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Ezekiel 37:1-14

Pentecost, May 19, 2024

Holy Trinity Cathedral




This past week at Whistler, participants in our clergy conference were encouraged to listen to the voice of the Spirit in creation.  In a contemplative walk, my attention was caught by the roots underfoot.  It was very dry in the forest: concerningly dry for this early in the season.  The roots looked like bones, twisted on the ground without sign of life.  But when I looked closer, I noticed that different trees were intertwined at their bases.  Some roots lay over and around their neighbours, while others disappeared deep into the ground to draw water and nutrients.  The wind rustled through the branches’ green shoots and whispered of spring.  I was inspired to look up and see new life in a time when we are worried about the future of the planet. 


All God has to work with is the stuff of creation.  From the beginning, when the wind of God hovered over the chaos, it is God’s word breathed into the dust of the universe which brings things into being.  We may name this power as the Hebrew “Ruach”, the Greek “Pneuma”, or the English “Spirit” (from the same root as the word inspire, or breathe in).  Without continued breath, living things cease respiration.  And when we are cut off from the source of our being, we expire.  Stories remind us that without this divine component, nothing would exist.  Ezekiel speaks of a vision of a valley of dry bones.  The early Church remembers the events of the first Pentecost.  In both, a new inspiration of the holy reforms us to be in the world as we are meant to be.


Prophesying is about speaking truth to a place and time that need to hear it, but it is not necessarily bounded by only one time or place.  Something is always going to happen. Maybe we who hear don’t know when or how it will affect our lives.  But the truth is it will.  There is an original context for the words. And then there is the way that prophecy plays out in each of our lives. 


The Hebrew prophet Ezekiel proclaimed a vision to a people whose world as they knew it was crumbling away.  His image of a valley of dry bones embodied their community’s fear of dying in exile.  “Can these bones live?”, asks God.  Isn’t that really our question too?  Can this community, this planet, be sustainable?  Can this world survive the climate crisis?   “O Lord God,” the prophet answers, “You know”.  He doesn’t pretend to have the answers.  Then God tells Ezekiel to speak to those bones three times.  “Hear the word of the Lord.” And God shows him the way of the Spirit.


First, the bones come together.  Wherever they are scattered, isolated, and fragmented, they rejoin to form a whole.  But that is not enough.  They are not alive; there is no breath in them yet. 


Then, the Spirit breathes into them.  The beings made from the bones stand and live: a multitude under the Lord’s command, ready for action. But they do not act yet.  They need something more.


Finally, the Lord tells Ezekiel to prophesy a third time and restore their hope.  The promise is that the people will be brought up and out of their graves and back to the land, and that they shall know that the Lord is their God.  They are to live into this hope.  The Spirit’s power is to bring together, to reanimate, and to resurrect.  It is not enough to huddle together, or to survive by going through the motions of day-to-day life.  We are to be spirit-filled beings!  


The Spirit of God tries to work through the people when they are exiled from their country and when they come back into their land; when they are oppressed and weakened and when they struggle to follow the teachings of the Law.  But prophets are few and far between, and so are the people who listen to the Spirit in God’s creation.  Jesus taught his followers to be a new community in faith, people who could be fully alive in the Spirit.  He promised to give his spirit within his disciples, so they could hold onto hope.


After the risen Jesus had ascended into heaven, the prophecy of Ezekiel found a new fulfillment.  We hear the story in the Acts of the Apostles.  Firstly, there are the disciples brought together in one place.  Secondly, the rush of a mighty wind signals the presence of the Spirit breathing God’s presence into them.  Tongues of fire and language (the same word means both in Greek), send them tumbling into the street.  Now they are all prophets: able to speak God’s truth about Christ.


The Church is inspired by Christ’s spirit to be hope to each generation of believers.  When we are surrounded by the dry bones of our age, when we are unsure where our strength is to come from, this word calls us back to hope.  I wonder how we are to come together as a body, how we are to be inspired by the breath of God’s Spirit, how we are being sent into the streets around us to share the promise of God with us?  To be in the world, but not of the world- what does that mean for us?  This Pentecost, may the Holy Spirit of God inspire us to listen and be filled with a vision for the future.  May we see new visions and dream new dreams.  Creation is full of the glory of God.  Let’s get inspired! Amen.