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Summary: With A Little Faith and A Breath, God Reaches Everyone (This was preached the weekend after the school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas -- that is mentioned near the end of the sermon)

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Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Creator, Jesus our Savior, and from the Unpredictable and Unquenchable Holy Spirit whose presence we celebrate this day. Amen

Imagine yourself in the time of Ezekiel. It is about 600 BC. Nebuchadnezzar was about to destroy what remained of Jerusalem, your holy city. You and your people have been utterly defeated. The last of the living were marched east to Babylon.

That’s the scene at the beginning of our first lesson. We know that Nebuchadnezzar was a real person with a raging temper who ordered torture and destruction. As to the encounter between Ezekiel and God which is our actual Bible text today, we know that there is truth in it for us today, but we don’t know whether it is historical fact.

When I was young, I went to Bible camp every summer (16 of my first 18 years, in fact), and there I learned one of the songs that goes with this reading. What I didn’t know then is that there are several similar versions of this song. The Wikipedia contributors have worked hard to track down the slightly different versions. This is the chorus of the one I learned; maybe you learned the same one.

Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones.

Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones.

Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones.

Now hear the word of the Lord.

And I learned all of the verses with the related motions, learning later that the anatomy depicted – toe bone to foot bone to heel bone to ankle bone to shin bone and so on – would not lead to a passing grade in any anatomy class. But it was fun. And somewhere in that strange story and inaccurate lyrics came the message that even when all hope is gone for bones (or for the house of Israel), with just a little faith and a breath, God is still able to turn things around.

Hold onto that – just a little faith and a breath.

Now let’s go to the more familiar text from Acts. Jesus had ascended ten days earlier and, with a little prodding from two angels, the disciples stopped standing looking into heaven, and they got to work. But they didn’t get much further than replacing Judas as the twelfth disciple. And then came Pentecost.

It starts inside a house. The sound of wind, not just a breeze, the wind that leads to sirens and basements. Then the sight of divided tongues as of fire. And the sound of languages they didn’t speak coming out of their mouths. Jerusalem was filled with tourists who had come for the Jewish celebration of Pentecost, and those tourists as well as those who lived in Jerusalem had gathered outside this house because they had heard something strange. And then each of them – no matter what country they were from – could understand perfectly the message of the disciples about God, about Jesus, about the Holy Spirit. And, because these were devout Jews, they knew the words of the Prophet Joel that Peter quoted. It was a day like no other – before or since.

Pentecost continues 8 chapters later in the book of Acts when God makes it very clear, and Peter proclaims it to the everyone, that the Holy Spirit is not just for Jews but also for Gentiles. That’s important because that’s most of us.

Today, 2000 years later, we celebrate Pentecost as many things. It is the birthday of the church. It is breath, wind, tongues, fire, life, language, and the Holy Spirit. We often call the Spirit “the Comforter,” but the Spirit is also an Agitator because things change when the Spirit is at work. And there is some Agitating of the Spirit going on here. Let’s go back to the valley of the dry bones and look again.

Just a little faith and a breath.

And I want to bring John Wesley with us this time because he noticed it when he wrote, “Of all the bones of all those numerous slain, not one was missing, not one missed its way, not one missed its place, but each knew and found its fellow. Thus in the resurrection of the dead, the scattered atoms shall be arranged in their proper place and order, and every bone come to his bone…” (1)

The bones were all there, and God breathed life into all of them – not just the ones who had earned it, not just the ones who deserved it more, all of them. This wasn’t about keeping score. This was about life, and not just earthly life, everlasting life, forever life.

And when we move to the story of Acts which is a panoramic festival for their senses and ours, the point of all of that is to get the attention of everyone who is in Jerusalem that day and speak to them in a language they can understand so that they can all know that what the Prophet Joel was talking about almost 400 years earlier was happening. And that his declaration that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” was not some obscure promise for someone’s great great great great grandchildren (if they would even last that long) but for now and here and forever. And, just in case they thought it was only for the Jews, Peter relays the message later, “God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.”

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