Summary: Before we can shift IN to anything else, we have to shift OUT of neutral. How do we do that? According to Ezekiel, God only knows.
Good morning! Please turn in your Bibles to the Old Testament book of Ezekiel, chapter 37. That’s not one we spend a whole lot of time in, so I’ll give you some time to find it. Ezekiel is in the second half of the OT. It’s after Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah…
While you are looking up Ezekiel 37, I’ve got a question for all you car guys (and girls) out there. And I realize I’m showing my ignorance here. But let’s say you are looking under the hood of a car that’s got the engine running. The fan belt is spinning, the pistons are pistoning, the alternator is … alternating. it’s just humming along. You ask the guy behind the wheel to rev the engine. He puts his foot on the accelerator, and the engine roars. The blinkers work, the brake lights come on when you press the brake pedal, the windshield wipers go back and forth.
Here’s the question: Can you tell, just by looking at it, whether the car is in drive or in park?
And the answer is no. I double checked this with a couple of car guys in my family—my brother and my brother in law, just to make sure I was right about this. My brother, ever the smart aleck, said, “Well, if you’re standing in front of the car, and the motor’s running, and the guy behind the wheel puts the car in drive and takes his foot off the brake… yeah, James. You’re gonna be able to tell the difference as soon as the car runs over you.
And yeah… I’m not THAT dumb. But the fact remains that if all you are looking at is the engine humming and the gears spinning and the fan whirring and the radio blaring and the wipers flapping back and forth, then you have no way of knowing if the car is in drive or if it’s in neutral.
So now take that truth, and apply it to the church. Any church. Our church. We are starting back up again. The calendar is beginning to fill up again. Classes are meeting. Restrictions are easing. There’s sound and lights and activities and stuff going on. But are we going anywhere? Is there forward motion, or is there just movement?
Are we in drive, or are we in neutral?
What about your personal life? We are busy people. We’re constantly in motion. But the question comes back—is there forward motion, or is there just movement. Are you like a NASCAR driver, racing around and around at 200 mph, but at the end of the day you haven’t gone anywhere?
Over the next few weeks, we are going to talk about some SHIFTS that we need to make, both in our personal lives and in the life of our church, in order to be the people God wants us to be. We’re going to talk about shifting our attitude. Shifting our actions. We’re going to ask the question, is there anything about our priorities that we need to shift? It’s going to be a great series, but today, I want to talk specifically about the church. About how, before we can shift INTO any other gear, we have to shift OUT of neutral.
So that brings us to our Scripture passage for this morning. I want us to look at Ezekiel because I think we are going to find some common ground with this prophet. Ezekiel’s entire ministry happened during the time of Judah’s exile in Babylon. When Ezekiel had his first vision, it was just the fifth year of what would be a 70 year period where life as they had known it had been turned upside down. The temple had been destroyed, their children were getting absorbed into a new culture, and Ezekiel himself was trying to figure out, where is God in all this? What is life going to look like on the other side of quarantine (oops! I mean exile!)
So in Ezekiel 37, which is probably the most well known passage in the entire book, God gives him this vision. Let’s stand to honor the reading of God’s Word:
37 The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. 2 And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. 3 And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” 4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6 And I will lay sinews upon 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.”