Sermon: Can These Dry Bones Live?
Our Savior’s Lutheran Church
Pastor Paul Carlson
May 24, 2015
Prayer: God of life, your Spirit breathes love and life into the dry bones of our lives and the world, and lifts us up from our fear. May we be mindful of your empowering Spirit dwelling within and among us. Amen.
Today is the Day of Pentecost, the Day of the Spirit and the beginning of the church season of the Spirit. Easter is over. The Spirit has come to carry on the work begun in and by Jesus – the compassion and love for the hurting, the movement towards justice, the non-violence that can move us towards personal and communal healing, the identification with everyday people instead of the powerful, a perspective that begins from below and not from the top, the mutual washing of one another’s feet.
Now comes the empowerment to carry the work ahead. In preparation for the Spirit, our Hebrew text from Ezekiel asks the fundamental question, “Can these dry bones live again?” That was the question for one of the worst places on earth. It is in Columbia and you will remember it. Remember the Medellin Cartel and drug lord Paolo Escobar? That still rings in my head and, in fact, in the 1980’s “Medellin was once known as the most violent city in the world.” It was a shot up mess that must have resembled Syrian towns under Isis.
So imagine my surprise to read how it has been and is being cleaned up, is thriving again, and safe. Now we read “Medellin is considered to be one of the best cities to live in South America, sharing the first place with Santiago de Chile, and alongside Barcelona and Lisbon in Europe.” Through the creative efforts of many people, it is an amazing story of hope and of new life. It can and does happen! Dry bones can live again.
Mortal, can these dry bones live? Now that’s the question asked by the Holy One, the “I am” of Hebrew faith and of the entire Bible. These words are spoken to a son of man, a mortal who had a limited life span himself, whose own bones would dry up someday. The dry bones were the dead of Israel, conquered Israel, buried in the land of the Babylonians, a great ancient empire that had swallowed up small and insignificant Israel. The “I am” of Israel, the God of all life, asks the question, not the prophet Ezekiel, who does not know how to answer, so he seems to fudge. “Lord, you know.” He is thinking, “No, they cannot. The question is nuts.” He speaks for us. Maybe that is what people were saying And the “I am” says, “I will cause breath-spirit-to enter your bones and you shall live.” Tell them that, son of man, prophet. Tell them that. Tell these bones that I will put spirit and breath in them and they will have flesh again and muscle and skin. You will know, then, that I am God.” “And tell the spirit, son of man, say to the breath, to the spirit, ‘God says to you, come from the four winds, east, west, north, south, and breathe on these slain ones, these dry bones long dead, that they may live.”
Do you think anything has changed since then? Do you think the question has disappeared from the world? Of course it hasn’t at all. We are still asking it. But more to the point, it is creator and sustainer of all life who poses the question. That intrigues me. We think we are looking into an abyss, dry bones all around us, and God poses this question to us. Will we proclaim life-will we preach a sermon, if you like-to the dry bones around us? And what do you say to a dead thing-like the people of Israel subjected to a foreign power or the people of Medellin after years of bloody conflict or maybe a life that has lost its way? A dry bone? The text tells us to say, “Get ready because God’s spirit will come to you, lift you up and you will live.” That’s what we, the daughters and sons of flesh, can say. That is the word of God to us, as well. “Get ready because you’re not looking too good, you seem a little dried up, but get ready because the Spirit is coming to lift you up and you are going to live again.” That’s what today is. It’s the day of the Spirit. It’s the day that dry bones start living again. Now Ezekiel, that prophet, he is not that energetic in this story.
God is pumping blood big time, but Ezekiel not so much. It’s an uneven match, really. “Lord, you know.” That’s about all he can do. We identify, because we believe that dry bones stay dry. The thing is, that isn’t always true, and may be self-fulfilling. Ezekiel has to abandon his cynicism and negativity. And the change agent was and is the Spirit of God, breathing life where it seemed and seems hopeless. And I don’t know what it is about the Spirit that likes to hang around a bunch of dry bones to re-animate them, but that seems to be the way it is. Now you may be a person this morning that sees a lot of dry bones lying around and are convinced they will stay that way. You aren’t alone. Lots of folks look at the world that way. But there is another word being spoken, and right now among us, that says the Spirit is about to do her work. The Spirit is about to lift us up and we are going to live again. As the prophet Moses discovered, it is the eternal “I am” who is asking us the question, “Can these dry bones live?” And the expected answer is not, “Well, Lord, you know.” The answer is, “Yes and Amen!”