The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. 3 He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” 4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6 I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.”
7 So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8 I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. 9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” 10 I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.
11 Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. 14 I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord.”
Ezekiel 37: 1-14
“It could be worse!” What empty words of consolation. And how often we hear them when tragedy and disaster strike. To the family whose neighborhood is destroyed by a tornado – “Thank goodness you weren’t home.” To the father who loses his job when the company downsizes – “You should be glad to be out of there!”
To the accident victim who has lost a leg – “Be grateful you weren’t killed.” To the mother whose child dies in infancy – “Don’t worry. You can have another.”
What do we long to hear when the bottom falls out of our world. What words of compassion, understanding, and hope will revive our heart. Not, “It could be worse.” While these hollow words may come with good intentions, they do little to bring comfort. When devastation strikes, when suffering and pain overwhelm, when we find ourselves in the abyss of despondency and despair, what words can reanimate our souls?
Ezekiel finds himself in just such a situation. The worst has happened to the Jews. Their capital and temple have been destroyed. They have been captured and marched into Exile. They have been harangued by a procession of prophets who point out that this situation is all because of their own actions, and in particular the abandonment of their trust in the Lord. Their desperate and tragic circumstances have left them isolated, alone, without hope.
Ezekiel is taken to a valley of wall-to-wall dry bones. What more graphic image is there to illustrate the extinction of all life and hope. God instructs Ezekiel to prophesy to these long dead and desiccated skeletons. The vision, of course, is astounding, worthy of Hollywood. Ezekiel’s words and God’s Spirit produce the action. In this scene of resuscitation, Ezekiel proclaims the Word of God. “…I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them…I will put my Spirit in you and you will live…you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and will act.” God will do the unimaginable – restore life and hope, breathe His Spirit into not one or two, or a few, but to all the people, and return them home. Resurrection is bestowed upon all the bones, upon everyone in exile. There is no litmus test to qualify, but rather the generosity of God and the proclamations of Ezekiel that do the trick.
Into conditions of devastation and hopelessness, the voice of God doesn’t beat around the bush. For God there is no such thing as being too far gone. No situation in which he is not present. No circumstance that is beyond saving. Into the despair after the burial of Jesus, the messenger declares, “He is not here.” As Paul puts is, “…neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
As our Easter morning dawns, what will be our message? Will we, like Ezekiel, speak the Word of God into a fractured and disillusioned world? What words will we say into the darkness, against the anger, to the destitute, for the oppressed, through the noise, after a dying? And to whom will we speak?
“Nothing can separate us…..”
“There is life and hope for all…..”
Hallelujah! The Lord is risen. He is risen, indeed. Amen.
In that spirit, let us pray together…
Life giving and life renewing Creator, on this day during which we celebrate the risen life of your Son let us remember that we have been called share this renewing message with your world. Walk with us, be present with us, as we endeavor to share this Easter life and hope with all whom we meet. Amen.
Nathan L. Taylor is a second year student at Union Presbyterian Seminary and Director of Youth Ministries at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Richmond, Virginia. Nate is passionate about ministry with youth and young adults, both in the parish and at camp. He focuses on showing the relevance and sometimes radical-ness of scripture, encouraging authentic discipleship, and sharing stories of faith.
Dr. Anne J. Logan is a member of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Ivy, Virginia, where she has been especially engaged in Adult Education and Bible Study.