Can These Bones Live?

SO; I got infused with the Holy Spirit on Pentecost…Imagine that! Thus the manuscript below only partially reflects the message I brought on Sunday. If you are interested in getting a sense of what I offered that’s not written down, take a look at this:

Scripture: Ezekiel 37:1-14

Ezekiel was a prophet of the 6th century BC or BCE, at the time when Jerusalem was captured and destroyed by the Babylonians. Many of Jerusalem’s leading citizens, including Ezekiel were exiled—taken hostage and relocated to Babylon. The book of Ezekiel is made up of the prophet’s oracles and visions to the displaced people of God who have lost their land, their livelihood, their national identity, and most seriously of all; their faith. Yahweh had promised them this land and a good life as the fulfillment of the Exodus experience and their covenant with God. Now here they are again; a people in a land that is not their home; cut off, enslaved, detached from their God. The first part of this book contained judgments against God’s people that attempt to explain how this all could have happened. Israel and Judah have both acted wrongly and became involved in foreign alliances that led to their downfall.

In the vision of the prophet that we heard today, Ezekiel is placed by Yahweh—by God—in a valley full of dry bones that have long since lost all their flesh; bones that no longer remain together as a skeleton would. There is no life and no apparent hope for life. The prophet’s response to God’s opening question “Can these bones live?” reflects the obvious answer. These are dry, desiccated, dead remnants of what was. A logical, reasonable response would be “no”. However, this IS GOD asking. But even knowing that it is God, Ezekiel gives an evasive answer. “Only you—GOD—know.” Talk about hedging your bets. OF COURSE dried bones cannot come back to life, and as Thomas Dozeman says in his commentary: “Yet by attempting to avoid the obvious, the prophet does indeed place the answer to the question where it should be, and that is with God, rather that ourselves. The remainder of the story is God’s surprising answer to the question.”

As God orders Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones; to call them back to life; and then to the wind to infuse God’s spirit into these newly formed beings, it becomes clear that GOD CAN DO THE IMPOSSIBLE.

I want to invite those who are doing the readings to come forward….

REGINA: There are many in our world today who have felt like the Hebrew people did in exile—lifeless, abandoned, and with little sign of hope. Let’s hear from some of them now.

KAREN: I am a child, afraid to go to school. I am stupid, they say. I can’t do anything right, they say. Even when I try it’s never good enough. I feel like giving up.

SHERRY: I am a young girl who lives in Thailand, My parents sent me to live in the city so I could make money to help support my family. But I am locked in a room, and I hardly ever get out, and I work 16 hours a day making toys for rich kids to play with. Sometimes I just with I could die.

MARK: I’m one of the lucky ones, I guess. I still have a job. But with the downsizing, I have to do the work of 3 people. I’m always tired. I hardly ever see my kids. I hate the job, but I’m afraid to leave it. I don’t know what else I could do.

TINA: I live in Kenya. Like other women here I work 18 hours a day, every day, cooking, getting water, caring for my children and our garden. I collect wood and feed the animals and mend clothes. Yet I am considered to be of no importance.

DENNIS: My people—the aboriginal people of this country—were promised lands in a treaty that was to last forever. Now some of those lands, and plants and animals, and the bones of our ancestors, are drowned under a lake for electric power to feed the big cities. Our rivers are polluted. Our fish are gone. We cannot wait for justice forever.

REBECCA: It’s so long ago, now. I was just a young Jewish child. My family herded into railway cars, separated forever, everyone I knew died in concentration camps. I don’t know how or why I was the one who survived. I have no family pictures to put on my walls. I only have memories of those I still miss.

LEADER: Where is God’s spirit in the midst of all this? How can God’s spirit breathe new life into these bones? God’s spirit DOES come…

KAREN: the Spirit is in my mother, who tells me every day she loves me and believes in me.

SHERRY: the Spirit is in the mission I hear about down the street. I know of 3 of us who have been rescued from this hard labor and are back with their families again.

MARK: The Spirit is in my wife and children. They keep my hopes up and tell me they’ll stick by me if I stay on this job, or if I do decide to leave it, or If I’m laid off. They love and support me no matter what.

TINA: The Spirit is in the women and elders around me who still find ways to laugh and sing together and create a feeling of community. It’s in the banker who gave a few of us a low interest loan to start our own business.

DENNIS: The Spirit is in every rock, tree, insect, bird, and animal. The Spirit cannot be contained or owned by anyone. The Spirit is everywhere, inside everyone, if only we could see.

REBECCA: The Spirit is in each lost soul, each hurt soul. The Spirit waits to be listened to and invited in. The Spirit breathes hope and healing and joy into all who seek God, the source of all life. The spirit speaks to me through the eyes of my grandchildren.

And; just so we all remember: Israel did go home! The temple was rebuilt, the city once again in the hands of the Hebrews. Babylon—the once victorious and strong and conquering nation was gone in 50 years.

AND, God’s spirit in these people came to full fruition at Pentecost, as another scared, uncertain, devastated Hebrew people faced impossible circumstances. While they had witnessed the miracle of the resurrection of the Messiah, they were a small, illiterate group of poor, overwhelmed outsiders. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit was power and promise for their work and witness!


God IS AT WORK here today—here AMONG us. Maybe our role is to sometimes be the prophet—empowering people with the hope and reality of God’s spirit; enabling dry dead beings to be turned into new people of God! Or maybe we are people who in some circumstance are tired, dry and brittle, overwhelmed, depressed frustrated or dead. Maybe WE OURSELVES are to respond to the seemingly impossible, the fresh wind of the spirit as is blows over us and in us, making us God’s OWN PEOPLE; empowered to be healed, reassured, renewed, resurrected. Knowing implicitly where we are to work and witness to the reign of God.


Let each of us go and live out our answers immersed, enlivened and redeemed by the Holy Spirit of God!



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