Saturday, May 06, 2006

Ezekiel 37 blog the third

Okay, a couple things! First, currently we're in Lectionary Year B and this is a Year A lection; then, we're celebrating the season of Easter and this belongs with the Lent 5 pericopes, but what an outstanding opportunity to have an Ezekiel 37 blog the third on this site, so here it is.
Ezekiel 37:1-14 | two different versions of the text: in Ezekiel 37 blog the first and in Ezekiel 37 blog the second

Spirited Bones


From all the ends of the earth, come to us, Breath of God; Breathing Life of the Divine, descend upon your people and let us live again! In the Name of the One Spirit-sent to carry new life to the entire world, Christ Jesus, Amen!

Once again we've heard that wonderful "Dry Bones" passage from Ezekiel, one of the prophets of Israel's exile. How how long had these bones been in this valley? How had these people died? Had someone killed them, did they die of natural causes or did they die for lack of community or because of grief over other deaths and losses? And why hadn't they been buried? The text doesn't reply directly to those questions, but it does suggest an answer. This Ezekiel is one of the prophets of Babylonian exile; in order to communicate with Ezekiel the messenger of God, just as The Message version of the bible says, God's Spirit grabbed Ezekiel and carried him to the valley of dry bones. It looks as if this entire scenario was God's idea, but what was Ezekiel's role in the story? First, God initiates conversation with the human Ezekiel and addresses him with a generic name, son of man, or human—as opposed to the divine name. Exactly like Moses, the prototype prophet, that archetype human speaker of the Word of God, Ezekiel the prophet converses with God. How about us?

God commands Ezekiel, the human one - "Son of man" - to speak a word of life—actually to speak a Word from God and the Word of God! Later on, in the New Covenant Scriptures we meet another Son of Man, another Human One—Jesus of Nazareth, who lives a Word of Life in the world and to the world as well as in and to each of us. But now we, the Church, have become the body of the Risen Jesus Christ, so how does the human gathering of the church speak God's Word? How do we speak a divine Word of Life? Or, does the church speak the Word of God; do we actually and actively speak a Word from God? Or, if the answer is "yes," is that task reserved for the person in the pulpit?

Ezekiel reports he prophesied as commanded. Sometimes we casually refer to foretelling future happenings as prophecy, but Hebrew scripture differentiates between prophet and seer: they are two separate and different words. A seer foresees an event before it happens, while the classic prophet speaks truth to power, literally against the king! You can make the case a prophet stirs things up to let in air and light so the situation can breathe again and return to life. We've met Jesus Christ as Prophet, King and Priest; in his prophetic role he spoke tons of truth to political and ecclesiastical powers-that-were, shattering their life-denying, deathly assumptions and behaviors and letting in the Spirit's cleansing wind and purifying fire. Baptized into Christ Jesus, each of us assumes parallel roles to Jesus' calls as priest, sovereign and prophet. That being so, what is our prophetic job as Christians?

God gave Ezekiel instructions for "raising the dead." Obediently, Ezekiel followed God's orders and spoke a Word of Life with results humanly incredible to people and communities who themselves haven't experienced the Spirit of the Living God. How about us? Too often in the church we get to arguing about points of doctrine or theology, most of which are little more than human speculations and constructs. But unmistakably God calls us to obedience, the obedience which probably should be our larger, more constant concern. In obedience, Ezekiel spoke the word that made the dry bones return to life, to get re-fleshed and again to breathe. Remember, those bones had belonged to live people before and now again the bones lived! Obedience? God's prophetic call to us? How about our speaking words that restore life to each other, to our neighborhoods, families and to the world? Raising our dead? We have been baptized into covenantal community, with its frightening and assuring demands of mutual accountability and inter-responsibility; we live and we breathe in the image of the God who covenants. In this passage from Ezekiel of the Babylonian exile [verses 5, 6, 14] "Breathe life - or Spirit - into you," is covenantal language! God of the covenants—what other biblical covenants can you recall?

This celebrated section of scripture [Verses 11-14] grounds Ezekiel's prophetic activity in historical context, citing the house or people of Israel and the physical land of Israel. However, this text is renowned for applying to almost everyone everywhere in a multitude of circumstances. How about us? Dry bones? Are we currently alive in the right here and right now, or do we confess to passive existence as dead bodies that once were alive, or at least more alive than we are right now? Does this church, your neighborhood, or any of the groups any of us belong to require a revival?

Human ones cannot single-handedly create new political, spiritual, ethnic or ecclesiastical life, because resurrection is something only God can perform; people and institutions will rise up out of their deaths as the Spirit of God restores them and returns them to a space and place where they can thrive. However, in the scripture passage we heard we can see the role of Ezekiel, "the human one," in helping God's promise come true. How about us, we "human ones" obeying God's command to assist God's promise of new life out of death's dry bones come true—literally come back to life? God loves digging up graves and bringing forth new people and new life; God's primary passion is resurrection! By the Spirit of the living God and of the Christ, dry bones can live again. We're getting closer to Easter now; how does the story of Ezekiel in the valley of dead bones begin preparing us for the surprise of Easter?

The Word of Life,

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