Sermon for March 26, 2023               Fifth of Lent                 “You Shall Live”

And God took Ezekiel to a vast plain and before them were dry bones. As far as they could see, dry bones. I expect Ezekiel wanted to ask; why this sight, is this our future, is this what waits for us? As it is presented as a vision or dream, I am sure that the dream interpreters would have plenty to say, but that is not for today.

God asked; Can these bones live? The text does not tell us what exactly went through Ezekiel’s mind but I do wonder if there was a smart-alec remark on the tip of his tongue and at exactly the same time the thought, better behave while standing beside God.

What is remarkable about this story, apart from the fact that all the bones were reconnected and then came to life, is that it is about community. In times that are increasingly individualistic, all about me, all about my perceived rights, this is a story about all of us, not a one left behind or left out. Say the words Ezekiel and this community will live. He did and not only did they live but they received the Spirit’s breath and lived with shared gratitude and joy.

I wonder what would happen or how we would react if we heard those words today? The dry bones may just be an analogy for areas of our lives that have become dormant. Can we believe that the Spirit’s breath can touch our heart and soul and give us more life, or our community and bring life?

The biblical scholar Veronice Miles comments on the Lazarus text by saying in part; “The tension between the hope of resurrection and the finality of death is palpable during this season of intense personal and communal reflection. Amid painful circumstance and death-dealing social realities, we yearn for resurrection and the unbinding that releases us to dream beyond the boundaries and experience life anew. To dream beyond the boundaries is to imagine a world in which wholeness, well-being, health and prosperity (for all) are normative expressions of human existence and to partner with the God of life in making that dream a reality. It is to recognize that our world is not as it should be, while rejecting assertions that the socio-religious structures that prevent persons from experiencing God’s presence in their lives are impervious to change…that we need god’s presence in the newness of our existence”.

This interpretation impacts the duel or multiple roles that we live out of our faith stance. Yes there is the ongoing and newness to our personal commitment to being a believer in Jesus. I expect that as we look back there are elements of our belief that have changed, even dramatically during our life. The spirit is at work continually unbinding us and opening us to newness. There is the role of stewards of this church. Its maintenance and function. And there too we are open to new ideas of how this space can continue to serve the mission of Jesus in this place.

This teaching reminds us that even the greatest obstacles we face are not that way for Jesus. It is interesting that two of the key aspects of faith is prayer and faith. Imagine what Jesus is calling you and us to, imagine the outcome, the steps to get there and what it looks like when you arrive. Faith and belief. When sport took that on as a way to train athletes to imagine an outcome, the church bailed on what was theirs. We explained it by saying that is a ‘sport thing’. We abandoned the foundational piece that moves us forward…faith and belief. Of all the lessons this teaching has for us, and there are many, let us reclaim the faith and belief that with Jesus all things are possible. Yes, there will be obstacles and challenges, and yes we will be given the strength, meekness, faith and wisdom to overcome. Even the death of Lazarus was a teaching moment. A reminder that from the ashes that seem to be gathering around us, new life will spring forth. We as a church are not what we were decades ago and in the decades to come we will look different. What remains is faith. Faith so huge as a mustard seed, that dry bones will live, that Lazarus will live, that we will live.