Dry Bones Live
Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live (Ezekiel 37:5 ESV). Today at International Lutheran Church we celebrate the Day of Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit. This is the birthday of the Church and the fulfillment of the words of the prophets and God’s own promise to bring us back to life again. The words we meditate on this morning are from the Book of Ezekiel, one of the Major prophets but perhaps a little less known. His vision of the valley of dry bones, though, is perhaps one that we already have read before.
Ezekiel’s vision was given at a time when people felt like “dry bones.” His ministry was during the great Babylonian exile of the people of God and after the destruction of His temple in Jerusalem. Captivity and exile are not normally things we pray for but instead hope to avoid. Yet the people did not heed the warnings spoken to them and so the just result was exactly what they got. What had been predicted by Isaiah and Jeremiah came to pass. The hope that God couldn’t reject His people because of His temple turned out to be a false hope. This was a time when people didn’t dare to hope as it was certainly only to end in disappointment. Things were dry - very dry - spiritually speaking.
For this reason, the vision that Ezekiel receives from God is like a breath of fresh air, a cool rain on the empty desert. This is good news that brings the dead to life. These words restore hope and a future to a people with neither. The reason that these words are so powerful is because they show us that our hope does not come from us or our own abilities but from God alone, and His mighty Word that prophesies life into lifeless bones. While we have not lived through the exile like the people of God or Ezekiel, we all have experienced the dry, life-draining effect of sin. The chains of guilt can quickly and suddenly haul us off into an exile that we have no hope of returning from. When God asked Ezekiel the question, “Can these bones live?” He was right to hem and haw with his response, “LORD God, You know.” We dare not even assume that God would possibly bring us back from a state worse than death itself, from the hell of scattered and strewn bones and the banishment that we deserve. Yet, Pentecost is the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s vision. Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection from the dead makes us alive in Him. His Spirit that was poured out then pours into our lives as we hear the words, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit!” And our very bones begin to rattle when we receive in, with and under the bread and the cup the life-giving Body and Blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins.
Yes, today is the birthday of the church – you and me – those who are baptized in His name and fed on His promise so that we would prophesy to the Breath and speak to the Wind, the Spirit that brings life into the lives of those we love, those we work and study with, those who He brings us to each day. As we feel again the mighty wind and hear the sound of rushing water, we celebrate the life-giving gift of the Holy Spirit that the Father and the Son together have poured into our lives. Blessed Pentecost!