Imagine for a moment the Spirit of God carrying you to a place where the land is withered and the air is dead. There are no trees, no shrubs, no signs of water or life anywhere, except for a life that once was. All around you are piles of dried up tibias and fibulas, rib cages, skulls, and vertebras. Bones upon bones, as if giants had fed on smaller humans and tossed the remnants to the ground like a bunch of chewed up hot wings.
If that’s not weird enough, God tells you to prophecy over the bones. Convince them to take a deep breath and get up because God’s going to do something really cool, and they won’t want to miss it.
It’s one thing to talk to the dead. But commanding them to rise up is a whole other thing. It’s clear Ezekiel has never seen Night of the Living Dead, or any Rob Zombie movie, because like any prophet worth his salt, Ezekiel does what God asks his to do.
He begins to preach. And preach he does. As the words pour out of his mouth, the bones began to rattle and lock together; their muscle and flesh and skin returned as they once were. And the breath of God sweeps over them and resuscitates an entire valley of naked zombies.
The author of this story lets us know this is a metaphorical tale – a story of God’s promise to breath life back into the people of Israel who were being held captive in Babylon. After all those years imprisoned in a foreign land God’s people were spiritually dried up and parched like a desert wasteland. They felt as lifeless as dead bones.
But here’s the thing, God hears their cries, just as God hears ours. In one grace filled breath their hope returns, and so will ours. Just as God resurrects the life of his people, so too does God resurrect our lives even when the odds of that happening are stacked against us.
As we progress through this pandemic, we will be faced with new and difficult challenges. We too will have to find a way to put life back together again. Especially when we feel as lifeless as a pile of old bones.
As daunting and overwhelming as life might seem right now, must not lose hope. But be on guard because it’s in these moments doubt, depression, fear and anxiety sneak in and drag us away to a dry wilderness of hopelessness and despair. Just as God didn’t give up on Israel, God does not give up on you or me.
I recently read a pneumonic for the word faith that I think is worth sharing. It goes like this: Feeling Afraid I Trust Him. Ezekiel trusted God. Even when all the things that he loved the most were taken from him, he still believed the bones could rise again.
In the season of Lent, we are called into the wilderness not to wither and die, but to lean on God, to inhale the very breath of God deep into our soul. Wherever you are right now, faithful or faithless, God is asking you “Can these bones live?” In other words, do you believe God can restore us back together again? Our hope lies in the answer.
If I am to believe Jesus then I believe God’s promise of restoration is real. This life, with all its unknowns, pain, and suffering, is not the end of the story. God hears our cries and comes to us, to breath new life in us.
If I believe in the incarnation, the very breath of God becoming flesh and bone in the man Jesus, then I can believe in his resurrection, and the new life that comes through him because of it.
If you believe that God’s promise is real, that these bones can live again, then you will find your hope – hope that will grow your faith and bring you closer to the very heartbeat of God’s love for you. But if you believe these bones will live, then you must ask yourself, what am I going do with my bones today? Will I raise the dead? Make the blind see and the deaf hear?
If that seem impossible, remember it was Jesus who said, the person who believes will not only do what he did but even greater things.
In both Hebrew and Greek, the word for breath is also the word for spirit. God’s spirit is breathed into you for a purpose, not just so we can have life, but so we can live life abundantly, fearlessly, graciously – as one united people.
Jesus gave us his final breath, the very Spirit of God, so that we could proclaim the truth of God’s love for all things. Like him, we are to take that Spirit and be the miracle God wants us to be.
With a single breath, we can heal the sick with compassion and care. We can feed thousands of people by sharing our resources with one another. We can forgive sins and bless people no matter what. With God’s breath, we can resurrect the dead by being resurrection people.
God is calling us to prophecy to others by being people who show compassion and seek those who have been pushed out to the fringes and love them back into society.
This is what Jesus' miracles were all about… returning people back to God where we all belong. This is what resurrection looks like. This is how our dry bones come back together, how we as a community and as a human race come back stronger and healthier than ever before.
As we walk and live amid the painful and death-dealing realities that plague God’s creation, let us not lose the hope that God calls us out to the wilderness, just like Jesus was called out from the grave, to bring new life to those whose spirits are withered and dead.
And so I ask you, “Can these bones live?” If so, then let them know.
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An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”