I hope that you are well and safe. I know that is not the case for many of you. Please reach out to us and let us know how we can support you and continue to hold you in prayer. By emailing firstname.lastname@example.org you can get added to our prayer list and be held in prayer by our wider community as well. We have so much happening right now in the life of the church that we want to make you aware of. YASS Happy Hour is tonight at 6pm, Children’s Worship and Adult Worship is at 11am on Sunday, and also on Sunday at 7pm is YASS Netflix Party. We hope you will join us for all of our wonderful programming. Just a quick note: Children’s worship on Zoom is interactive; however, the zoom link for the other worship is audio only. Finally, for those that are able, we also need in-person volunteers to help with our Saturday Community Lunch Program. Email Stephanie Wilson for more information. Friends, I hope you see that just because our doors are closed for the safety and well-being of our community does not mean that the call to serve and gather has left us. God is with us in all we do-no matter where or how.
This week’s scripture is one of those passages that we could preach on for months. There are such rich descriptions and faithful calls to action, both communally and personally, that you will want to read this again and again. And it is a very timely text for us in this world. I imagine most of you are staying home caring for yourself in new and unexpected ways. If you are anything like me, you have caught yourself doing some unexpected things. Maybe a closet got finally cleaned, perhaps you found an earring you thought you had lost, or possibly you discovered a new author to love. These times of solitude are prayerful and can sometimes be just what you need to listen to God in a new way. That is one of the through lines in today’s scripture from Ezekiel. Let’s read together this week’s passage and listen for our still speaking God.
1 The hand of God was upon me, and it carried me away by the Spirit of God and set me down in a valley—a valley full of bones. 2 God made me walk up and down among them. And I saw that there was a vast number of bones lying there in the valley, and they were very dry. 3 God asked me, “Mere mortal, can these bones live?”
I answered, “Only you know that, Sovereign God.”
4 And God said, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: ‘Dry bones, hear the word of God! 5 Sovereign God says to these bones: I am going to breathe life into you. 6 I will fasten sinews on you, clothe you with flesh, cover you with skin, and give you breath. And you will live; and you will know that I am Sovereign God.’”
7 So I prophesied as I was commanded, and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and all the bones came together, bone to matching bone. 8 As I watched, sinews appeared on them, flesh clothed them, and skin covered them. But there was no breath in them.
9 Then God said to me, “Prophesy to the wind; prophesy, mere mortal, and say to it: ‘Thus says Sovereign God: Approach from the four winds, Breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.’”
10 I prophesied as I was commanded, and breath came into them; they came alive, and stood up on their feet—a vast multitude.
11 Then God said to me, “Mere mortal, these bones are the whole House of Israel. The people keep saying, ‘Our bones are dry, our hope is gone, and we are doomed.’ 12 Prophesy, therefore, and say to them, ‘Thus says Sovereign God : I am going to open your graves and raise you up from the dead, my people. I will return you to the land of Israel. 13 When I open your graves and raise you up, you, my people, will know that I am God. 14 Then I will put my Spirit into you, and you will return to life, and I will settle you back on your own land. Then you will know that I, God, have spoken and made all this happen, says Sovereign God.’”
Do you see what I mean about the text being so rich with imagery? If you haven’t read the book of Ezekiel, might I suggest it during this time of social distancing. It is incredible. But this passage in particular is probably one of the more well-known passages from this book. Why do you think that is? Dr. Lee H. Butler Jr. says this “text identifies the contention of the people and God’s ability to restore life.” Ezekiel is one of our major prophets and their writing sets up the reader to accept change when God is the agent of that change. This is obviously a helpful tool for us now and was also lauded amongst the Jewish people and early Christians. This text helps us believe in the unbelievable, hope for things not yet come, and have faith that God is always at work. I hope that during this time that brings you a bit of comfort.
But I want to bring your attention quickly to one word in the text that Rev. Laura Phillips pointed out to me once, and now always gets me, “rattling.” In this text the rattling is the moment of God at work before we can name what is happening. Rattling means something holy-perceivable is happening- God is showing up in a new way. This text for me this week has been really helpful. Walking around my home I see a lot of dry bones. Gifts for cancelled birthday parties, empty cans of water at my in-home office, an iPad in the living room- out of place- because I wanted to change the location of my latest zoom call. Dry bones of the things not yet done. Dry bones of too much to do. Dry bones of a life outside these walls. And yet…
And yet as I walk through my own valley of dry bones, I feel the rattling. God is working in me. A dry bone of our YASS gatherings is met with the rattling and subsequent creation of YASS Happy Hour. A dry bone of my favorite worship outfit gone unworn, is met with the rattling of online worship. A dry bone of loneliness is met with the rattling of a buzzing phone with a call from a friend.
Friends, what is rattling in you? What is God doing that you can feel but maybe not see yet? What do you need to do to pay attention to that rattling? What dry bone is God calling you to prophesy to so that you can do something new together? God is calling you to resurrection, will you answer?
A quick prayer for your week: God, help me listen to the spaces where you are rattling me alive. Amen
The picture that you see here is the illustration from the Bible story that I had planned to read with the Sunday school children last Sunday. (Matthew 9: Healing Jairus’ Daughter). Sadly, I didn’t get to read that story with them, due to technical glitches around the Zoom Meeting. I am working with Stephanie Wilson to resolve those issues, so, will plan to share this wonderful story (along with songs, prayers; the whole children’s liturgy) with our Sunday school community this coming Sunday, March 29th.
As I write this, there’s cold sleet coming down outside. I am thankful to be warm and safe (and healthy) in our apartment, with my wife, Lynn, and our cats, Gracie, Daphne, and George. My heart, hopes and prayers are with all of the members of this church community, as we strive to stay faithfully together in spirit, even while physically apart.
Blessings and well wishes as always,
Rev. Francesca Maria (Miriam): Children’s Minister