First of all let’s take a look at the background for the reading from Ezekiel.
God had called His people, the Jews, out of captivity in Egypt. For over 100 years, they had been in Egyptian captivity. God brought them into the Promised Land, and gave them a land and a King, and made them a nation. But they turned against God, and God allowed them to go into captivity once again.
Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian army invaded Israel. They had reduced Solomon’s Temple to ashes, and had taken many of the Jewish people back to Babylon as captives. This is the condition that Ezekiel is in. The nation of Israel is dead but God has a vision for Ezekiel.
37:1-2 – Ezekiel is carried to a valley full of very dry bones. These bones have been scattered everywhere by the wild animals so that there is nothing but miscellaneous bones as far as the eye can see.
For Ezekiel, this was a vision of the nation of Israel – there was no way that Israel could get itself out of Babylonian captivity. They were like these dead, dry bones … in a graveyard … in a hopeless situation.
I have no doubt that we have all been there at some point in our lives. Some times when we look around things may seem pretty hopeless, as if everything has gone wrong. We see ourselves in a valley of dead, dry bones.
So Ezekiel is looking at millions of dead, dry bones … scattered about 100’s of square miles and God asks him, “Can these bones live?” How would we answer that question?
When we look at a situation and all we see is a valley of dead, dry bones … we really don’t see much hope. It’s hard to imagine those dead, dry bones having life. It’s hard to imagine the situation ever getting better.
Israel has been taken captive by Babylon … Ezekiel can’t see much hope for his people but he answers God’s question:
“Can these bones live?” “I don’t see how … if they do, it will be up to You, Lord!”
Ezekiel is telling God that He is in charge. God can do whatever He wants to do, nothing is impossible. If God wants these dead, dry bones to live, they’ll live!
This is Pentecost Sunday when we celebrate the birth of the church so, let’s look at the life of the church today. What kind of bones do we see in the Church today?
1.- The Tailbone Christian – Who just sits, and lets everybody else do the ministry in the church.
“Can these bones live?” Yes, as soon as they get off their tailbones!
2.- The Fingerbone Christian – always pointing their finger at everybody else, not taking responsibility for their own actions. They blame everybody else for the circumstances they find themselves in.
“Can these bones live?” Yes, as soon as they see that they are reaping what they have sown.
3.- The Jawbone Christian – who puts his mouth into motion before his brain is in gear, who spreads gossip, who intentionally causes trouble by stirring up strife.
“Can these bones live?” Yes, when they snatch their tongue from the Devil, and give it to the Holy Spirit.
4.- The Hipbone Christian – Who sits on his wallet every Sunday when the offering plate is passed.
“Can these bones live?” Yes, when the heart is converted, the wallet will be converted too.
5.- The Drybone Christian – Whose Christian life has withered up, because he/she isn’t in the Word of God.
“Can these bones live?” Yes, when we immerse ourselves into the God’s Word.
6.- The Wishbone Christian – We still keep the Christmas turkey wishbone for our kids to pull. Whoever gets the bigger piece, has their wish was granted (supposedly). For some of us, that describes our prayer life … gimme, gimme, gimme. We come to God with our “wish list”
“Can these bones live?” Yes, when we realize that prayer is a relationship with God that involves, not only asking, but thanksgiving, praise, fellowship, and worship.
7.- The Backbone Christian – Who has convictions … knows what they are … and stands on them. The Christian with backbone, won’t live his life to please the world … won’t live her life to blend in with the world … won’t live their life to conform to the standards of the world.
“Can these bones live?” Yes, and they do live, as a testimony of the grace of God.
8.- The Kneebone Christian – Who realizes that victory in the Christian life, comes only through a life of prayer. “Much prayer, much power … Little prayer, little power … No prayer, no power.”
“Can these bones live?” Yes, and the Kneebone Christian is the one who is living the life of victory.
Can dead, dry bones live? With God, nothing is impossible. Sometimes we look around us, and all we see is a valley of dry, dead bones. It looks pretty hopeless … it looks pretty devastating … it looks pretty grim.
But God has a plan. Get into His Word, and He’ll speak to you. Give way to the Holy Spirit, and He will give you a new life.
“A young man was apprenticed to a master artist who produced the most beautiful stained glass windows anywhere. The apprentice could not approach the master’s genius so he borrowed his master’s tools, thinking that was the answer. After several weeks, the young man said to his teacher, ’I’m not doing any better with your tools than I did with mine.’
