Damariscotta Baptist Church
Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

04/10/11 Sermon

Ezekiel 37: 1-14

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Thy sight o Lord our Strength and our Redeemer Amen

Our scripture today is probably most famous for the spiritual song it has produced: The song “Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones… was written by James Weldon Johnson and his brother J. Rosamund Johnson in the early 1900’s. And the song gives a dramatic image of the scripture as it talks about a bunch of displaced bones coming together You’ve heard the words:
  Your toe bone connected to your foot bone,
  Your foot bone connected to your ankle bone,
  Your ankle bone connected to your leg bone and so on until the song finishes with the lyrics Now hear the word of the Lord.
And that’s what we see was happening with the prophet Ezekiel. He had heard the word of the Lord after he had been given this horrific vision of a valley of dried up bones, decaying and turning to dust.
-Such a dismal and hopeless image that represented the people of Israel who were in exile in Babylon.
When we look at the whole book of Ezekiel we see that the Israelites had found their way into exile because of their disobedience to God, ignoring God. They were going about doing things their way instead of listening to God.  And as a result of their own free will, they placed themselves in a vulnerable situation which led to the Babylonians conquering them; their temple, government, and way of life destroyed.  They were also left with feelings of guilt and shame, fear and sin. They had truly become a bunch of lifeless dry bones whose faith and hope were gone.
All seemed impossible and hopeless….
Now today we are in the 5th Sunday of Lent. And as a people of faith we are soon coming upon the cross---we are coming upon death.
We’re also coming upon Easter Sunday; resurrection and new life.
So how does this scripture from Ezekiel relate to us and to what’s coming ahead?
Well it’s a call to us to reflect on our own lives; to see where we might be finding ourselves in a dry, dead or hopeless situation.
Where are we finding our lives empty and hollow and lifeless?  Where are the impossible places in our lives where we have given up hope ; where God seems to have forsaken us?
Well God’s vision to Ezekiel is vision of new life and hope for all the hopeless and impossible circumstances of life.
God has the power and the will to put us back together again and breathe life into our dry bones. And so with that assurance and that promise, God is calling us to look at those areas of our life that need hope.  God wants us to bring out those impossible, hopeless skeletons in our closets (those ones that we have just learned to accept (guilt, resentments, grudges, shame, fears or boredom).  You know the Israelites had begun accepting their situation-----the Babylonians were integrating the Israelites.  When we just accept these skeletons in our lives, it can have such a negative affect on us—
--Movie: Get Low with Robert Duvall----hermit for 40 years----he had sinned and lived with guilt---he put himself in prison, in exile)
We can do the same thing---we put ourselves in exile and accept a life so much less than what God wants.
But God wants us to be faithful witnesses of a good and loving God who wants all of His children to live in abundant joy and freedom. He wants to breathe new life into us.
So the question for us today, is how do we go about receiving the breath of new life into those impossible, hopeless areas of our life?  How do we live into the fullness of new life that God wants for us?
Well when we look at God’s conversation with Ezekiel we see that God tells Ezekiel a few things that are needed in order that dem dry bones might come to life:
  The first thing we see is in verse 4. In verse four God tells Ezekiel to Prophecy to the bones to HEAR the Word of the Lord.  He then goes on to share his vision of the bones all coming together, bone connects to bone---tendons and flesh cover the bones.  This is a message to the hopeless Israelites to trust in the power of God; to trust that God can give us new life.
Yesterday I took my bottles to the redemption center----you know when we moved to Maine one of the things that was much different here is how you recycle things.  But what’s so neat is how people can take their old plastic bottles and donate them to a worthwhile cause. Old plastic bottles can be turned into playground equipment for a school or to a homeless shelter.
And I thought about that with this scripture. We see God recycling some old bones into something new.  In fact that’s what we see over and over in the word of God. We see time and time again how Jesus would recycle the blind, recycle sinners, recycle the demonic and even recycle the dead.  God wanted the Israelites as well as you and me to know that with God nothing is impossible. God has the power to take whatever in your life that is worthless and turn it into something new.  We simply need to trust in God’s power by bringing him our dead and dry bones.
-So how else do we go about receiving the breath of new life into dem dry bones?
Well in verse 9 we see that God command Ezekiel to prophesy to the breath of the wind; the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is who breathes into us and gives us life and energy. 
Some men were having a conversation about death and dying. The question came up, “What would you want people to say about you at your funeral?”  One replied, “I’d want people to say, ‘He was a great and compassionate humanitarian who cared about those in need.’”  A second one said, “I’d want people to say, ‘He was a good father and husband, whose life was a fine example for others to follow.’”  A third answered, “I’d like them to say, ‘Look, he’s moving!’”
