Them Dry Bones!
5th Sunday in Lent
Grace, Mercy and Peace to you from God our Father and His only Son, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.
Birds do it. Bees do it. All the trees the flowers and the fish do it. In fact, every living thing on this planet does it – they die. I am sorry to be the bearer of such bad news, but it is inevitable. We are all going to die. It may be soon or, God willing, it will be later, but we cannot escape death.
This was not God’s will. Our Creator did not wish us to die, in fact, He commanded us to be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it… [Genesis 1:28] God wished us to live! Yet we put ourselves before God and disobeyed His command by eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. With this sin came death. Now, everything must die.
Funny thing about things dying, they all die the same. Once the breath of life has left the body, whether it be fish, bird, dog or man, decay sets in and everything returns to the dust of the earth. The last part of the creature that decays is the bones. The interesting thing about bones is, it is from them that life exists.
The first human being created after the first man, Adam, was Eve. She was created, or rather built, from a rib from the first man. From this first woman came all human beings in creation. From a simple little bone came all human life, as we know it. To this very day, the bones create the marrow, which creates the blood that is the life source for our being. The mechanism that keeps us alive is the also the last part of the human body to decay.
Oh them bones, them beautiful bones.
Curiously enough, when we see bones, we usually do not think of life; after all, no one sees bones unless the flesh and sinew is gone, and that means death. Even in our advanced technological and medical civilization, the universal sign for death is the skull and crossbones.
Humankind has struggled and strived to lengthen the short lives of these bodies using that knowledge gained from that tree in the Garden of Eden. We have achieved great power in healing and lengthening the life of these bags of bones, yet no one can breathe life into bones alone. No one, that is, except the Creator Himself.
This is why when Ezekiel was set down in the midst of a valley by the hand of God; he was in fear of the Lord, because this valley was filled with nothing but bones. Now if you are anything like me, when I watch a film or read a book where a person walks into a scene of great carnage and death, the first question I ask myself is, “What power, be it creature or man, killed everything in sight?” The second question I ask myself is, “Is it still here?”
If you really think about it, we still ask those questions. In war or terrorism, in crime or insanity, we cringe in fear and ask ourselves, “Who did this?” and then we ask ourselves, “Is this evil still here?” Therefore, you can very well imagine the fear coursing through the veins of Ezekiel when he witnessed the many, many, bones in the valley.
God asks Ezekiel, “Son of man, can these bones live?” Ezekiel may have been thinking, ‘I can’t comprehend the scope of death in this valley and now God asks me if Life can exist here?’ So he answered, “O Lord God, only You know.”
In Ezekiel’s time as in ours, we cannot bring dry bones to life. We do not have that power. We do not have that power because, although we have the authority from Christ to forgive sins and baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we do not have the power over life and death.
It may seem like some people have control over our lives. We see those who use their God given knowledge and skills to aid in the healing of our bodies as well as those who seek to murder and destroy life. More than a few are successful in killing these mortal shells.
However, no one can create life from nothing or bring the dead back to life. Only God has the power to create from nothing. Only He has the ability to change His creation and to make it new again. It is because only He has that power, is why we are powerless in the face of sin and death.
That old Serpent, Satan, tempted us into sin at the dawn of mankind. With our compliance to that deceit, we corrupted our temporal and eternal lives. We doomed ourselves to a death not only permanent, but forever in the absence of Our Father in heaven. We not only lost our ability to live eternally, but also our ability to live in righteousness before God.
We can no longer be with God. We can no longer walk in the garden with the cool breeze of the evening wafting through the trees. We can no longer look upon the face of Him who created everything because of our sin. Yes, because of our sin we are dead to God.
Some interpret the valley of bones as God’s chosen people who have been exiled from the land and who have turned away from God. To the prophet Ezekiel, the mouth of God here on earth, he is shown that no one is beyond the life-giving breath of God. Even those who are so dead in their sin that their hearts are gone, that their breath no longer inhabits their bodies, and that their bones are so dry that no marrow exists, can still live if God so commands them.