The teacher replied, ”So, it’s not the tools of the master you need; it’s the spirit of the master you need.”
We have just heard in the reading from Acts, “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit”.
Jesus had promised the disciples before the Ascension that the Spirit would come to them, the Counsellor would come to give them power. It has been 10 days since the ascension and the disciples were waiting in the upper room. Can you imagine the conversations which were going on? Some probably wanted to leave, others were going to wait to see what would happen. Some might have doubted anything would happen, others remembering Jesus’ appearance before had the faith to wait.
Then the great moment arrived. If we look at the text from Acts, we see that the Spirit arrived by itself from out of nowhere. The Spirit descended upon the disciples probably as they were going about their daily tasks. Some were praying, some eating, some cooking, some were just resting, but it happened. The Holy Spirit descended upon them with its own free will. The disciples did not ask for it, but Jesus promised it. It came and filled the disciples with its power as Jesus had promised.
Think about this. The Spirit of the Master, the Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit came and entered the souls of those people on Pentecost and collided with their own spirits. We all have our own spirit within us, it is the spirit in us which drives us, empowers us, embarrasses us, frighten us, causes trouble for us, a spirit which wants only what is good for me, myself and I. We have a spirit which is defiant, which takes pride in itself, which wants to be in control, which wants to be independent, which wants to control the self.
It is this spirit within us that the Holy Spirit comes to and wants to change.
It is God’s Spirit which came to those people that day of Pentecost and collided with their own spirit. It is that same Spirit which comes through the word and the sacraments and collides with our spirit day in and day out.
Because of our fallen nature, we are filled with pride, pride in ourselves, pride which says we don’t need a God in our lives. And it is with that spirit in us that the Holy Spirit comes to replace each day.
It is like this Aesop fable:
“A tall, straight fir tree which stood towering up in the forest was very proud of his height and dignity and despised the little shrubs which grew beneath him.
One day a bramble asked him why he was so proud. “Because,” replied the fir tree, “I look upon myself as the finest tree for the beauty of any in the forest. My top shots up toward the clouds, and my branches spread round in constant loveliness while you crawl on the around, likely to be crushed by every animal that comes near.”
“All this may be true enough”, replied the bramble, “but when the woodsmen has marked you for cutting down, and the axe come to be applied to your root, I fancy you will wish that you could change places with me.”
The moral, Pride always goes before a fall.”
We are filled with pride, a pride which says we do not need a God, or anything in our lives. But God comes to us with His Spirit to replace our spirit of pride with His Spirit of love and kindness.
God does not want us to “fall” but to live in Him and His Holy Spirit. Through Jesus, the work of salvation was begun and now through the Holy Spirit that work of salvation will continue in our lives. God wants us to live in Him and through Him.
“Once in a while the Spirit comes. Sometimes he stings the soul, sometimes he sakes it, sometimes he troubles our conscious, sometimes he soothes it, sometimes he heals our pain, sometimes he just helps us to endure it. He lifts the clouds just long enough for us to glimpse the City that was not made with hands in order that we can go back and take up our cross and follow him.”
The Spirit has been with the Church since the first Pentecost, so that it could enter our spirit and enable us to be the kind of people God intended for us to be. Each day we need to renew ourselves and allow God’s Holy Spirit to replace our pride full spirit so that we can bear His cross in this world.
The Holy Spirit works constantly with our spirit so that our lives may be transformed, be made new and rewarding.
A closing story tells it well:
THE TOUCH OF A MASTER:
Wishing to encourage her young son’s progress on the piano, a mother took her boy to a Lang Lang concert. After they were seated, the mother spotted a friend in the audience and walked down the aisle to greet her. Seizing the opportunity to explore the wonders of the concert hall, the little boy rose and eventually explored his way through a door marked “NO ADMITTANCE.”
When the house lights dimmed and the concert was about to begin, the mother returned to her seat and discovered that the child was missing. Suddenly, the curtains parted and spotlights focused on the impressive Steinway on stage.
In horror, the mother saw her little boy sitting at the keyboard, innocently picking out “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”
At that moment, Lang Lang made his entrance, quickly moved to the piano, and whispered in the boy’s ear, “Don’t stop. Keep playing.” Then, leaning over, Lang Lang reached down with his left hand and began filling in a bass part. Soon his right arm reached around to the other side of the child and he added a running obligato. Together, the master and the novice transformed a frightening situation into a wonderfully creative experience.
The audience was mesmerized.”
The Holy Spirit, working with our spirit, can mesmerize this world.