Archive for May 27th, 2012
37:1 The hand of the LORD came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. 3 He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” 4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. 5 Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6 I will lay sinews on 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.” 7 So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8 I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. 9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” 10 I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude. 11 Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ 12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. 14 I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken and will act,” says the LORD. [NRSV]
This is a remarkable vision of the prophet Ezekiel for the people of God to hear, understand, and take to heart themselves.
On one hand it is difficult to take one person’s experience and try to make it your own. Usually we get lost trying to be like someone rather than learning from the lessons they have shared.
One of my professors in seminary, Jonathon Jackson, was a student of teacher, preacher and spiritual mystic, Howard Thurman. For years Jonathon took every class Dr Thurman offered, read all his books, sought his counsel in his office as often as he could. As hard as he tried he did not find the same joy and power Dr Thurman expressed and witnessed. He confronted his hero and said, I have tried with all my strength to live and act just as you have done and it has not worked for me. Dr Thurman replied, ‘The Good Lord has already made a Howard Thurman, what [he] wants is a Jonathon Jackson.’
We take the message of others and applied the lessons to fit our own spiritual skin.
Ezekiel is taken by a divine messenger to witness the miracle of resurrection. The Good News we celebrated just 50 days ago at Easter, continues as true then as now. He lives!
Pentecost asks: So what are you doing about that fact?
Ezekiel is taken to the valley of the shadow of death and see’s the evidence of futile fighting our physical battle.. The bones of a great nation that has lived and died and what do they have to show for their lives?
The Great Work is a step-by-step reconstruction of the impossible.
This is the message of the resurrection! What seems impossible, God can do and desires to do through us.
In the field, bones rattle and come together end-to-end
Sinews form, muscles spring out and attach
Skin forms and the lifeless signs of death are no more.
Now there is a great nation of living, breathing, people of God’s making.
For some the image of imperial storm trooper drones are pictured, but this is not just a show, this is new creation shown to be “a people, a nation.”
Without getting into politics, God is forming a nation of God-made faithful folk right before Ezekiel’s eyes.
It is actually the same as a people who have heard the Good News of Easter, but just 50 days later is sounds like old news we’ve heard before and we want something more and wonder why we are frustrated, dying and afraid.
Hear the Good News
We are people of God’s remolding and forming. The steps are being taken to make a people who will not be just noisy rattles,
But a people who will put the pieces together and live the life most fully, the God connect, God breathed, God empowered life.
Take a deep spiritual breathe, be made new
Get up out of this field and go into the world,
He lives, and he lives in you and me.
1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. 5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?
2:9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs–in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.”
2:12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.” 14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say.
15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 17 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. 18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. 19 And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 20 The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. 21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ [NRSV]
The Miracle of Pentecost is “Adudibility.” Our ability to hear
- It is about our hearing.
- It is a miss reading to call this witness of the Spirit an encounter with ‘speaking-in-tongues.’
- The heart of the text rest on the 2.8, “How is it that we all hear..”
Hearing is a treasure.
- Sometimes we have diminishing hearing…
- Other times we have selective hearing…
- Still other times we hear nothing or noise..
- And at times, we hear clearly.
This passage is about hearing clearly God’s word for own heart, our own need, the message that fits the challenge we face.
Are we hearing God speak to our hearts
Are we listening?
Have we heard it all before?
What is the truth in times of division?
Some in the text are not ready to hear. The message is available but they are not receptive. Peter warns us not to be afraid of Hearing What God has for us to know, believe, experience, or do.
For all those who heard in their own language and heart, received something that applied to their own lives, own communities and circles of influence. It is from this day of witness and hearing that the Good News is spread beyond Jerusalem into the known world. God speaks, and some folks are listening.
In this great time of hearing Peter preaches.
His words of encouraging, Hear this:
- God’s Spirit is with us, speaking to us all.
- Spirit talking and listening call for willing ears.
- So listen up and find salvation, guidance and faith.
How do you know when God is speaking?
Typically it is not in voices of unknown languages,
But in our own experience.
God’s Spirit speaks to hear our mind and heart, where we are thinking, processing, worrying, stuck and spiritually hungry.
God’s spirit is the invisible presence at work for our benefit.
This is one of the litmus tests of knowing the spirit.
If it is not for the good of community, it might just be for some one and not God at all.
Just this week, I have received a challenge to my spiritual hearing. Maybe some of you have as well..
conflicting messages from God.
Someone interrupted our music practice and wanted us to turn off the power and leave the building. Was this God speaking so just a prank?
It is true that sometimes hearing God’s call in our lives is an interruption.. Just as in the Pentecost story in Jerusalem.
It was not a common sight to see flames coming from the sky, resting on people and they becoming conduits of the divine message.
We’d like to think that something that impressive would grab all our attentions, but it did in the text and it does not reach all people at the same time today. Listening and trusting what we hear might call for actions that would be ridiculed or ignored by others.
But listen to the text, listen to Peter:
The Spirit’s message to the community and not just one person.
God has a message intended for each of us, in our hearts.
God has a word that intended for all of us, shared for listeners.
After much prayer, reflection on this text and conversation with other members, pastors, friends in the faith I have come to understand and affirm the following:
- Though we are all one in Christ, we don’t all hear the same things from God. (right/wrong, good/bad) God works through our limitations.
- The message from God always regards salvation, our broken-relationship-made-whole-through-Christ. Billy Graham’s “I preach Christ and him crucified every time.”
- Some people will disagree with our interpretations and faithful actions. Our call is to be listening to God and faithful to God, and not people’s opinions.
- God can speak through different languages, cultures, traditions, and experiences and that’s ok with God.
- Bottom line. We need to be open to how ever God might be speaking to us, but its generally a public address for God is interested in transforming the whole world.
- God does not work to get attention for God, but works to draw us closer to God’s heart.
50 Days since Easter:
Christ still lives! Does our life give witness to that Good News?
Disciples were willing to be messengers
Disciples were willing to take time to explain and help others understand what had been heard.
Disciples are folks like us, willing to hear and tell today.
- Don’t be quiet, Don’t be afraid, Don’t be left out.