So many of us are just going thru the motions in our lives. We’re spiritually dead. We might come to church and serve on a committee, sing in the choir, teach a class, or preach from the pulpit, but we can still be plagued by a lifeless life. A bored life.  We can feel like what’s the point?  So many of us have learned to settle for a life that’s so much less than what God wants for us and what we really want for ourselves.  And what’s missing is the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
You know many of us aren’t allowing the Spirit to give us energy and joy and transformation because we’re just not letting the Spirit have us. Instead of the Spirit carrying us, we carry the Spirit around. And that can make our faith burdensome and legalistic and a chore.
I’m reminded of the illustration of carrying a bucket of water on your head.  Have you ever carried a bucket of water on your head??---It can get heavy after awhile.  But what’s interesting is that when you swim underwater you have many gallons of water on top of your head and it’s not heavy at all---  The difference of course is that in carrying the bucket it’s something separate from us. But when we swim we’re immersed in the water.  And that’s what it means to have the Spirit carry us instead of us carrying the Spirit around.   
God wants us to give ourselves to him so that he can breathe the Holy Spirit and new life into us.  And that means we need to place ourselves in the path of the wind of the Spirit.  It seems so simple and yet for many of us, we will not take the time everyday to put ourselves in the path of the wind of the Spirit. (We’d rather drag the Spirit around)  But if we want joy and freedom and passion in our life, if we want hope and optimism that God can do anything, then we need to surrender to the Spirit and let the Spirit breathe life into our dry bones and carry us to abundant life.
Now the last command we see God give Ezekiel is seen in verse 12 as God tells him to Prophecy to hope—God wanted Ezekiel to tell the Israelites that even though they were in exile that this would not remain.  One day they would return to their homeland, the promise land, the land of milk and honey.  This message of life was a message of hope. In their hopeless predicament there was a promise that one day there would be justice, one day they would rise out of their “open graves” and be brought back to a new life, a new Jerusalem, a new temple.  In their desperate state they needed to know that God had not forsaken them, that God forgave them and that God loved them.  It was this prophecy of hope that sustained the Israelites and breathed new life into them as they did return home.
Now you and I also need this kind of hope. The hope of what lies ahead for Christians gives us life and power that overcomes those places and times of hopelessness in our life.  When we receive this hope in our hearts and spirits and souls we know that no matter what happens or has happened, there is an open grave for us; an open grave that leads to the Promised Land; life eternal……………………..
Now today, I realize I’ve focused a lot on our individual Lenten journeys.  But in reality this scripture has more to do with a group of people than it does to individuals.  Ezekiel’s prophecy was a message to a nation of people. And so as we look at this passage as a group, as a community of believers here at DBC we’re also called to ask where we might need new life breathed into us.
Today we are witnessing more and more churches that are dying in the United States. The number of Christians is declining drastically. People have rejected the institutional church.  The church in the US can look at itself in the same way as the Israelites in exile. There is much blame and guilt to go around.  Things can seem dismal and hopeless.  
But if we (at DBC) are open to hear God’s word, if we will trust in God’s power to recycle, if are open to let the Spirit lead us and carry us, then we will be in a place to be a part of what God has in store of breathing new life into our church and into our community.  Some churches have already decided to let God breathe new life into them.  
They’ve opened their doors for crime prevention workshops, Head Start programs, after care school programs, summer camp, or having movies for children.  Some have turned their lawns into community parks.  Others are using land they’ve had for years to build sports complexes instead of sanctuaries.
While thousands of vintage religious buildings throughout the country are crumbling or closed, some are being saved.  New life is being blown into them because they’re finding the needs of the community and offering their facilities to meet the needs.  (we’ve done this some with AA but are there other ways?)
I don’t believe that God isn’t done with us yet here at DBC. And He hasn’t forgotten us. God wants to breathe new life into us if we are willing to listen and be open to receive it.
So today, as we move forward to the cross, the message to us is that God wants to breathe new life into all who are willing to receive it.
God is the Master Redeemer/ he’s the Master recycler.-----God wants to breathe new life into us.
So today let us draw closer to hear God’s Word, let us trust in his power and let us put ourselves into the path of the wind of the Holy Spirit who will carry us.
And let us also live in the hope of the abundant life that God wants for us as we receive His breath of life……. in dem dry, dry bones.
    In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen