Order of Worship Scripture Meditation“Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act.” Psalm 37: 7Opening Prayer Creator God, help us to know that we are with you, that we are in your care, that we are in your love, that we are one body unified in Christ. Amen.
Call to Worship Psalm 130 (NIV)Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord; Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word, I put my hope. I wait for the Lord. More than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.
Scripture ReadingEzekiel 37:1-14
Sermon Eight weeks ago, I was in Gettysburg on a planning retreat with my pastor friend, Beth. The main purpose of the trip was to have time away to study, meditate over Scripture, and pray. All this was in the hope that the end result would be a plan for Lent and Easter. After three days, I left feeling refreshed, renewed, and ready. I left feeling all those things for the Lenten and Easter season. I was not however prepared for what would lie ahead, which is this figuring out a whole new way to stay connected as a church, a whole new way to be a pastor from my parsonage office. But the thing I have realized during this time is that the theme God laid on my heart during that retreat, “Navigating the Wilderness,” couldn’t be more appropriate, considering our current situation. And maybe this is the perfect way to learn the lessons of Lent, and Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness. Maybe this is the perfect time to return to God as the prophet Joel implores each of us to do. And maybe this is the perfect time to begin figuring out what is really important in life.
Frankly, if this time of social separation and uncertainty isn’t a time to rely on God and trust him for our every need, I don’t know when it will be. That being said, let’s look at our Bible passage, Ezekiel 37:1-14, and the Valley of Dry Bones. Keep in mind this vision was given to the prophet Ezekiel while the children of Israel were in exile. As a nation they were dead, spiritually they had stopped breathing. Yet this passage speaks of hope and renewal. If you read verses 4-10, you see that the Spirit of God leads the prophet to a valley that is filled with dry bones. The bones are very dry. They have been there a LONG time. To say there are no signs of life in this place is an understatement of epic proportions. A massive army has been reduced to a pile of bones. There’s nothing else left, nothing to build upon.
But what happens? The Spirit breaths into them and things start rattling, bones begin to piece together. Tendons and flesh form and begin to cover the bones. Now there are bodies, which is amazing enough all things considered, but still no real life. So, the Spirit breaths again and this vast army comes back to life and stands up on their feet! But what is wrong with this picture? I’ll tell you what’s wrong. Things don’t fall together, not naturally, not in our world. Remember science class? The Laws of Thermodynamics? The Second Law of Thermodynamics, states “that the entropy of any isolated system not in thermal equilibrium almost always increases.”
In other words, things fall apart. Food decays, metal rusts, even things that we work hard to preserve over the years, naturally age. We as humans age, our hair color changes, our bones become brittle, and we lose muscle mass naturally after a certain age. That’s just the way it is. Things age, things fall apart. But what Ezekiel witnesses in this vision is something that goes against nature. Because of the breath of the Holy Spirit, bones connect, tendons and skin appear, and with a final breath the bodies come back to life. This speaks to the renewing, restorative nature of the Third Person of the Trinity. Israel may have been dead as a nation, but here in the Valley of Bones, the Spirit showed Ezekiel that he, the Holy Spirit, had the power to save, and the power to fashion a new people out of utterly dead bones.
So, what can we learn from this wilderness scene in the Bible? What do we learn about God here? I believe it is that the same Holy Spirit who breathed life into that army that had been reduced to nothing but dry bones, lives within the heart of every believer, and he will breathe new life into each of us, too. Our God is a God of renewal and resurrection to new life. Romans 8:22-27 tells us some things about the Holy Spirit: He helps us in our weakness. He helps us when we are so upset that we don’t know how to pray. He searches our hearts and intercedes for us before God the Father.
Earlier, on my morning walk, I was once again reminded of God’s power to renew all of his creation. There are two signs of spring I always watch for: the return of the southern bluebirds, and the forsythia bush behind my house. This bush is always the first thing to bloom this time of year, and I see it as a sign of hope for warmer weather. If you notice, most everything in the background still looks pretty bare, but yet there is hope in the life of this tree. That’s the way it is with God. Despite what is going on in the background and all around us, he gives us hope for renewal through a new life in Jesus Christ.
In conclusion let me say that if you know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, the Holy Spirit dwells in you. He is alive and well in all believers. He is also very much at work in this world, creating and renewing through the work of those who love the Lord.
The Holy Spirit is the same now as he was in Ezekiel’s day. He is our advocate, our helper, and our guide. He helps us to understand Scripture and he compels us to be God’s light in a dark world. And just like in the valley of dry bones, the Holy Spirit can make things happen that do not naturally happen in our world. Bodies, families, relationships, all fall apart in our broken world. But the Holy Spirit has the power to reverse that, if we only ask him for his help and heed his wisdom.
Because our God is a God of renewal, restoration, and reconciliation. He is a God of transformation. And that will never change, because God will never change. His love for us is, and will remain, steadfast and unfailing throughout eternity.
Pastoral Prayer God of resurrection power,you have called us to be your people,a community living by faith in you,and obedience to you.Yet we tend to trust in our own limited power, and in our inability to control the future.You call us into a new and different Kingdom, your Kingdom where the poor are held in high regard, and those who suffer are blessed, and those who mourn are honored for the truth they tell.The gifts you give us we often ignore or don’t want, and the circumstances you place us in we often do not welcome, nor do we see them as opportunities to serve you and love people.Yet, you do not abandon us to our confusion or our doubts.Open our eyes and ears to the presence of your Son whose suffering and death has redeemed us.
Open our eyes to your Holy Spirit, whose work in our own spirits turns us again and again toward you.Turn us toward hope, for even death could not stop you from bringing us life.And be with all those today who are weak in mind, body or spirit, and with those who mourn. Because of our faith in you, we boldly ask for a cure for the COVID-19 virus that has swept our nation and world. We pray for wisdom for our leaders, and wisdom for each of us, too. May all we do bring honor to you and may your will be done.We pray in the name of Christ Jesus, our crucified and risen Savior. Amen.
The Lord’s PrayerAll: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen. Closing Prayer & Blessing God has placed before you, life & death, blessings & curses. Therefore, choose life, follow God’s way. And in all the paths you walk may God hold you steady and close. May Christ Jesus bless you and every place you enter. And may the Spirit give you length of days and fullness of life. In the name of Christ. Amen.