Summary: What happens when we hit a dead end? What happens when God hits a dead end?
Scattering and Gathering
On this third Sunday of a virtual service, I come to you with a new sense of hope. I come to you with a new sense of determination. And, I come to you with a new sense of urgency. These feelings come from Ezekiel 37, a difficult passage, but one that is critical in these times where it appears at times we are at or close to a dead end. But as we see, for God, both then and now, there are no things as dead ends. Let us hold onto that as we move forward.
Most people believe that Ezekiel in the chapter received a vision from God, a vision of the people of Israel who were scattered, discouraged, and disillusioned. The scene reminds me of graveyards of elephants you see in Africa where the bones of these magnificent animals litter the sides of roads and fields. Ezekiel sees these bones, a true dead end, but is told by God to prophesy to them, and when he does the bones first come together, get flesh, tendons, and muscles on them and then received the breath of God. The dead end is broken through and the people of Israel are resurrected, a mighty army. Thanks be to God.
So, here we are in 2020 at the end on March. We are dealing with a new reality of this thing called a pandemic, orders in some places to stay at home, and if we are following protocol washing our hands and using sanitizer so much that we are all turning into ducks. We can use the same words to describe us that were used to describe the people of Israel, scattered, discouraged, and disillusioned. However, my friends, hear the good news. While I have not received a vision of dry bones, just visions of Chik Fil A chocolate milkshakes for some reason, I get the strong feeling that God is using this time, God is working in this mess, to accomplish great things for us as believers, as a church, and as a religion. While I am not fully there yet, spiritually I am beginning to sense the possibilities of a revival the likes of which we have not seen since the 1700s. God may be telling us the same thing in 2020 that He did to Ezekiel so many years ago.
God told Ezekiel over and over again that he needed to prophesy to the bones. In other words, he was to speak the Word of God to the bones for them to move beyond the dead end. So, perhaps as we speak things like medical briefings, as we speak government dictates, as we speak frustration and fear, we are called to also speak the Word of God into a world that so needs to hear it. I pray that the devotionals on Facebook as well as the posts containing the word are being heard and read in this time. Let us hear and speak the words of Psalm 94:19, “when anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” Or Psalm 145:9, :The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.” Or Ezekiel 43:2, “And I saw the glory of the God os Israel coming from the East. His voice was like the roar of rushing waters, and the land was radiant with his joy,” And finally Revelation 21:4, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death. or mourning, or crying, or pain.” Let us speak these words and other for doing so reminds me of a fresh gush of water entering into a stagnant, smelly, algae filled swamp. It beings new life into the dank miasma of our times. And this new life, these bones coming together if you will, is the beginning of God working in our midst, perhaps even a revival. Speak the Word of God. Prophesy!
I must admit I wonder what the people of Israel, or the soldiers if you will looked like after the bones came together. Jumping to the New Testament, what did Lazarus look like when he was raised from the dead? Personally, as I begin to deal with the aches and pains of getting older, there are times when I want my resurrection body now. Whatever the case may be, while Ezekiel and John don’t say, I have a feeling that after the experience of coming alive that they looked different. So, my friends, I have to wonder, after this experience, after this pandemic, after these quarantines will we as the church look different? And does God want is to look different? For example, outreach, spreading the Gospel if you will, has always been done on a personal basis. But with this new reality of live streaming and zoom, could outreach look differently? We've always taken for granted that we will be together, that we will be able to see each other, hug each other, and worship together. What will this look like when we come back and realize that we can’t take it for granted anymore. What will we do with the services that we are doing online? People are watching them, and people are asking for us to do this after we go back to the new normal. I believe we will look differently as a church and as a body of believers as we rise from the ashes of this pandemic.