Rev. Katherine Todd
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”
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 Spirit of God is life to our dry bones. The Spirit of God is hope where there was despair. The Spirit of God is a new beginning, where before there was an ending.
The Spirit of God guides us in truth and wisdom, righteousness and integrity. The Spirit of God teaches our secret hearts, so that even the darkest places of our minds and hearts can be made whole in the life-giving light of God.
We absolutely need the Spirit of God. The fact is that on our own, discerning right from wrong is difficult at best. Our minds that can take us to new heights and depths of understanding can also rationalize any thing we want. Shades of gray can feel infinite, and we can become paralyzed. Our own biases and experiences shade and can skew our perceptions of truth.
We need the Spirit of God.
We need to be led by the One who sees, the One who knows us and the big picture all perfectly, the One who makes new, the One who is full of love and light.
We need this One to guide our steps, in paths we do not know and cannot see.
We need this One to speak truth into our confusion.
We need this One to draw us into the bigger picture, so that our lives matter beyond ourselves and our corners of the world.
This scripture of God telling the prophet to prophesy to the dry, dry bones – it lifts my spirit. It gives me hope for the things of life that seem so very far beyond hope. In this vision, we see a people long gone, long lost, long dead. We see a story that has ended. Hope that has died. If there is any redemption here, it won’t start with these lost ones, it would start with those still alive, who could learn from their mis-steps.
But that is now what we see. God does not say, “Tell the people to see and beware. Turn from their ways, lest they end up like these lost ones.” No, God tells the prophet to prophesy TO the very dry bones, to prophesy that they might live again.
So, perhaps feeling very foolish, the prophet begins to speak life into the dry, dry bones. And God sends sinews and skin and then breath into each one, so that a vast multitude is brought back to life.
This is an incredible story. It’s a story fit for a good sci-fi movie. Can you picture it?
And so what does this story teach us?
I believe it challenges our beliefs about what is possible and what is not, what is too far gone and what is not, where there is hope and where there is not.
In this story, the slain in that valley of dry, dry bones are by every human measure, beyond hope.
And yet they live.
And so invite us to consider who we believe to be beyond hope.
Life teaches us wisdom. We learn who to invest in and who to release. We learn where to spend our precious time and where to hold back.
These lessons are important. They preserve and protect us from putting ourselves in the position of layered upon layered frustrations and disappointments. They moderate our expectations and hopes in ways that are more realistic.
And in many and perhaps most circumstances, this God-given ability to size up and assess a situation is life-giving. It has likely even kept us alive.
But when God speaks and moves, all the rules of engagement are up for grabs.
If God speaks life, who can hinder it?
When God makes new, who can stop it?
When God acts, who can stand in God’s way?
We saw this in Jesus of Nazareth, who spoke calm to the raging storm, who spoke healing to the disabled, who disarmed defenses with a word, who raised the dead to life again.
When God acts, we need to recognize it and follow suit.
And God is acting still, all around us, in our very lives.
So my challenge to each of us, is that we forge patterns and habits in our lives of listening to God, of paying attention, of quieting ourselves, of asking God for what we need and then waiting to hear.
If someone can bring hope to the most dire situation
Life to the most tortured and oppressed,
Light to the darkest night,
It is our God.
And you and I are little Christs. As Christians, we are made to shine the light of Christ everywhere we go. It’s not that we have to DO a lot of anything. Rather, it’s more of a being – a being in the presence of God, moment by moment, day after day. It’s about REFLECTING the light of God – not generating it.
When we spend time in the presence of God, as our deliberate, intentional habit, we begin to shine. When we contemplate and give thanks for God’s unrelenting love for us, our own love grows. When we become mindful of God’s tremendous mercy over us and grace upon grace poured out, our own lives begin to overflow in mercy and graces ever new.
God’s love begets love.
God’s light begets light.
God’s life begets new life.
So how will you and I live this day forward?
We are not made to know all the answers.
We are not made to see beyond the walls and limits of our sight and understanding.
We not alone capable of loving with that unrelenting, never-giving-up love.
But when we return, day after day, to the One who sees us and loves us, just as we are… When we spend time at Christ’s feet, learning God’s ways… When we open ourselves to a new mindfulness of God’s presence with us and mercies covering us…
We open our hearts and hands, minds and lives to be filled with by the Spring that never runs dry. We open ourselves to a life we could never fashion or imagine for ourselves. We open ourselves to be guided by the Spirit of God, in things big and small, walking in paths we cannot see and experiencing the grace-filled provision for our days. And we become conduits of God’s love and grace, mercy and forgiveness, discipline and second chances, life and resurrection.
May we be a people who are God’s people, through and through.
May we continue to quiet ourselves in the presence of God, day after day,
Bringing our good days and our bad
And may we find ourselves witnesses the might and power of a God whose love knows no beginning or ending.
We will see wonderful and astounding things, things we thought impossible.
Because our God is not done with us yet,
And our God is breathing life back into dead dry bones!
Will we be a part of it?