Summary: Being transformed is the work of the Holy Spirit as God directs Him to pull us together and knit us into the spiritual army He desires. It is His life we draw on, not our own.
A man died while sitting in his parked car in Melbourne, Australia in October of 2005. Such things happen, what makes this news worthy is that a police officer wrote a parking ticket and put it on the windshield two days before the body discovered. He had also been reported missing nine days previous. In explanation a City Councilman apologized, expressed sympathy for the family then said, "It is simply a case of the parking officer not noticing."
The best of us can be like this officer who just doesn’t notice what’s right in front of them. We’re here on Pentecost, confronted again with the promise of God’s Holy Spirit bringing power, transforming hearts and sending us forth yet we are, at times, clueless as to what this means. God’s people have a choice. We can either live life based on our abilities, skills, desires and wants or based on God’s desire and vision for our lives. The Holy Spirit is the difference. N.T. Write, Bishop of Durham in the Church of England, wrote, "We are not to be surprised if living as Christians brings us to the place where we find we are at the end of our own resources, and that we are called to rely on the God who raises the dead."
Even if we chose to live life on our terms God is in the business of calling and changing lives into what they were created to be. His call presupposes compliance to His will and the changing happens when change is not option for us.
Today we are celebrating the giving of Power to God’s people at Pentecost. We are also dedicating our pledges and gifts to God for the coming year. Today we have a unique opportunity to "rely on the God who raises the dead" to give us power and to respond in faith to God’s goodness.
God is for us. God is on our side. God likes us. God thinks we’re great. God doesn’t know us as much as we do. That last saying is the reaction of many when they hear about God concern and love. If He only knew what I’ve done? If God only knew what I’m like? If He could see what I think about, plot, who I hate and how I judge others... God does know all of this and even more. Yet God is for us, God is on our side. God likes us and God thinks we’re great.
The prophet Ezekiel is transported to a valley full of dry bones. These have been here for years. They represented Israel and the death brought about by their lack of trust in God. Israel had become so "cock-sure" of their ability they didn’t need God. Israel had everything handled with treaties with Egypt and Assyria; they didn’t need God’s protection. Israel was God’s chosen people; God wouldn’t turn away from them. Yet they were now in exile. They had been told by Jeremiah that they weren’t coming back anytime soon. They were to establish their careers, raise their children, marry them off, build homes, and pray for the peace of Babylon because they were going to be staying.
God does the work not us
That police officer didn’t notice the dead man in the seat. Sometimes when we find ourselves in a personal valley of dry bones we don’t notice them either. We’re too busy whining and complaining; sighing and making deals with God to notice what is around us.
God asks Ezekiel a question, "Can these bones live again?" To Ezekiel’s credit he doesn’t chime in with some quick answer. Instead, his answer reflects a genuine faith in God’s providence, "LORD God, only you can answer that." CEV He’s not dodging the question; he really knows God can do it if God wants too.
Do what God says
Then God tells Ezekiel to prophesy over the bones. What that means is to tell the dry, dead, unhearing bones what God is planning to do. How does Ezekiel know what God wants to do? Because God tells Ezekiel what to say to the bones. As Ezekiel finishes it begins. The bones come together. They knit together into bodies. The bodies find muscles and skin flowing onto them. They stand erect, human, and ready to do whatever the Lord commands. But Ezekiel sees there is no life in them.
Ezekiel is told to prophesy a second time. He calls for the creative power of God, the life-breathing Holy Spirit, to come upon these zombies and give life. This is the same power present at creation, which breathed life into Adam and which came on Christ’s people at Pentecost.
Now these once dried and separate bones form a vast army. The impossible took place. Israel, dried up and abandoned because of their sin, would find God’s restoration and life once more. God will open their graves, put them in their own land, put His Spirit within them and all of this because God loves them.