Sermon – 04-02-17 – Lent V – Cycle A
Scriptures: Ezekiel 37: 1-14; Psalm 130; Romans 8:6-11; John 11:1-45
Sermon Title: “To Live Again”
The field is full of loose bones. See them? While we are watching, the bones start to move. They start to dance. They begin to come together. They become connected with sinews and flesh – muscles and skin. Then they were really alive, really dancing. “Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones … Ezekiel saw dem dry bones. Now hear the word of the Lord.”
Give yourselves a treat and search for “dry bones/muffinsongs” on your search engine.
There is another video where three skeletons do a great choreographed dance while someone sings the song again without the biblical reference. The world knows about the dry bone idea. The world does not know about Ezekiel the prophet who spoke God’s word and Spirit into those bones. The world does not know that this vision which God gave to Ezekiel is a message to the people in exile, in captivity in Babylon, while their temple in Jerusalem is destroyed by intruders.
We know that God engineers these punishments to give his people messages, to give them orders. God has reason to be quite irate with his people. These descendants of the Israelites, who were led by Moses, have not really gotten the message yet, as in “Oh, I get it!” No, even today, we who are descended from Gentile heritage but brought into the kingdom of God, have not gotten the message thoroughly either. We find other gods – think possessions; think power; think pride in ourselves!
I just saw a video of depression and anger and loss of self-control because of our current political state. Our reaction is all about pride, power, possessions. We see these attitudes and therefore actions at the highest government level; we carry these attitudes with us naturally. They are the sin in us. But our sin does not need to be the ruler of our lives. We can overcome. Our sins of pride, power, and possessions can be removed; can be overcome. It is a personal relationship with God that will lead us in a wonderful direction – that of selflessness, contentment, humility.
Picture ourselves having our bones separated, lying in a field, all because we let pride, power, and possessions overcome us. We walked away from God. God demands our faces, not the backs of our heads. We cannot be the persons God planned for us to be if our dry bones are scattered in a field. But wait! I hear a voice. The voice is the prophet Ezekiel calling from ages past saying what God is telling him to say. “Dry bones, listen to what the Lord is saying to you. I, the Lord God, will put breath in you, and once again you will live. I will wrap you with muscles and skin and breathe life into you. Then you will know that I am the Lord.” Ezekiel is not finished. He says “I see the bones coming together and the muscle and the skin but they have no life in them. Again speaking for the Lord, Ezekiel says to the wind, “The Lord God commands you to blow from every direction and to breathe life into these dead bodies, so they can live again.”
This wind is the Spirit of God blowing on our bones, breathing life into us. Are we ready? Are we ready to live? Are we ready to give our lives to God, to seek God’s will and live it? To let go of our lives? Do you know that when we do things of our own will and desire, it does not work? There is always something askew, it does not quite fit – like struggling to place the wrong lid on a container. Or it could be much worse. We could find ourselves in Babylonian-like captivity such as the Israelites are at the time of Ezekiel. What is Babylonian-like captivity?
Well, we could find ourselves in prison – the kind with bars and loud-clanging doors and scowling faces. Or we could find ourselves in the captivity of addiction. We could find ourselves alienated from relatives or close family. Where are our faces? Where is the kernel of kindness waiting to spring forth?
How do we turn around? How do we repent before this Almighty God? We take courage in hand, we say good-by to desperation because even though our lives may not change immediately, God helps us to endure, God guides us through the maze, God’s arms are around us. God re-plants truth into our souls; truth and righteousness. God holds our gaze with his gaze. We are returned to the fold even though our circumstances are irritatingly slow to turn around. We see light instead of darkness. Our bodies seem to be working in a connected fashion no matter what health condition is our lot.
When once we cried to the Lord from the depths, “My soul waits for the Lord more than those who keep watch for the morning,” we now feel that breath-giving Spirit of the Lord!
The Gospel for this day shares the account of Lazarus, close friend of Jesus, sister of Mary and Martha. Lazarus is dead. His bones are not yet dry. Lazarus stinks because he has been dead four days. He is in a tomb. Lazarus did not die because he sinned. Lazarus did not turn his back on God. The account does not go that way. Sometimes God lets death happen to let the glory of God arrive on the scene. Seems sad and wrong but it is really glorious and right. Jesus is continuing in the effort to convince people that He truly is the Son of God. Jesus is not just a prophet. Jesus is one of the vital three persons of God. Three persons form God – one God: Father, Son, Holy Spirit.
Jesus is not hard-hearted. He loves Lazarus. He cries. So, here we go. Jesus lets out a loud shout! “Lazarus, come out!” Lo and behold, out walks Lazarus to be alive again until it is really time for him to die.
Have you heard the call? Have you heard the call, “Come out!” Maybe we have become nonchalant, not really sinning but not pulling our weight in the kingdom on earth. “Come out,” we hear the call. “Come out to what?” we ask as we straighten ourselves, our bones. Then we hear God inviting, “There is excitement in the kingdom! You have talents you are not using! Come out of your lethargy. Apply yourself. Live again, really live!” We shall live for and to the glory of God!”
Almighty God, your Son came into the world to free us all from sin and death. Breathe upon us the power of your Spirit, that we may be raised to new life in Christ and serve you in righteousness all our days, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen