March 26th, 2023: Ezekiel and the valley of the dry bones & Lazarus and the tomb
Ezekiel and the valley of the dry bones & Lazarus and the tomb
“May the words from my lips and the meditations of our hearts always be pleasing to you O God.”
Our readings today felt oddly appropriate as we prepare for our annual general meeting. They are about grief and death but they are also about new life and resuscitation.
In Ezekiel God says “ 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.”
Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of the dry bones is a promise that Israel, as a nation, will live again even though at the time they were in exile. This would be accomplished through God’s life giving spirit.
Ezekiel gets up close and personal with the bones - he walks all around, and he sees layer upon layer of defeat and hopelessness. He is in the valley of dry bones where there is nothing resembling life, where all hope is lost, where there is only the stench of death and despair.
But Ezekiel is called to speak a word of life.
Can these bones live? Ezekiel’s answer is one of faithfulness and it is the only answer any of us can give with integrity and honesty. O Lord God You Know.
Can these bones live! Yes because of God - a God of life and love.
Ezekiel speaks to the bones. God breathes new life into dry bones.
We rise up in response to the word of God.
In the Gospel of John we hear the story of the death and resuscitation of Lazarus. This is the last of the 7 signs in the Gospel that demonstrates Jesus’ divinity. This story is unique to John. And Jesus’ actions in this case are what incite the religious authorities to seek Jesus’ execution.
Jesus is deeply moved by the grief he witnesses and he too is moved to weep. And then the action - Jesus calls “ Lazarus come out! “ This is the great unbind - the outcome is freedom. Jesus calls us to come out into abundant life free from the things that hold us captive.
In both of these readings a word of life is spoken.
In preparation for our AGM you have received the annual report and I will assume that you have had a look at it and are familiar with the reports and the financial information and budget. You will have noted that we are still feeling the effects of COVID in terms of revenue and attendance for in person worship. You have received information about the work of the Advent 2.0 committee and the need to think about the future of Advent.
While we are not Lazarus in the tomb or a valley of dried bones we may be wondering how close we are to that. Can we be resuscitated like Lazarus? Can a breath bring us new life?
Can we respond to Jesus’ command to unbind ourselves from our fears? Can we respond to the breath of God which is renewal?
I was recently interviewed by a Seneca college student as part of a course in death, dying, grief and bereavement. The conversation included questions about the effects of COVID, training for the work I do among other things. One of the questions was “What keeps you passionate about your job.” At first I responded, my faith. But then I thought a bit more.
I am passionate about my job because it is a privilege and an honour to walk with you. To be a part of your lives. It is a gift to proclaim the Good News of Jesus and the love of God - every week - every day.
In order to be authentic and to do this work I need to love you. I am passionate about being your Pastor because I love you.
Thank you for having the courage to take me on as a 1st call Pastor. Thank you for your generosity as I stumble and learn. Thank you for your grace and for your love.
I do not have answers to the questions that we will be facing. I do know that this is a place of great love and faith. That the people of Advent are good people who care deeply.
So I will leave you with a final question - and no answer.
What might happen if we acknowledge that only God knows the future of dry bones everywhere?