Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Dem Bones

Holy Week
Ezekiel 37:1-14  The hand of the LORD came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, "Mortal, can these bones live?" I answered, "O Lord GOD, you know."  Then he said to me, "Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.  Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the LORD."  So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them.  Then he said to me, "Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live." I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.  Then he said to me, "Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, 'Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.'  Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel.  And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people.  I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken and will act, says the LORD."

The people of Japan have had the desperation of seeing life die before their eyes: The Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki left nothing but ‘dry bones’. Yet, 65 years later, Japan has been able to re-discover life. This life is very different from what was known before World War II in the Pacific. There is no Emperor, no militaristic sloganeering, and no arrogance. Instead this is a nation of deep respect for life, of friendly greetings, and of hard working people. A hopeless nation has rediscovered hope. While this is nowhere explicitly stated as the work of God (and the Japanese people might shake their heads in puzzlement at this description) – the traditions of the Bible speak of a Creator who enables dry bones to come back to life:
Ezekiel 37 uses the imagery of “bones’ to offer hope to a hopeless nation. At the time that this was written, the nation, the holy city of Jerusalem and the Temple all lay in ruins. Ezekiel insists that this is not the end – but is rather the beginning of a new thing that God is about to do. God will breathe life into the “dry bones” and they will come back to life. We who follow Jesus add the story of Easter – a time where the dry bones came back to life. The story of Jesus invites us to discover a promise of an open grave, of new life, of a fresh beginning.   

May the journey of Holy Week shift the “old bones” inside of us. May they begin rattling and shaking; may they come together; may they shed their dryness; and may we find life.

Breathe on me, breath of God,
Blend all my soul with Thine,
Until this earthly part of me
Glows with Thy fire divine.

Ed­win Hatch, 1878;


Easter Sunday
Christ Lives
Scripture reading taken from A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants p.142



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