A Resurrecting Community
Now, let’s hear that last part again from the JAT translation.
Then the LORD GOD said to me, ‘Mortal, these bones are the whole church. 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 hearts, and bring you up from your pews, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Promise. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your hearts, and bring you up from your pews, 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.’
Today is the feast of Pentecost. It is the day in which we remember the gift of the Holy Spirit given to the apostles in that same upper room where they had been hiding, and today we remember that is was the breath of God, the Ruach of God, the Holy Spirit that resurrected those dry bones of the apostles and pushed them out into the streets to proclaim the promise that is found in the crucified, risen, and ascended Christ. The promise that the young will have visions and the elders will dream dreams. That everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. This is the day of Pentecost. They day of rejoicing in the promise of the Holy Spirit. The person of the trinity who is our helper and sustainer; who gives scared apostles the power to preach through their fear; the breath who life to those bones in the valley. This is the day of Pentecost – the birth of a resurrecting community.
So why is it we cry, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely,” when we ought to be rejoicing that breath has been put in us and we are alive? Why have we, the church, the whole church especially in the United States, become like the old bones in the valley? I think it is because we have forgotten to breathe. We have been holding our breath for so long, trying to do things on our own, on our own terms, by our own rules we have forgotten to breath and let the Holy Spirit do her work. We have strangled out the breath of God – the breath that has been working in the places like the continents of South America, Asia, and Africa. While we have been trying to do it oun our own, the breath of God has been giving life to the places we forget about.
While we are over here strangling ourselves with preachers who claim that if you give the right amount of offering or if you help them buy a $65 million dollar plane you will be blessed. While there are loud and tyrannical voices belching out toxic vitriol that hurricanes and avalanches, earthquakes and tsunamis are cause because of gay marriage or women’s rights; while there are people in the church who use the Bible as a hand grenade instead of a blueprint to salvation; while hiding behind their faith politicians are cutting aid to those most in need and dropping drone driven bombs on innocents – the breath of the Holy Spirit is in place like Ghana where the Ghanaian Baptists are actually teaching people how to fish and building up stronger communities raising up dry bones. She is blowing in Philippines where Samaritana Transformation Ministries has been working quietly for 20 years transforming the lives of sex workers – bringing the hope of new life where there was only a valley of dry bones. The Holy Sprit is breathing life into the church of South Africa the church is working to change a climate of nationalistic violence by empowering leaders who have a vision of God’s Shalom for the world.
The Holy Spirit is blowing again in Jerusalem as the church is doing its reconciling work bringing Jews, Palestinian, and Christians to the table. She blows in Chile as the church brings healing to those who have suffered for years the hell of political imprisonment. And daily, their numbers are being added to. Yes, there are problems, but more than those problems, there is a recognition that the only way to live is to breath and so the church in Africa, Asia, and South America is breathing deep from the life giving breath of God. And the church in the United States wrings its hands wondering where all the people are.
The greatest enemy of the church in the United States has not been those who seek social changes, it has not been the creation of subsidized healthcare, or those who fight for marriage equality. No, the greatest enemy of the church in the US has been the church itself. It has forgotten who it is, and has withered away and is now lying in a valley of dry bones alongside all of those it has hurt in the process. Their sinew flayed and nerves exposed, pain and hurt have become the dominant feelings instead of grace and hope.
And this is similar to what was going on in the time of Ezekiel. The priest Ezekiel was among the first of the refugee/prisoners taken from Jerusalem to Babylon, Ezekiel and Jeremiah were contemporaries. He was there as the armies of the foreign empire came in and took over the city of God. And while in Babylon he heard God speak and call him to the prophetic vocation, and the message was that even worse was to come because the people of Judah had become so self-centered. They had turned away from what it is God wanted for them to accomplish – away from what it was God called them to do. They began to see themselves as the crown of creation, the place to be, the place to be seen – and in doing so they forgot that they were supposed to be caring for those in need.
Things got so bad that that God refused to pay attention to their worship. They were just showing up on Sundays to save face – going through the motions – they were not going to church for true worship of the Living God who rescued them from the slavery of Egypt, who brought them through the wilderness into the promised land. They did not come praise the God who rescued them from the hands of the enemies, who time an again sent judges and kings to rescued them. No – they came to church because it was the thing they had to do and because of that, because their was no heart in their worship they grew arrogant. And they began to behave even worse than those in Sodom. The Lord said through Ezekiel to the people of Jerusalem, “This is the sin of your sister, Sodom – she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They grew arrogant and treated each other as objects.” Things were bad.
Add to this the fact that, now, they were prisoners in a foreign land. Captives to Babylon. Everything they knew had been wiped out – their livelihoods,their homes, their way of life, and even the Temple that they now realized was the house of God. Life had fallen out of them. Breath had left them, and they were rotting in a valley. A dry and dusty valley. Their bones mixing with the bones of all those destroyed in their conquests. There was no life left in them. The mighty had fallen.
