Can these bones live? Resurrection of the people of God
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 gave me a guided tour with nothing missing – he really rubbed my nose in it so I got the point]
(Then) He said to me, ‘Son of Man, 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.’
Whilst we often listen to this reading early on Easter morning – and it is a powerful experience to hear a voice speaking these words out of the darkness before dawn – we need to hear them again at Pentecost, because it is Pentecost which is the fullest revelation of what God has done in raising Jesus from the dead. For this is when the full drama of the work of God comes to its completion, in the Resurrection of the people of God . . . Pentecost is the Resurrection of the people of God
In the same way that we have reduced the gospel message to ‘going to heaven when we die’, and created the secular world as a result, we have lost sight of the staggering significance of Pentecost. What does this event 2000 years ago have to do with us, now here?
Jesus has gone – ‘I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away’ he says to his disciples . . . but what a rag tag and bobtail group. Dozy fishermen, ‘country bumpkins’, collaborators with the Romans, crazy religious zealots and former prostitutes . . . Not an academic degree amongst them. How on Earth are you going to build a church out of that lot! How on Earth is Heaven going to come if that is your raw material?
Behold! Are not all they that speak Galileans?? Nobodies from Nightcaps . . . Behold, Pay attention to God’s raw material . . . and perhaps still we don’t get it.
I think about ordination – who do we ordain to walk in the footsteps of the Apostles? How many ‘nobodies from Nightcaps’, ‘bozos from the boondocks’, people with disreputable records do we ordain . . .? I remember being warned before my ordination not to get pulled over by the police . . . and Jesus uses prostitutes and collaborators . . .
I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.
Jesus sends the Holy Spirit on this bunch . . .
In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground; but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground— then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.
Mud, dust . . . nobodies . . . dry bones . . . God’s raw material
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.
As we explored on Ascension Day, Jesus has gone away. When he went he commanded his disciples
he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’
Stay here in the city . . . What else are they going to do, these ‘nobodies from Nightcaps’ . . .
I don’t know if you’ve ever visited an ossuary? A place full of bones and skulls stored away awaiting the resurrection. ‘Son of Man, can these bones live?’ ‘O Lord God . . . you know . . .’ It’s like the prophet is nervous. On the one hand, can dry bones live? On the other he’s dealing with God . . . ‘Son of Man, can these bones, these very dry bones, these dead bones live . . .’ ‘You tell me . . .’
Mud, dust . . . nobodies . . . dry bones . . . God’s raw material – has to wait . . . a dry bone is not going to get tired of waiting and take the law into its own hands. A dry bone has no choice but to wait on the Lord . . .
Those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength.
Those whose only hope is in God will rely entirely on God
Those who rely entirely on God as their way of life will Live
Why? Does God use the rawest of raw material
Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?
And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? [after all they are uneducated fishermen and down and outs and prostitutes and and and ]
Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,
Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs–in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.”
All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”
But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.” Of course!
And what of us . . . dare we wait on the Lord? Until we are clothed with power fro on high and so are set free to declare the word and works of God in a way that will bring astonishment, and perhaps ridicule? In a way that will lead to thousands turning towards God? For that is the purpose, the end – tht God might be glorified
God uses unpromising raw material precisely because it is about His Life in us – that no one will be able to confuse the works of man for the word and works of God
Death catches up with us all. One way or another we become the raw material for Resurrection. But following the Resurection of Jesus, the way lays open to us all to enter the tomb and await the call to life
The Christian is the one who has already walked down that road – and now will only live by the Spirit. Like dead bones, the people of God await Resurrection