SCRIPTURES – Ezekiel 37:1-14; Romans 8:1-11;
John 11:1-53; Ps. 116
God said to me, “Son of man,
can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord, God, you know.” Then He said to me,
“Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the
Lord.’ ” Ezekiel 37
You know, sometimes we know things so well
that we pay little attention to them; until we find out we are mistaken. For example,
we know that Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves, right? His Emancipation Proclamation
of Jan. 1, 1863, declared them free! Well, not exactly. Did you know that in
the Emancipation Proclamation Lincoln only declared free the slaves who lived
in states, or areas of states, that were in rebellion? Slaves who lived in the
border states of Kentucky and Maryland and Missouri and Delaware were left in
slavery. Who knew?
Or, take today’s reading from Ezekiel 37.
Dried out and scattered bones come together, are covered with sinews and flesh
and filled with breath, and so become living people. What an amazing picture of
the resurrection from the dead! Except, this reading actually has nothing to do
with the resurrection of the dead. It’s about the resurrection of the nation of
Israel, which had been conquered, with its cities destroyed and it people
carried off. So, the old song “Dem Bones” uses this Scripture incorrectly!
Is it possible that you could have the wrong
idea about the Church; about our church, our congregation? Well, just consider:
why does the church – a congregation of people – exist? Various reasons can be
church exists to do good works, such as helping the poor and disadvan-taged. We
do, of course, do such things. Don’t we have a 40 Cans For Lent food drive going on right now? It is good to do
such things. But, you don’t need to belong to a church to do such things. The
Red Cross, or Person to Person in Norwalk, does an excellent job of helping
church exists to provide good moral training and support, for kids especially
but also for adults. Yes, it does, and this is good and important in our
society, which is increasingly uncertain as to what is moral and what is not,
what is right and what is wrong. God’s Ten Commandments tell us how to live to
honor God and help others. They are clear and straightforward moral teaching.
But, isn’t the home the main place where good morals are taught? The church can
only reinforce this. If right and wrong aren’t taught in the home, the
congregation will have little success in doing so.
church is a place to meet on Sunday to get your head on straight, feel good
about yourself, and start the week off right. This, of course, can happen. But,
a round of golf or a ball game or a good movie or a nice walk may result in
Good works; good moral teaching and training; good feelings — these are
all good things. But, they are not the main thing, the main reason we have a
church. Not by a long shot!
“I am the resurrection and the life,” Jesus declares. “Whoever believes in me, though
he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall
never die.” Life: eternal life in heaven, of course; but also, a
confident and hope-filled life right now; this is what Jesus Christ is all
about. And, His Church? “Prophesy to the breath,” God
commands Ezekiel. “Prophesy, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the
four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” The
Church, Martin Luther says, is a “mouth house.” It is God’s mouth through which
the Holy Spirit speaks God’s words and gives Christ’s life. Life with God in
Christ, given through God’s words: this is what the Church is all about. This
is what His Church offers.
“Son of man, can these bones live?” God asks Ezekiel as he stares upon the dry
and scattered bones of a dead nation. It’s a question that could be asked of
our congregation. “Can these bones live?” Joe Wash asked this of you in a letter
he wrote that was included in our April Parishscope. I hope you have read it.
As a former congregational President, Elder, and servant on other Boards, Joe
is asking for your input on what can be done to turn around the decline we have
been experiencing and bring life to these bones. I hope you read his letter and
give it serious thought.
As you do, keep God’s words to Ezekiel foremost
in your minds: “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the
word of the Lord.’ ” God’s words are our life, for they hold before us
Christ and give us His life. The Church exists above all to proclaim God’s
words of life in Christ, to breathe them on those who have been slain and are
dead in their sins and so breathe into them life in Christ.
And, this is the word that Christ’s Church
proclaims: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he
die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never
die. Do you believe this?” Notice: Jesus doesn’t ask, “Do you believe?”
“Do you believe this?” This: that life has a place, a
location. It is in Jesus. It is there, because only He took our sins upon
Himself and bore their death and punishment for us. It is there, because only
Jesus rose from the dead to bring forth a new life for us all. Where Jesus is, there is life: the blessing
of eternal life lived in God’s favor and the blessing of that life in our lives
here and now. Where Jesus is not, there is nothing but sin and death under
Jesus is in God’s words. Many of the things
the Church offers – good works, good moral teaching and training; good feelings
– can be found elsewhere in this world, and often in more effective and
interesting and exciting ways. But, eternal life with God in Jesus; eternal
life that fills us and blesses us and renews us in this life; eternal life that
is yours through the forgiveness of your sins, a forgiveness so complete that “there
is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1); this
can be found only in the words of Christ which His Church breathes out and
I pray that you know this and believe this.
I also pray that you show this in your words and actions: in your seeking of
God’s words, hearing of God’s words, sharing of God’s words, and living of
God’s words. I also pray that you have the guts to say to those who so often
choose to stay at home and ignore this more than, “You missed a good Service today,” but to say, “You are missing out on life with Christ!” For then, you will not
be dry bones. You will be Christ’s living believers, people who have His Spirit
living in you, giving life to your mortal bodies and breathing out that life to
“Son of man, can these bones live?” Yes! As the Word of God is heard and
believed, the Spirit of life in Christ is received. And, God raises up as a
mighty army, His mighty believers in Christ!