Come Holy Spirit, Come. Fill our hearts with your fire. Stir in us this day. Rattle our weary bones. Piece us together as your people, bit by bit, bone by bone, until flesh and blood, alive in you, we may share your Breath of hope and resurrection life through our words and actions. AMEN.
Ez.37 Verse1: 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.
The valley is full of dry bones, isn’t it? Out of money. Dried up. Schools can’t even afford teachers. And the ones we do have are barely hanging on. Just one example. The job market is dry too—hot and dry and scary. Bones. For some, even the bodies’ own bones aren’t doing so great. Joints ache. Diseases prevail. Physical and mental. Spiritual. “Yeah, it’s Pentecost, but that’s just a church thing. Doesn’t really speak to my real life—that’s pretty dry.” God has plopped you down right in the valley of dry bones, just like Ezekiel.
Verse2: He led me all around the bones; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. 3He said to me, "Mortal, can these bones live?" I answered, "O Lord GOD, you know."
You know, God. We’re all out of answers. Why are you testing me God, can the bones live? What…are you asking can hope come back into our communities? Can our economy recover? Is there any hope for education, for our teachers, for our poor, for our children, for our warring world, for our earth? What, God, are you asking me if there’s hope for our tired bodies, our knees and ankles, our arms and necks? Only you know, God. Only you know. I don’t know. I’m worried…about my cousin on the brink, my friend on the drugs, my country on the edge of hopelessness, my neighbor on food stamps, my grandparents on Medicare. Can these bones live? I don’t know God. Only you know.
Verse4: Then he said to me, "Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. 5Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6I 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."
Notice: God doesn’t lead us out of the valley, God joins us. The Shepherd of the Valley is just that, and gives us power to “prophesy”! Prophesy to the bones, speak to the death all around and say, “God….is….breathing….here!” Prophesy to the sad cousin, to the addicted friend, to the aging & depressed relative, to the broken community, to the hopeless poor, to the apathetic rich, prophesy Judy! Prophesy Rich! Prophesy Greg! Prophesy Ellen! Don’t escape the valley of death, speak to it, prophesy to the pain all around, “Know that God is God! Know that God is here!” Prophesy like Paul, that “whether we live, or whether we die, we belong to the Lord!” Prophesy that God is breathing here! That Christ is risen and is with us now!” Prophesy to the bones! And then sit back and trust in God.
7So 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. 8I 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.
I didn’t really think anything would come of it, but I tried, I tried to prophesy…I thought God was crazy asking me to prophesy, but I tried…just a little. And guess what: In this hurting valley, in this Spring Valley, in this sunken community, in this depressed and obese nation…there was a little noise! Just a little something…a rattling. Something started shaking. At first I thought it was me, but then I just sat back and watched: and I looked and suddenly there was a rattling. A movement of people. A drumbeat, a march, a song. At first it didn’t really go together. But in time people were getting together, like bones coming together. They were taking an interest in one another. Connecting. Just a little at first, but then more. I even saw a little laughter. And the singing continued. People checking in on each other…just being neighborly, “no big deal”…just a little rattling on each others doors. Just a little rattling of silverware as people sat down and shared meals together. I looked and before you know it, there was more than just a little. Whole communities were watching out for each other. Even people who were different from each other. All kinds of different skin…like a patchwork quilt covering old dead bones. Maybe they weren’t dead after all. But still there was no breath in them. It was just on the surface.
…skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. 9Then God 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." 10I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.
Hope is breath. And God gives breath. To those bones. To your bones. And we become the ones who prophesy. Who refuse to stop at just a little getting together, just a little caring for each other, just a little justice, just a little peace. No, we cry out to God for more. And God responds always. “Prophesy!” God says. Take it to the next level. Don’t give up. And so we don’t, we keep hoping, we keep praying, we keep processing, and we keep working for peace, moving for justice, writing and speaking to care for one another, we keep gathering in community. And that too, affects our schools, affects our jobs, affects our neighborhoods, affects our poor, affects our earth. God’s breath, God’s breath is here. Let’s go tell it in the valley! Let’s go prophesy, friends in Christ! There’s nothing new about being cynical in this world, about being isolated, and cut-off from the community, about just protecting your own. That’s as normal and lifeless as a pack of hyenas. But we worship a God who breathes us together, who breathes this world together; we trust a God who teaches us about lying down with wolves. Separation and isolation and fear and despair don’t rule the day for the Spirit-filled followers of Jesus. No, we’ve got a message to share: Death, you do not have the final word! God does. And God…breathes…life.
11Then God 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.' 12Therefore 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. 13And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. 14I 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.
Sisters and brothers in Christ, God’s got us. God always has and God always will. God will pick you up and place you on your own soil, place you where you need to be, probably the valley. And you will know, you will know, you will know that God is God. God is God. Our hope, our salvation, our God is not technology! Our hope, our salvation, our God is not science! God is God. Our hope, our salvation, our God is not the military, the government or the private sector. Our God is not money or fame or a good family name! God is God.
And that God is the one who opens the graves, and brings the dead back to life. That’s the One we worship, that’s the one we trust. In God, not money, we trust. In God, not security, we trust. In the breath of life that blows across us and through us this Pentecost morning. We don’t know how, we can only wait and pray and hope and watch, like Ez., like those in the upper room. And God will come. As quiet as a whisper, as violent as a storm, God arrives and gives us life. Life in Christ’s name…So that we can face the valleys, weather the dust storms, and only with God’s help…so that we can prophesy and witness to this raising of the dead. [opening prayer again]