May 14, 2018
By Nina Barlow Schmid.
Rev. Nina Barlow Schmid is pastor of First Congregational Church of South Windsor.
Scripture: Ezekiel 37:1-14
The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all round them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, ‘Mortal, can these bones live?’ I answered, ‘O Lord God, you know.’ Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.’
So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.’ I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.
Then he said to me, ‘Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.” Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord.’
Sometimes, God has to jump start our imaginations, like God did for Ezekiel in his vision of the Valley of the Dry Bones. And, that, it turns out is a good thing. God gets the point across…when it seems all hope, for that matter, all life, is lost, God enacts new life for that “vast multitude.” And they shall know the Lord is the Lord!
“Only the Lord God knows,” as Ezekiel so diplomatically defers when asked if those bones can live. God will act accordingly, but so must Ezekiel by following God’s command to “prophesy to the breath” so that the slain may live. “Imagine this,” God seems to say to Ezekiel!
Our imaginations can run wild without any help from anyone, however. They are capable of weaving webs of weirdness on their own steam. A creative edge can become a double-edged sword. Worrying about all the worst-case, “what if” scenarios we can muster while trying to fall asleep is a good example.
Vivid mini-horror movies of our own making float by in an endless stream of anxiety-producing effects, especially at night, when all that can be exaggerated and grow alarmingly out of proportion, will. We can come up with our own imaginary horror movies way too easily.
Ezekiel’s dry bones vision sounds an awful lot like a horror movie to me. I’m not a big fan of real or imagined horror movies, truth be told, probably because I am not entertained by it; there’s enough real and egregious creepy stuff going on in the world already.
The thought of being “set down in the middle of a valley” full of bones, dry or otherwise, is not an appealing prospect. Then, the very idea of having to walk around in the bones, even if it is with God, isn’t something that inspires a warm and fuzzy feeling; all those hollow bones rattling and clattering!
The clincher, of course, would be when the sinews, flesh and skin start appearing! By now, if I were Ezekiel in the Valley, I’d be making a one-eighty for the desert hills – or plains; whatever way is the fastest! When everybody stands up (the bones, I’m talkin’ about) - Holy Bones, Batman! I’d be outta there!
Imagination aside, we all know there are far too many real ‘horror movies’ going on in the world. The Rohingyan crisis in Bangladesh is one. Approximately 500,000 ethnic minority Muslims formerly of Myanmar (Burma), are seeking refuge from persecution and ethnic cleansing. They are living their own real-life horror.
The situation came heartbreakingly to mind when I read these words from Ezekiel 37:11: “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.”
The words of God spoken to Ezekiel echo into this present/future. What must it be like to be violently forced from your home and unable or unsure of where ‘home’ will be next, if it will be anywhere? Our hope is lost…we are cut off completely.
A South Windsor Rabbi friend, Jeff Glickman, recently returned from a humanitarian aid trip to Bangladesh. The group took desperately needed food and first aid supplies to the refugees, offering their expertise, love, time and gifts of music, breathing hope into their desolate valley.
A child they befriended is the little “Shell Girl” in the picture above. She gathers and strings thousands of tiny shells to sell for her family’s livelihood. Her photograph resonates with resilience, despite her circumstances, the light in her eyes seemingly the breath of life, perhaps buoyed by the kindness of her new friends.
Just as Ezekiel was commanded to help God out, so are we. We can’t all go to Rohingya, but we can open our hearts, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, aid the suffering and recognize the Christ in one another. God will resurrect and restore, doing what God does best…and we shall know the Lord is the Lord!
God of our wildest imaginings, inspire us to see with your vision through your eyes, all that we can do to help your world NOW.
New Prayer Requests:
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prayers of Intercession:
- for the hundreds of Palestinians wounded and dozens killed during protests of the US Embassy's relocation to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.
- for the people of northern India where severe weather has killed more than 60 and left many other injured, homeless, or without power.
Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:
- for green leaves and colorful flowers
Please Remember These Connecticut Conference Churches
In Your Prayers:
Congregational Church of Naugatuck
First Church of Christ, New Britain, UCC
South Congregational - First Baptist Church
Congregational Church of New Canaan
Congregational Church of New Fairfield
This Week in History:
May 17, 1954 (64 years ago): U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, saying the practice of "separate but equal" policies for racial segregation of public schools was unconstitutional. A year later the courts published guidelines requiring schools to integrate "with all deliberate speed."
Starting With Scripture:
May 14, 2018
Nina Barlow Schmid.