And in the midst of this despair, in the middle of this mess the Lord God reaches out God’s hand and drags Ezekiel to this valley. He pulls the prophet by the and sits him squarely in the middle of this valley of the shadow of death – the dust causing him to cough. The flies biting his skin. The smell of rotting flesh. The pall of darkness that accompanies the grim reaper. And God puts him in the middle of this mess and says to him, “It’s up to you. I need you to trust me. Prophesy to these bones. It is time for some resurrecting. Tell these bones to get up. Tell them to stand up. Tell them it is time for them to rise once again. Say to them, O Dry Bones…GET UP! Hear the word of the Lord – Tell them I am going to re-sculpt you. I am going to put the sinew back on. I am going to cover you with skin. And I am going to breathe life back into you like you have never felt before. I am going to fill your lungs with Holy Breath.”
As Ezekiel said the Thus saith the Lord, the bones began to rattle. Them dry bones began to connect. They began to find their mates. The foot bone connected to heel bone. The heel bone connected to leg bone. The leg bone connected to the knee Bone. The knee bone connected to the thigh none. They thigh bone connected to the hip bone. The hip bone connected to the back bone. The back bone connected to the shoulder bone. The shoulder bone connected to the neck bone. The neck bone connected to the head bone. Now hear the word of the Lord! Them dry bone resurrected and became bodies of men and women. They became the bodies of the fallen Jerusalem. The fallen of Israel. They looked all right, but something was wrong. Something just wasn’t right.
“God,” said Ezekiel, “God, something ain’t right here. Something is wrong. These folks are looking like they did before Jerusalem fell. They are looking like the same folk that messed things up in the first place.”
“Ezekiel, I ain’t done yet. Prophesy now to the breath, man, and tell the breath: Thus saith the Lord, ‘Come four winds. Come and breath upon these slain. Breathe upon this resurrecting community. That might live.”
And there, in that valley, the wind flew in from all four corners of the earth, and it filled the valley with holy breath. And together, the people of God inhaled that divine breath and something happened. As the Holy Spirit breath made its way into their lungs, their blood vessels, as it made its way into every fiber of their begins they begin to rejoice and praise God like never before. They lifted holy hands and sang to the lord a new song. They knew they had been saved once again and their graves had been flung open. They knew that the Sprit of the lord hand entered into them and they would live. They would live as a resurrecting community.
They began to lives lives of hope and began to trust that the God who raised their dry bones would not stop until they were fully God’s again.
That, friends, is the message for today. That is the Good New. God ain’t done with the church. God ain’t done with you. God ain’t done with me. God is shouting to us DRY BONES, GET UP!!!
God is say that even though there are buffoons who are claiming to speak in my name they are nothing but false prophets. Hear my word, says the Lord. Get up. Breath this holy breath.
God is saying if you want true prosperity, trust me. It ain’t going to be what those preachers say it looks like, but when you trust me – when your put your faith in me you are going to live a life that will be in touch with eternal life. It will be in touch with prosperity that isn’t of this world, but is of the God who created the cosmos.
God is say my Word is not meant to be something to beat others down with, but is to be used as the bread of life. When it is opened up, holy breath comes out and fills you.
God is saying it is time for you to get up and breath the breath i am putting in you and live!
So, friends, I am here to let you know that God isn’t giving up on you. God isn’t giving up on the church. God will not let the bride die. God is going to breath life into you like you have never felt.
Because this is the God who did lead the Israelites across the sea – on dry land.
This is the God who tore down the walls of Jericho.
This is the God who took took some stones and killed a Giant.
This is the God who was there in a fiery furnace.
This is the God who closed the mouth of lions.
This is the God who walked on water.
This is the God who calmed the sea.
This is the God who said to Lazarus – Get up.
This is the God who said to the devil – shut up.
This is the God who said to death – you ain’t no match for me.
This is the God who said – I promise to send you a helper.
This is the God who sent tongues of flame.
This is the God who breathed life in to them dry bones.
So, I’m here to let you know this is the God who is going to touch every cell of your body and bring you a newness of life like you have never experienced. And on top of that this is the God who is going to raise you up into a community of resurrection. A community so filled with the breath of God that they break free from the bonds of this world and all that stands against God and they breath that Holy Breath into every place they touch.
And it starts with one. And then another. And then another. And soon there is a chain reaction of resurrecting happening that hasn’t been seen since the Cave door blew open.
So, I want to know is there anybody here today in need of some Holy Breath? Is there anybody here today in need of some resurrecting? Are your dry bones longing to breathe again. Is there any body here that needs to hear the word of the Lord.
Now, I want to know is there anybody here who has been touched by the Lord? That has had their lives resurrected? That has been trough the valley of dry bones only to come out on the other side. Is there any body here willing to reach out to one of those who are need of Holy Breath and give some divine CPR? Some resurrecting resection – some prayer?
If you are need of resurrection and you want to feel the breath of God raise your hand and if you are raised up and you want to pray for some of those in need get up. Get up and go to them and share with them the breath of the one who saved you.
And as you are praying as you are breathing. I want to let you know that this is the church that was there on Pentecost. This is the church that lives. This is the church that breathes. This is the church that will never die.
This is where the chain reaction of the big bang begins. When one is resurrected then another then another. There will be nothing that can stand in the way of God’s bride. Of the Resurrected church. OF the resurrecting community.
Thanks be to God