As we prepare for the Holy Week, we give thanks to God for the fifth week in the season of Lent with different encounters and lessons between Jesus and another aspect of the human condition. Today, our global wilderness, flaws, sins, and sufferings are on display and it is my prayer that Jesus will meet us with mercy as He did with Ezekiel at the valley of dry bones and Lazarus at the tomb. Our liturgical readings and stories today foreshadows what is to come.
Prophet Ezekiel’s vision in chapter 37 of the book of Ezekiel illustrates God’s promise of chapter 36 of new life and a nation restored, both physically and spiritually. Beloved, beyond today’s global pandemic, God promises that good times will return just as good time returned to the family of Lazarus in the Gospel reading of today (Jn 11:1-45). Ezekiel’s metaphor of the lamenting bones of the people and wrought from that image the vision of the valley of dry bones points to the picture of the Jews in captivity – scattered and dead which resonates with today’s world.
Lent of Remembering summons the world to enter the lives of the people in the valley of dry bones and cast a vision of God’s Spirit at work in our lives, nations and continents. A church without prophetic voices will be a museum, a grave of captivity, full of dry bones hence, the answer to the question ‘can these bones live?, must come from me and you with prophetic voice. There are many Ezekiel in the church and our leadership today doing the work in the valley of dry bones, politically and religiously, maintaining the dry system. The reflection is that until Ezekiel was spiritually repositioned when God got a hold of him, he was like John Wesley doing the church work professionally until May 24, 1738. Lent of Remembering calls for a repositioning of our hearts and voices. These types of voices and hearts are renewed, repented, forgiven, forgiving, and inspired by the power of the Holy Spirit. The placing of the prophet determines health of the church or our nation.
In the same Spirit with the reading from the book of Ezekiel, the gospel reading today from John chapter 11 points us to the raising of Lazarus and this is a message to us, ‘to a degree, spiritually dead.’ Like Lazarus, four days in the tomb, the world today is in tomb of pandemic. The good news is that, just as God commanded Ezekiel to speak over the people in the valley of dry bones, and just as the voice of Jesus called Lazarus back to life, the voice of God through the people of God is able to call the world back to life, pull out of the tomb of the present pandemic. The reflection is that, beyond the cinematic images, while Ezekiel’s vision has more to do with restoration, the raising of Lazarus from the tomb has more to do with resurrection. A World of Ezekiel’s Dry Bones and Lazarus, waiting for a fresh breath of the HOLY SPIRIT prepares us for hope and restoration from the valley of Covid-19 and most especially for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. In God, we have the assurance and vision of hope, that restoration is coming, a re-knitting of a body – a community of people, coming out of our graves, resurrecting from our exile and returning to God in truth and Spirit. A close tomb, a valley of dry bones are finite images, the literal end of the road where humanly speaking, we are helpless and subject to pandemic.
Beloved, even in the driest, darkest of times, when we have no more life in us, ‘when we are no longer capable of hope… when we have been shut away in our deathly tomb… and we cry out of the depths to God… the message is, that there is, in fact hope.’ God said, “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” (v 14).
A World of Ezekiel’s Dry Bones and Lazarus, waiting for a fresh breath of the HOLY SPIRIT points us back to the full circle since Ash Wednesday, ‘when we were reminded that we were but dust, and now we know what the Lord can do with a pile of bones and dust – we can live and be past of the Lord’s vast multitude.’ Today, the world is the Lazarus in the tomb of Covid-19 just as we are “Ezekiel’s dry bones, waiting for a fresh breath of the spirit to give us new sinew and flesh and skin so that we might become whole again.” Today, Jesus is ready to meet a World of Ezekiel’s dry bones and Lazarus in the tomb of our pandemic. Jesus’ key warning goes to all today’s Marthas, spiritual and political ‘busybody.’ Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God.” Every Martha’s word of accusatory and frustration must stop, it must not be our words. We must not be lost in our grief. Jesus is making his way to our Bethany, the news of our Lazarus’ world death will stop spreading in Jesus name.
Prayer: Let us prayerfully sing these words in the Hymn ‘Breath on me, Breath of God’ by Edwin Hatch in our soul and pray for the breath of God in our homes, churches, and nations:
1 Breathe on me, Breath of God,
fill me with life anew,
that I may love the way you love,
and do what you would do.
2 Breathe on me, Breath of God,
until my heart is pure,
until my will is one with yours,
to do and to endure.
3 Breathe on me, Breath of God,
so shall I never die,
but live with you the perfect life
for all eternity.