This scene may well look as one of death and sorrow. It may well look as a scene of fear and hopelessness. Yet in this horrifying landscape comes the word of God. He says to Ezekiel, “…say to these bones, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!’
When we look around this valley that is our world, when we see this country turning away from God only to seek death and decay, we stand in the midst of the many, many dry bones and we weep in fear, asking, ‘Can these bones live?’
When we see mothers killing their unborn children, governments pillaging the hearts and minds of its peoples, brother stealing from brother, and the ever increasing piles of bones growing higher and higher, we ask ourselves, ‘Can these bones live?’ The only true answer is in the word of God.
When we see Christ’s church here on earth dwindle and the very life of God’s people starve, weaken and die, we become dry as the bones in the valley of the shadow of death, because we are dead in our sin.
Many people try to minimize this knowledge by grasping on to the wisdom of human kind. They replace obedience to God with submission to the science and technology of our human race. Instead of looking to science and knowledge as gifts from our Creator, they try to replace Him with facts and figures. They even believe they can create a new and better substitute for God.
No my friends, our false idols have not changed much since the time of Abraham and Moses. They are just as shinny, bright, and… lifeless. One example of our inability to cast aside the truth and replace it with falsehood is our affinity for things that are dead; things such as power, money and lust.
The difference between these walking dead and those of our creation is that God has the power over life and death. With His word, he brings these dead, dry bones to life. It is His message that He is the living God that puts His Spirit into our dead bodies and brings them to life.
No matter what you hear or what you see, no one on this earth can bring the dead to life. The only true giver of life is our Father in heaven.
One would think that knowing this would be enough impetus for us to believe in His word alone, but sadly, it is not. Our Lord God repeatedly gave us every opportunity to turn away from our sin. He gave us every motive, even failsafe instructions on how to return to Him, to repent and be made righteous in His sight, yet we turned away from Him instead of to Him.
We are undeserving of His love, mercy and grace, yet He did not leave us to wither and die to be nothing. He loves us so much, that He sent His only Son into our flesh to bear the sins of our fathers, our sons & daughters, and of our own. As St. Paul reminds us:
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. [Romans 8:1–4]
By the crucifixion of His Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ, our sin has been sent to the grave forever, never to rise again. By the resurrection of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, our death is no longer the final consequence of our sin.
Now we are raised again, not as lifeless, dry bones that amble about as undead abominations, but as living children of God with the breath of the Holy Spirit. Our blood no longer runs through our veins, but the blood of the Lamb which gives us eternal life.
The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world is our Savior, Jesus Christ. He is the same Christ who walked in our flesh as the living God. He is the same Son of man and Son of God who, with all authority of His Father in heaven, called Lazarus out of the grave and into life.
“Lazarus, come out.” He called out with a loud voice. And, like the word of God spoken by the prophet Ezekiel so many hundreds of years before, life was breathed into the bones of Lazarus.
Oh, how much simpler life would be if Jesus had just called to us from our graves. If only we could rise up from our dead, sinful lives with a word from our Lord and Savior. What a joy it would be to walk in the righteousness of God our Father in the warm breeze of the Garden.
What could Jesus say to bring us to life from the depths of our sin? How about the word from Christ’s lips to Martha?
“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” [John 11:25–26]
Jesus is calling us to life through His resurrection. Do you believe this? His resurrection brings life to all who hear and believe. Through our baptism “the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, [and] he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies” [Romans 8:11] Do you believe this?
We may rejoice in the resurrection of our Lord, because it is our resurrection to eternal life. We now live as God intended. We now are as Christ has renewed us. In our new Spirit filled bodies we set our minds to life and peace for the Spirit is life and peace. We no longer walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
We have heard the word of our Lord. We walk in the newness of life. We now have the confidence of our Redeemer when we pray, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me.” [John 11:41b] Dear Lord, let those who have not heard Your word hear You now, so that they too may rise from their graves and become members of your kingdom.