Freed from the tomb of sinfulness
- Ezekiel 37:1-14
- Psalm 130
- Romans 8:6-11
- John 11:1-45
Heavenly Father, we thank you that by water and the Holy Spirit you have bestowed upon these your servants the forgiveness of sin, and raised them to the new life of grace. (BCP 308)
In baptism, the Christian is freed from the tomb of sinfulness. Dry bones take on flesh and those who were dead are filled with the breath of God. Paul writes to the Romans, explaining that God’s life-giving Spirit is unleashed in Christ. It replaces the Mosaic law that sin uses to produce death.
According to Christopher R. Seitz (Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology 46), “Exile is death. It is a valley where all the prophet can see are bones, where he alone has eyes to see and hear the question too horrible to be answered except by God, “Can these bones live?” “[God], you know.” The place of exile is not just the north country, or a new Egypt, or the regions around the earth’s boundaries, north, south, east, and west. It is as cold and final as the tomb, where no breath is drawn. . . . Yes, Israel is totally dead. . . . The valley is full of bones, and all are very dry. Not one shows any sign of stirring by its own effort. The prophet sees a wasteland, still, lifeless, and all encompassing. His words of judgment have reached as far as they can, until he alone is left – or, better, he alone with God who hand first sent him on this grim mission.”
Today’s stories are about stages in resurrection: bones coming together and then breath coming into the body. The second could not happen without the first, but the first could not happen with the second.
Questions for reflection:
- How does it feel when God asks you to prophesy to something that you can see is dead? hopeless? foolish?
- What dries out bones? How is hope lost?
- How are our churches like scattered bones? List the ways.
- Why did Jesus delay in going to Lazarus? How do you think Mary and Martha felt about it?
- Is it all right to be angry with God when someone we love dies?
- Why does Jesus weep in this story? Why does Jesus weep in our day?
- From what kinds of death does Jesus raise us?
- How do we assist in the unbinding of others?
- In what ways have you died and been brought back to life?
O gentle God, you are the only source of healing and resurrection. When we are lifeless, like dead bones in a desert valley, you splint us together and cover us with the flesh of your grace. Then you entice, catapult, trick, pry, lure, love, blackmail, and jump-start us out of the graves of our meaninglessness. Amen (Maren Tirabassi, “A Gift of Improbable Blessing, United Church Press, 1998).
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