by Rev. Peter Karanja
April 3, 2022
Video of entire service: https://www.facebook.com/hanscomparkchurch/videos/2782450518723278
Scripture: Ezekiel 37:1-14
It is the fifth Sunday of Lent – a time for restoration before we usher in Palm Sunday – a day of triumphal entry of our messiah Jesus who delivered us from the power of darkness. When I was writing this sermon on restoration, I couldn’t help but think about these two big events: Halloween and Día de Muertos – the day of the dead. Last year it was my very first time to really celebrate the Halloween holiday in depth.
I remember going to stores like Spirit Halloween in a costume hunt. I would walk from one aisle to another trying different witch hats and many others. The costume that caught my taste was of all the costumes in this huge Halloween store was this big Plastic Religious Gold Cross necklace. I bet that tells you of my personality and profession. It was later on in my second costume hunt that I stumbled on a Batman costume in a dollar shop. So in the end my Halloween costume was that of an Apostle-Batman.
These two festivals, Halloween and Día de Muertos I learned they are popular here in the US and in South America. They both focus on death and connection of the afterlife in unique ways.
I find it fascinating how Día de Muertos – the day of the dead in Mexico rather than being treated with darkness and frightening. It is largely about laughing in the face of death, as represented by the skulls and skeletons. And though it is about remembering lost loved ones, the holiday is more a time to celebrate their memories than to mourn their loss.
One might think Africa, particularly in Kenya where I grew up being the cradle of humankind given the fact it has one of the oldest human remains that goes way back to 7 million years ago would be one of the countries to celebrate the day of the dead but that is not the case. I can imagine just the thought of me just trying to explain Halloween to my parents, friends and neighbors will be like narrating a horror story or a movie.
It would be like a taboo for me to carry some of the spooky Halloween costumes back to Kenya. People won’t take it lightly and if by any chance people know that I have a version of a skeleton or a skull in my room or in my closet I would be in trouble.
If I were to set up the Halloween decorations in my backyard, I would have alienated myself from the rest of the community and anything bad that might happen in my community that is beyond reason I might be a target. And this is because bones, especially human bones or anything spooky like a skull costume are perceived as a bad omen or a sign of danger and death that is never welcomed.
The view of the human remains or just thinking of it would bring chills to people.
Just like the chills people get here in the midwest at the glance or a look of once green grass now completely withered during Winter. The freezing cold Winter season brings the ugliness of the landscape, all the grass withers, the pond water get frozen and the poor trees get stripped away of their beauty; they shedding off their all leaves and beautiful flowers and only bare branches are left standing that gets easily broken by the weight of the snow and get scattered and by the winds.
Winter can indeed be a hard time for vegetation as they have to hibernate through a tough season of coldness in order to flourish come Spring.
In our today’s readings; we encounter prophet Ezekiel who gets this extraordinary vision that is not friendly but very spooky of a valley of dry bones. Ezekiel as a prophet the spirit of God comes upon him and he finds himself carried away and deposited in a valley where he sees masses of dry bones piled together. The bones are so numerous that it is even hard for him to keep away from stepping on them, and they are so dry that they are almost crumbling.
I can imagine as Ezekiel looks into the skulls and the eye sockets staring at him, and the protruding sharp broken ribs bones that could easily injure him, then the Lord asks Ezekiel, “Can these bones live?”
The horrific memories of the ruthless Babylonian soldiers on their horseback smiting unarmed innocent people and the suffering they were enduring would tell him no but he remembers to whom he was speaking to, the God who can make all things possible, and so he answers, “O God, you know.”
Then God tells Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones. And there the dem bones begin to find each other. The head bones begin to connect to the neck bone and the neck bone to the shoulder bone…and so forth. What a scene! The bones were coming alive.
We all don’t like to be in the valley of dry bones. It brings chills to us and we begin to have doubts in God’s providence and care. The dry bones is that hopelessness we might feel today as people, in the midst of wars on innocent people, the pain, the injustices, suffering and even in the face of death. But this is where God comes in because as children of God we are never alone even in the midst of hardships and challenges.
Today’s word challenges us to trust God’s power of restoration. Just like Yahweh had made a covenant with people of Israel to redeem them from their captivity.
So is God today redeeming and restoring us as people of faith? Yes, we might walk through the valley of the dry bones, and in the shadow of death but we shall not fear for God is always with us.
Thanks be to God. Amen!
“How Kenya Became the Cradle of Humankind – Google Arts & Culture.” Accessed April 3, 2022. https://artsandculture.google.com/story/how-kenya-became-the-cradle-of-humankind/FAJCf9Oq7jWqIA.
“No, Día de los Muertos isn’t ‘Mexican Halloween’ – USA Today.” 30 Oct. 2017, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2017/10/30/no-dia-de-los-muertos-isnt-mexican-halloween/762225001/. Accessed 3 Apr. 2022.
- What do we learn about God’s relationship with humankind in the Ezekiel passage? What might this teach us about how God relates to us?
- Ezekiel 37:3 – He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.” What does God ask Ezekiel? If anyone else had asked Ezekiel that question how would he have responded?
- What are the social,economic, and ethical implications of Ezekiel’s vision of “Dry Bones” to our communities’ conditions?