Scripture: Ezekiel 37:1-14
I find it interesting that our passage today falls where it does in the season of lent. I mean, we are two weeks away from Easter and the church year gives us a passage about resurrection? Should we not, like, should we not have saved this text, maybe, for Easter Sunday? Since, spoiler alert, Easter is about resurrection? But then I remember, Lent is so long. Lent is long, and the last leg of almost anything is always the toughest. Lent is long, and we need reminders of resurrection, lights along the path, to help us keep going. Your know, I think our passage from the book of Ezekiel, comes at just the right time.
In Ezekiel chapter 37 we encounter the prophet, Ezekiel, receiving a vision from God. In this vision, God places Ezekiel in the midst of a valley filled with dry bones. And not just a couple of dry bones, but what I picture as dry bones stretching to the horizon. In the Hebrew it is emphasized even more, so many dry bones. God asks Ezekiel, can these dry bones live? And Ezekiel replies, only you know. Then God gives Ezekiel instruction to prophesy, to the tell the bones that God will put breath in them, bring them together again, and cover them in flesh. God even gives Ezekiel instruction to prophesy, to tell the breath itself that God calls it to fill these bodies and let them live. And so, sinew by sinew, bone by bone, piece by piece, the valley of dry bones comes to life. God tells Ezekiel these bones are in fact all of the Israelites who feel hopeless and cut off. But hope has not died. They are not cut off. The Israelites will live and God will plant them in the land so they can flourish and blossom like a garden.
This passage comes at just the right time, giving us permission and a tangible vision of hope. It gives us permission to take one day at a time. It gives us permission to have our own resurrection journeys. The bones in the valley didn’t pop up and become bodies all at once and start dancing. They came back together sinew by sinew, bone by bone, piece by piece. For some of us, resurrection might feel like Jesus’s. A time of darkness followed by a sudden transformation. But I know for me, resurrection feels more like these dry bones. We notice little glimmers, individual fragments of a healthier whole. And over time, bit by bit, those glimmers and fragments come together. Bone by bone our life fills in with peace, patience, forgiveness, joy, and love. Piece by piece by sometimes painstaking piece, God brings resurrection.
This passage also gives us a tangible vision of hope. If you were to flip open your bible, one of the most common editorial titles for this section is “The Valley of Dry Bones.” Sure, not inaccurate. But it is so much more than that. The author of Ezekiel gives us these beautiful images, these striking metaphors for what it looks like and feels like when God brings us back to life. “You will live again…I am opening your graves! I will raise you up from your graves…I open your graves and raise you up from your graves…you will live. I will plant you on your fertile land.” God pries open the lids of whatever graves we find ourselves in, anxiety, addictions, bitterness, jealousy, numbing, fear, and lets grace flow in. God then raises us from those graves, lifting us from the dried up depths were we thought hope had died, to plant us a new. To plant us in fertile soil so we can blossom and grow. From hopeless dried up bones into abundant flourishing. From graves into gardens.
This passage comes at just the right time because this, this is how and why we can journey through lent with such courage and vulnerability. We can take an honest look at our lives, without shame or judgement, we can take an honest look at our lives, acknowledge the graves in which we find ourselves, recognize the things we need to release and the burdens we need to set down. We can take an honest look at our lives because we know those graves and dry bones don’t get the last word.
This passage comes at just the right time, because, we could use a little hope. These past few weeks, for our city, our state, for individual lives, well, they’ve been a heck of a couple weeks. People feel overwhelmed. Loved ones, neighbors, and friends have passed away. People’s health have take a turn for the worse. Families are struggling. And we’ve come to a place of such hateful division around certain issues, that people send death threats to strangers. On Monday I just thought, how appropriate that the dry bones scripture would come right now. And then I thought, how appropriate that the dry bones scripture would come right now. Because while it is about the dry bones, it also isn’t. The dry bones are a real part of the story but the good news is, they aren’t the whole story for the Israelites or for us. So if you watch the news and feel like hope has perished. If you feel dried up, cut off, completely done, just know that God is not done with you yet and God is not done with this world yet. Even if it may not feel like it right now, God turns graves into gardens and brings beautiful things out of the dust. Piece by piece, God can raise us from whatever graves we find ourselves in. Piece by piece, God will raise you too.