Second Sunday of Advent
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Sunday, December 10th, 2017
Loving God, you put your Spirit within us that we may live. Help us to be aware of your presence every hour of every day, and fill us with the gifts of faith, hope, and love, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Imagine for just a moment that you are Ezekiel. God is showing you a valley that is absolutely full of bones – bones that are so dry that the people must have died a very long time ago. God leads you around and around until you have toured the bones thoroughly and then asks you a very interesting question: “Can these bones live?” (Ezek. 37:3). What is your answer going to be?... [a firm “no”; Ezekiel’s answer?]
For many people, the answer would be obvious – of course they can’t live! They’re long dead. However, where God is involved, so many things are possible. And so Ezekiel is told to prophesy to the bones and to tell them that God will put his breath within them and give them flesh and sinews and skin, and they will live. However, Ezekiel’s first sermon doesn’t quite do it. The bones did indeed come together and there were sinews and flesh and skin on them, “but there was no breath in them” (Ezek. 37:7). And so Ezekiel prophesies again – this time to the breath – and the breath, the wind, the spirit of God comes into them, and they do, indeed, live.
It is a message that was first intended for those who were in exile in Babylon. They had been saying, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely” (Ezek. 37:11). And God says to them through Ezekiel, “Oh no you’re not. I am going to raise you up and put my spirit within you, and you shall live. And I will plant you in your own land.”
It was an amazing word of hope for those who had succumbed to despair. In spite of how things looked to them, God was still in charge and was going to bring them out of exile and give them new life. The foundation was still there and would be rebuilt, just like a house that has “good bones.”
One of the questions for us, as we stand here in the season of Advent, is whether we find ourselves full of hope or despair. Do we look around us and at our world and feel hope or despair?... And a related question: Does it look like God is in charge or like God is absent?... Those are pretty big questions, and those who are feeling despair and who believe that God is absent are pretty much in the same place as the exiles were at the time of Ezekiel.
If you do happen to be in that place of despair, please know that this is not a judgment on you. There are many people who end up there, and God always addresses despair with compassion and hope. In fact, it is a marvelous image that we are given today of God putting within us the breath of life. And, as breath and wind and spirit are all the same word in Hebrew, it is also God’s Spirit that is breathed into us. “I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live,” says the Lord (Ezek. 37:14). Sometimes simply to breathe and to be aware of God’s Spirit can be a source of hope.
Both the reading from Ezekiel and our gospel verses today remind us of the transforming life that God brings. Even when everything looks dead, God can give life. Whether the bones have been dead for years or Lazarus has been in the grave for four days, God has the power to raise them to life. God also has the power to transform our lives and our world.
To some extent, how much hope we experience as we look around us is related to our faith. There are some things that are promised but haven’t happened yet – like the time when Christ will come again. There are also some things that are already but not yet – like the kingdom of God that Christ proclaims. God’s kingdom is always partially hidden – like the treasure in a field or the yeast in the batch of dough. Yet, God’s power continues to be at work – primarily through God’s people.
There are signs of new life and hope to be found when we look with the eyes of faith. Each baby and little one who worships with us and joins in the singing is a sign of hope. Each young person who came here this week and worked on the Christmas tree and sending cards to shut-ins is a sign of hope. Each act of generosity to those who are in need, or caring visit or phone call is a sign of hope. Each visit to those who are sick or in prison is a sign of hope.
For each of these things are signs of Emmanuel – God with us – as Jesus continues to be found among us. Whether working through us as signs of hope to those in need or coming to us through the ministry of others, Christ continues to be at work in our midst and in our world.
At the same time, God’s promise continues to be there for us when we are tempted to slip into despair. For God continues to say to us, “I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live.” So don’t forget to breathe! Allow the breath of God – the Spirit of God - to fill your hearts and minds and lungs. For, not only does God give the breath of life, but life in all its fullness through Jesus Christ, who is the resurrection and the life. Amen.
Advent 2 (NL 4) Ezekiel 37:1-14
December 10, 2017 John 11:25-26
St. Luke’s Zion Lutheran Church
Pastor Lynne Hutchison
© 2017 Lynne Hutchison All Rights Reserved