Ezekiel’s anniversary parable – St Andrew’s, Westville – May 31, 2009

You see, there are these bones;

these bones are dead – dry – desperate;

no hope in them. No hope for them.

These are not our bones, but they might be.

And so comes God to a prophet of God’s people

at a time of tremendous upheaval;

the present littered with the ruins of the past,

the future frightening and uncertain.

And the prophet of God

is faced with a puzzle in this vision of destruction:

“Can these bones live, Mortal?”

Of course they can’t! You know it, I know it,

and the prophet knows it too.

“Only you know, Sovereign God” –

a perfect answer when one is put in such a spot.

We stand on the brink of change,

come to the end of the season of hope (that is, Easter)

celebrating the anniversary of this congregation

and the birth of a new movement of God

(that is, Pentecost – the unleashing of the Spirit

on the followers of Jesus)

And the passage from Ezekiel

reminds us too much of our current situation.

These are not our bones, but they might be.

The people of God have often felt themselves

on the edge of extinction –

a feeling only strengthened

by society’s current ambivalence.

After all, who needs God when we have CNN and Facebook

and the National Post and National Enquirer?

Who needs God what with global warming and global terror

and a global apathy towards peace, justice,

mercy and truth?

Who needs God when we can so easily convince ourselves that we are god-like,

what with millionaire athletes,

omnipotent business tycoons

and politicians who consider themselves beyond reproach?

Small wonder that the people of God

are weary and despondent; dry and parched.

Yet there is still a voice of challenge calling…

“Can these bones live?”

Before we dismiss this as an impossibility,

let’s consider the source of this challenge.

This question, though it is an ancient question,

is still for us.

We ask this question in different ways:

Is there a future for the church? For this church?

Is there hope for God’s people? For any people?

All these question of our renewal or survival

are prompted by the God

who brought this tragic vision to the prophet,

so many centuries ago.

Our answers are similarly vague;

“In God’s own time”, we say

“The Lord willing”, we say

“Only you know, Sovereign God”, we say,

as we stand and wait

for the next miracle to overwhelm us.

Today is such a miracle.

An anniversary – 138 years of stopping and starting

138 years of separate togetherness.

Generations of hope

snatched from the jaws of disappointment.

A continuing Presbyterian witness that has endured

through denominational turmoil, global conflict, economic highs and lows

and the on-again-off-again enthusiasm

displayed by the world for the gospel.

Miracle upon miracles.

And this year we celebrate

on the Sunday closest to Pentecost –

the festival that has been forever changed

by the coming of the Spirit of God

to those timidly gathered in Jerusalem,

awaiting the help that Jesus promised would come.

On that day, the Spirit descended upon those curious, faithful folks

and they discovered a new kind of understanding

– a new way of seeing god and the world –

they became part of the puzzle that God set for Ezekiel: “Can these bones live?”

The delightful truth of the Easter message

– that God, through Christ, has conquered death –

is put to practical use in the message of Pentecost:

God has not only conquered,

but has enlisted the once dead

as messengers of the victory.

The time for hopelessness is past.

The salvation of the world is no longer our concern

(if ever it was)

because God has accomplished

– is accomplishing – the impossible…

Can these bones live? Can the church recover?

Can we trust this miracle of breath and life

will come to us?

Well, for these past 138 years, you have done just that.

The nature of the church in every time and place is this;

the gathered people of God

constantly face an impossible task.

We must live in the midst of death

we are expected to thrive in times of scarcity.

We are called to model life

to those whose hope has dried to dust,

and at times it seems as though it will be the end of us.

Those bones are not ours

– but they serve as our awakening.

The prophet’s answer – and God’s response in the Spirit –

will help us weather the storm.

God knows – God enables – God lives,

and in Christ, we too shall live.

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