Too often, in the face of seemingly complicated situations, we can hear, “Well, that’s just the way it is.” War and poverty: “Well, that’s just the way it is.” Hunger, hatred and intolerance: “Well, that’s just the way it is.” Different kinds of people not getting along with each other: “Well, that’s just the way it is.” Global warming and the loss of earth’s resources: “Well, that’s just the way it is.”
Dry, lifeless bones stay dry and lifeless — “Well … not so fast.”
It’s quite a tour that God has planned for the mortal in Ezekiel 37:1-14. And if you’re standing on the ridge looking down into the valley, watching as the mortal wanders through all those bones, those very dry bones, you have to wonder: “What’s going on?” “What is he doing?”
It’s just plain silly to think that anything will happen with those bones. They’re dead; they’re lifeless; they’re dry. And just as my dad would keep a firm hand on my shoulder when walking through a crowd, God keeps a firm hand on the mortal, leading him through that valley filled with bones, filled with very dry bones.
“Mortal,” says the Lord, “can these bones live?” Conventional wisdom says, “no, unequivocally, no. This is the end. There is no hope here. Bones are bones are bones — well, that’s just the way it is. Bury them and let’s get on with it.”
There are those situations where it makes the most sense to just walk away. Peace talks don’t work; counseling doesn’t work. That’s just the way he is; she’ll never change. Palestinians and Israelis will always be enemies. The divide between the haves and the have-nots is unbreachable. The world will continue to grow warmer.
Mortal, can these bones live? Conventional wisdom says “no.” And it’s just downright silly walking around in the midst of it hoping otherwise.
After the tour through the valley, the Lord asks, “Mortal, can these bones live?” And the mortal stands there, looks around, and gives the only answer possible — “O Lord God, you know.”
And God does know, not because God has the information, but because only God has the power to make life happen. God takes the “Well, that’s just the way it is” and turns it around, turns it upside down, transforms it.
God then uses the mortal; God gives the mortal a job to do: prophecy to the bones, call forth the breath, call forth hope. And you know what happens next? The bones, the very dry bones, start to come together — bone to bone and then sinews and then flesh, but still lifeless. It is a grotesque image save for the spiritual context, save for the breath, coming from the four winds, coming to breathe life into the lifeless bodies.
Through the mortal, God speaks new life into dead bones, gives hope to a people utterly cut off and revives the lifeless.
Mortal, can these bones live? O Lord God, you know. And God does know, not because God has the information, but because only God has the power to make life happen.
We look at the world around us. We read the newspaper. We listen to the news. We hear stories from friends. We examine our own lives and we know there are areas of lifelessness. We know there are places where life is dry. We know there are places where hope is abandoned. “Well,” we say, “that’s just the way it is.”
Let’s strike that phrase from our vocabulary, shall we? Because it’s a cop-out, a sign of resignation, a lack of faith. We utter it because we’re too afraid or the work seems too hard or we don’t want to look foolish or if it does change, it means change for our lives or it’s just easier to live with the hurt we know.
The mortal walking through the valley now knows this is not just the way it is. Here is a whiff of the resurrection — giving life and hope where dry bones litter the landscape, giving life and hope where life seems hopeless.
Mortal, can these bones live?
Questions for reflection:
- How might God through you bring life and hope?
- How might you be open to God’s Spirit that you may participate in God’s life-giving power?
- How might you catch a whiff of the resurrection?
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