Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Revolting and Utterly Compelling

Passages for May 24. Ezekiel 37:1-14, Ps 104:24-35, Rom. 8:22-27, Acts 2:1-21, John 15:26-27, 16:4-15

Ezekiel is a dreamy guy. At least he has a lot of dreams. One of the most famous, (and famously disturbing for those of us with active imaginations), is the vision of a valley full of dry bones rattling back together, growing sinews and muscle, being clothed with skin, and finally breathing and walking around. Both ick and wow. The concept is both revolting and utterly compelling.

Of course, this is an impossible thing, it is not reality, it is a dream. But it is a dream theme that recurs often in the story of God's people. Death to life is the story of the exodus, of Joseph and his brothers, It is the story of Lazarus, (and other NT miracles). Most importantly, it is the story of Jesus, the story that we are invited to share in, live by, die by, and be reborn into.

The story of the dry bones invites us to believe that God can heal any situation, even crossing the boundaries of life and death.It's a great, vivid story, one that is preached and sung often in churches. Preached and sung, but not often believed or even hoped. It's one thing to talk about resurrection and new life, but it's another thing to allow room for it to happen in our own lives. Why is it so hard to believe that God enables anger to turn to understanding, that sorrow can become joy, that enemies can learn to care for each other?

Think about some of the places in your own life that are "dead". Relationships beyond healing, hurtful words spilled like milk, missed opportunities, regrets. These things don't rattle back together, grow new skin and live. And yet....if we are believers in an all powerful Creator, why do we despair? Why do we claim a saviour that has conquered death and yet doubt healing is possible? Why do we doubt that something can come back together?

Ezekiel's response to God's question; "can these bones live" is brilliant. He answers: "O Lord God , you know." In this, Ezekiel acknowledges his limitations. He is unable to believe they can live, but he is also unable to doubt God. He simply acknowledges his limitation, trusts God and obeys what he is called to do. When we look at situations that, in our understanding, are beyond healing, we do well to model our responses after Ezekiel's.

There are other bits in these passages to help underline this theme of submitting to and trusting God. Romans 8 encourages us to hope even when we can't see our way through or even manage to pray for ourselves. We are assured that God's spirit 'intercedes with sighs too deep for words." (v26) John 16 promises that this spirit, the advocate, will come and guide us to truth (16:13)

Ezekiel's dry bones vision is incredibly hopeful, it reminds us that we are not in control, we are not knowledgeable or powerful enough to say what God can or cannot do. At the same time that this is hopeful, I still find it frightening too. Even if those bones can come back together and live, then what? Relationships that heal still need a lot of hard work and tender care. It can be tiring. Enemies that learn to live side by side and share have to find new ways to negotiate and old patterns and culture have to be set aside. Doing things differently is hard work.This trusting in God and doing what we are called to do (even when we don't understand or see the hope) is difficult. We can take comfort in hearing that there is an advocate who understands and intercedes and remembering that it is God who breathes life where we know it is needed, but can't see the possibilities ourselves. That message is utterly compelling.

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