A sermon for an Easter Vigil
Genesis 1:1-31, 2:1-4a [The Story of Creation], Exodus 14:10-31; 15:20-21 [Israel’s deliverance at the Red Sea], Isaiah 55:1-11 [Salvation offered freely to all], Ezekiel 37:1-14 [The valley of dry bones], Zephaniah 3:1420 [The gathering of God’s people]
At The Eucharist: Romans 6:3-11, Psalm 114, Mark 16:18
Israel is dead. Defeated by Assyria in 724 Israel ceased to exist. A hundred and twenty years later, when Egypt is defeated by Babylon the scraps of Israel, throws her lot in with Babylon, and regains vassal life. A decade later Jehoiakim rebels; he is killed; over the next several years there is more fighting and in 597 about everyone in Israel is exiled to Babylon among them is Ezekiel.
Throughout all this mess and most of Israel’s exile Ezekiel’s prophecy rants judgment against Israel for: false prophets, idolatry, corrupt kings, and apostasy. He doesn’t leave other nations out, spewing prophecy for doom for grievous abominations. (Holman Bible Dictionary) Ezekiel’s message? Israel was destroyed because she was not capable of being God’s covenant people. (Petersen & Bevery, 2010)
But, woven throughout Ezekiel’s doom and gloom is a glimmer of hope a message of restoration.
I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them; … so that they may follow my statutes and keep my ordinances and obey them. Then they shall be my people, and I will be their God. (Ezekiel 11:19-20)
Israel cannot hear it, cannot see, cannot imagine it because they believe they are dead, betray by leaders, and abandoned by God, they are forgotten; Israel is dead. They cannot hear God’s recent promise:
…you shall live in the land that I gave to your ancestors; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God (Ezekiel 36:28)
If promises and rational argument won’t work, perhaps absurd, ridiculous images can reinvigorate Israel’s crippled imaginations, so that they may know the presence of God. (Petersen & Bevery, 2010)
So, God snatches Ezekiel away to a wide valley, the scene of a long ago lost battle, full of uncountable dry bones. The conversation moves from the question of if these bones can live, to the words, the knowledge, by which these bones can live, to the breathing of new life into freshly joined and enfleshed bones. The ‘breath’ is ‘ruach’ the breath, the spirt of God blown into apar of the adama giving life to adam, blown into the dust of the ground giving life to humanity. The woof and warp of the story reveals the knowledge to bring new life and the breath of life itself comes from God. Israel, does not have regenerative ability within herself; only God does. The knowledge and source of life, draws from Genesis, the beginning.
But tonight, with the still raw experience of Jesus’ death shaping our imaginations I’m wondering what beginning we, right here, right now envision. I have a suspicion, in a world of ‘I-whatever’ we read the creation narrative as being about the end product, us, so creation is all about us. I invite us to back up just a bit, to see the larger picture, to notice that we are created in the divine image as stewards of creation. We are, by divine intent, connected to all creation, not only in our making, but in our purpose. We are a part of a grand cosmic whole; something Israel forgot.
For Israel the grand cosmic whole was for sure what we call the Middle East perhaps a bit more expansive, capped with the vast night sky, full of uncountable stars, and mystery.
Today, our cosmic vision is vaster, (to my surprise in the dictionary). We know of our planet, our solar system, in our galaxy, in a galaxy cluster, part of a super cluster, thousands upon thousands of which rush through billowing clouds of dust, and immense un-seeable energy and mass; all this make up our universe, that just maybe part of unknowable numbers of universes. And all of this the known and unknown is all interconnected, ebbing and flowing in continuous cycles of creation, and destruction. It’s ever moving, ever shifting, but always, always connected; from the teeniest particle to the largest unknowable mass, it is all connected. It is all part of a single cosmic whole spoken/sung into being by God’s word of such love, become such energy, become such matter that we, humanity, bearers of the divine image, became ~ are.
The Valley of the Dry Bones, invites Israel back into their cosmic image of being in God’s presence, from which all of and all life is. The Valley of the Dry Bones, invites us back into our grand cosmic image. Some night, go deep into a farmer’s field to observe the stars.
Find NASA’s website and explore cosmic image after cosmic image, after cosmic image, and see what we are a part of, connected to.
Like Israel we forget our cosmic connections, or at least we reduce it to small images, we think we can control, or are comfortable with. We tend to see Easter as Jesus’ resurrection and through this miracle “my connection” to God’s presence. But Easter does so much more. Easter does reconnect me to myself, reconnects you to yourself, reconnects each us to each other, reconnects me to God, reconnects you to God, reconnects all of us, all of humanity to God. Easter reconnects all of us to each other, all of us to all that grand, beyond imagination, beyond cosmic being to the absurdity that a measure of God’s original love for us, revealed in the cosmic vastness is exceeded only by God’s death shattering resurrection of Jesus by which, and in which we are reconnected, by which and in which we are born anew.
This Easter you are invited to the valley of death, to the valley of dry bones; you are invited to the tomb the death place of all your hope and dreams; you are invited to be surprised by the endless connections of grand cosmic possibilities of new life.
Harrelson, W. J. (2003). The New Interpreters’ Study Bible. Abingdon Press.
Holman Bible Dictionary. (n.d.). WORD – QuickVerse .
Petersen, D., & Bevery, R. G. (2010). New Interpreters’ Bible, One Volume Commentary. Nashville TN: Abbingdon Press.