Hope

April 2, 2017

          As a pastoral care practitioner, I have read and experienced a lot about despair and the loss of hope in people’s lives and have come to understand that hope is the one state of mind we cannot live without. We are presented today with two very important scriptures that deal with just that – hope and the consequences of being without hope. In the readings this week, both Ezekiel and John share stories that seem way beyond hope. The Gospel, which describes the raising of Lazarus and the Hebrew Scripture of the Valley of Dry bones in Ezekiel, both illustrate the enormous role God has in offering new life and hope to humans when we see no hope in sight. We are always challenged to find hope where there appears to be none. It is our human calling, to repel despair and trust that with God all things are possible. We hear that a lot, don’t we - with God all things are possible and I do believe that to be true. 

 

I had another dream. The hand of God was upon me, and God brought me out by the spirit and set me down right in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. And God led me around among them; and behold, there were very many bones in this valley; and they were very...very...very...dry. 

And God said to me, “O Human! Can these bones live?” And I answered “O Great God, you’re the one who knows that.”

Can these bones live?
You’re the one who knows! 

Can these bones live?
You’re the one who knows! 

Can these bones live?
You’re the one who knows! 

Prophesy to these bones! 

Again, God said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of God’.”(signal your turn!)

Oh, dry bones, hear the word of God.
Oh, dry bones, hear the word of God.
Oh, dry bones, hear the word of God – prophesy to these bones! 

This is what our Great God says to you bones:
“Behold, I am going to make breath to come into you and you shall live.
And I will put sinews upon you,
and I will make flesh to come upon you,
and cover you with skin, and put breath in you,
and you shall live again; and you shall know that I am your Great God.” (signal)

Oh, dry bones, hear the word of God.
Oh, dry bones, hear the word of God.
Oh, dry bones, hear the word of God – prophesy to these bones! 

And so, I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied there was a noise, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And as I looked, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them – but... 

There was no breath in them. 

Then God said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, O Human One, and say, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of God.’(signal)

Oh, dry bones, hear the word of God.
Oh, dry bones, hear the word of God.
Oh, dry bones, hear the word of God – prophesy to these bones! 

“Come from the four winds, O breath and breathe upon these dead bones, so that they may live.” So, I prophesied as God commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood upon their feet, an enormous number of living people!” 

Then God said to me, “O Human One, these bones that were dry and dead are like those hopes which you can’t believe in anymore. They are dead. When all your hopes and your wishes seem dried up, prophesy to them, and my spirit will rush in like the four winds’ breath and bring them to life again.” (signal)

Oh, dry bones, hear the word of God.
Oh, dry bones, hear the word of God.
Oh, dry bones, hear the word of God – prophesy to these bones!

 

          What is Ezekiel talking about? It’s a kind of resurrection, isn’t it? With prophecy and careful intention, the dry old bones come blasting back to life! Just like when Jesus brought his dear friend Lazarus back to life, in the Gospel of John, in Ezekiel the dry, dusty bones are brought back to life by the power of God’s breath, the very power of life.  So, this morning since we have the benefit of having the children in church with us let’s think about the big picture question Christians ask and have asked for over 2000 years – What does resurrection mean for you? By that I mean, when you hear the word resurrection what do you think of? (Take a moment to reflect on Resurrection before continuing to read)

 

         In the Gospel from John today we heard that Jesus’ friend Lazarus had been sick and then died but Jesus went to see him TWO DAYS after he was asked by his friends Mary and Martha to come and take care of Lazarus. Why do you think Jesus waited so long to go to Lazarus and his other friends? Jesus seems like such a good guy, why would he do that?  Was it a decision or did he just not feel like it? Any thoughts?

 

         You know, sometimes you get up in the morning (or your parents call you to get up in the morning) and you feel like “Really? Do I have to? Can’t I just lie here in my warm cozy bed and let the world do its own thing?” The answer to that is of course yes, you could, but then you would miss out on the fun at school and you’d get behind on your school work and that would mess you all up, wouldn’t it? So, what do you think of Jesus’ decision not to go to his sick friend’s side immediately? 

 

         The fact of the matter is, according to this Gospel, Jesus seemed to already know that Lazarus had passed away, even before the others knew and he wasn’t at all concerned. Perhaps Jesus used Lazarus’ situation to demonstrate his remarkable abilities. If you had been the other friends, Martha or Mary who had to watch Lazarus being so sick, how would you have felt that Jesus didn’t come right away? You might be mad or disappointed in Jesus, don’t you think?  It’s curious that Jesus, though not worried about Lazarus at first, cried and grieved along with the others when he finally did arrive and see his dear friend.

 

         Jesus was fully human, indeed and felt sad and grief just like you and me.  In the meantime, Lazarus is reported to not have said anything during this miraculous event. If you had been Lazarus, what might you have said to Jesus after he rose you up? I imagine that the scene when Jesus swoops in to bring Lazarus back to life was crazy and chaotic. I imagine people were crying and yelling as they witnessed this most unlikely thing to happen. This was beyond what anyone would consider to be reasonable and yet…according to the Bible, it did happen. 

 

         What in your life and in the big wide world seems way beyond God’s ability to make it right? Where do we all  find hope in the midst of crisis and chaos? That is our job as humans. To be faithful agents of God in spreading hope around. Hope that there is always a better day ahead. Hope in people to be basically good. Hope that the world’s climate and beauty can be brought back from overuse and thoughtlessness. Hope that you and I can help God to make the world a more loving place in which to live. We can all do a lot to make things more caring, more livable, more just. Thank God for that opportunity because to be honest, it gives our lives meaning. That matters. Let’s pray: 

 

         Help us to know that in the midst of the despair we encounter in daily newscasts and in our own life challenges, you can bring us hope and ask us to do the same for others.

 

Amen       

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Greendale People's Church

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Phone: 508-852-7727

Email:

office@greendalepeopleschurch.org

RevKev@greendalepeopleschurch.org

25 Francis Street 

Worcester, MA 01606

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