we hear that in the language in verse one: “the hand of the Lord was upon me.” He is wandering and he’s wondering in his state of mind, at the great number of bones all around him, bones of those long dead that have been lying in the sun so long they are dry, bleached white. Other than this fantastic pile of bones, there is nothing.
Where are the graveyards in our lives? The bones, represent more than “death.” They are dry bones, “very dry” the writing says. These bones represent life, too – barren lives, empty dreams. Where are the empty dreams in our lives? These two questions are pretty bleak. And it doesn’t take much deep thinking to come up with the “graveyards” and “empty dreams” that are part of our lives in this COVID-19, politically saturated, racially charged time. But just as we feel things are pretty bleak, just as we begin to find more distractions in this “time between times” that will allow us to not pay attention to what we may not want to pay closer attention to, God asks a third question: Can these bones live? In the midst of our graveyards and our empty dreams, can there be life? That gets our attention.
Let’s be honest: Even now, even knowing that I’m going to remind us of GOD in our lives, “no,” is our first (and most often only) answer. We give all our creative power over to the past, to our past. We are who we are because we did what we did and because the word is the way the world is. There’s no way to change it. We comprehend on some level the possibilities of the future, and we strive to be faithful, but when things are this bad – a valley of dry dead bones; tired bodies and weary souls; social distance and sickness all around us – well, our creativity quickly vanishes. Can these bones – can we – live? It’s a question for which we far too often have only one answer: “No.” But GOD, the creative force of Love and Life that guides the cosmos, the ONE that asks the questions themselves, does not begin where we do, putting the power of the past first. GOD begins through the “primacy of the future.”
From out of the future, GOD meets us where we are at every moment of our lives and calls us into the possibilities of new life. Can your bones live? GOD knows.
There’s a reversal at work here. We are called every moment of every day not out of our past, but from our future life. That’s Resurrection – from death, life. GOD is the source of all possibility – of resurrection life, and GOD’s primary effect on the world, on you and me, is to provide us with possibility, with a future, with newness, with life every moment of every day.
In verse three of Ezekiel’s thirty-seventh chapter the prophet utters some of the most faithful words any of us can speak. His first answer is almost certainly “No, no life can come from bones this dry.” But instead, out of this faith, he replies, “O, LORD GOD, you know.” Yes … GOD knows. Do we?
Ezekiel’s response, “O, Lord God, you know” lays everything at God’s feet. Maybe that’s what we are called to do to. Trust our lives to something bigger than ourselves. Put ourselves to work for something greater than our own creaturely comfort and security. Trust our own lives to the redemptive work of the one we call God, Lord of life. Respond to God with a faith in the power of life and offer ourselves up to God’s work:
“You know, oh God. So, what do you want me to do?”
The call will come. It does come, whether we’re listening or not. God is the chief actor in this vision narrative, and in our lives, there’s no doubt about that, and yet God does not act in such a way as to eliminate the responsibility for our participation in this world. Exactly the opposite. As soon as Ezekiel admits that God knows, God demands that he play his part.
“Prophesy. Speak! Act! Make it right! Live … and offer life to others.”
Where are the valleys of dry bones in our lives? “Can those bones live?” They can when we trust in God. They will when we respond to God with the life God offers. If we do – when we do – we, too, will hear a “noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone.” And when the connective tissue is in place, and when the flesh comes upon them and skin covers them, GOD with breathe once again. And so will we.
What a wonderful week to breath. So …
Take a deep breath in … and breathe it out. Breathe in … and breathe out. These bones shall live!
Reverend Joel Weible, Pastor
Pewee Valley Presbyterian Church / November 15, 2020