Ezekiel 37:11 “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.”
You can read Ezekiel 37:1-14 here.
Reading about the valley of dry bones feels close to home. As we have passed the year anniversary of being at home in quarantine, many of us may feel that we are cut off completely from our communities. Online worship does not provide the same opportunities to see our church families. Both of my daughters changed schools this fall, and I have never been inside either building. It is weird. The murder of George Floyd and subsequent Chauvin trial, the many other black men and women who have been murdered, the countless mass shootings, the riot at the Capitol on January 6, and the postponement of The United Methodist’s General Conference and the creation of the Global Methodist Church all have me feeling more hopeless than hopeful.
Our bones are dried up. The life-giving blood and muscle are no longer surrounding them.
Ezekiel is written after the destruction of the Temple in 587 BCE. The community of Jews is scattered. Their hope is to be able to return to Israel and rebuild the Temple. I cannot help but feel like much of the U.S. and the United Methodist Church needs rebuilt. Fear and violence keep us apart. We are afraid of change. We are afraid of others. We are afraid that we will have to give up our comfort for someone else. It isn’t pie, as the saying goes.
In answer to the exiles’ despair, God says, “I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live” (37:14). The Easter story is about claiming life. Death and dry bones do not have the final say. God’s Spirit lives within us and invites us to claim abundant life. We are invited to focus on life, and all that is life-giving. To share love, to act with loving hearts, and to see all “others” as people who also have God’s Spirit living within them. We are invited to see each other as beloveds, rather than strangers.
John Wesley read this as “a resurrection of the church from an afflicted state to liberty and peace” (Wesley Study Bible notes p 1032). This hope can apply to the church universal, as we all try to figure out how to be church together and apart. It also can apply to the divisiveness within The United Methodist Church as we await the postponed General Conference. The Church universal has had to pivot during quarantine and is now faced with the challenge of what programs to resume, and what need to remain in the past.
All of us can take the lessons we learned in quarantine and decide how we want to live. Do we want to resume all our activities? Can we seek a balance between activities and being home? What relationships serve us, and which do not? What give us life, and what is not life-giving?
If you are feeling stuck in the valley of dry bones, that is ok. There is a time to lament, cry, pray, shout, be angry, and wonder if these bones can ever live again. And it is also ok, when you are ready to claim life in your bones. To choose how you want your life to be. To work for change personally and within your communities. To be aware of God’s Spirit within you and recognize it in everyone else too.
May you find hope in one another’s love.