Christ Lutheran Church
May 23, 2021
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
Can These Bones Live?
The hand of the Lord was upon me, and by the Spirit of the LORD he brought me out and laid me to rest in the middle of the valley; filled with bones. He led me all round and about them and Behold! There were very many on the face of the valley and Behold! they were very dry. And he said to me, "Son of Man can these bones live?" And I answered, "O LORD GOD, you know." Then he said to me, "Prophesy over these bones; and say to them, "O dry bones, hear the Word of the Lord." Ezekiel 37:1-4 (DKV)
The vision recorded in today’s Old Testament lesson is a prophesy that is repeated by Jesus in today’s Gospel, and fulfilled in today’s Second reading which recounts the events of the Great Feast of Pentecost for us, lest we should ever forget; or lest we should ever think even for a moment that we are without the power of God’s Holy Spirit in our lives.
We are not!
And thank God for it – “For no man can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Cor. 12:3) Nor can any Christian do spiritual battle against the devil, culture and flesh; or produce the refreshing “fruits of the Spirit” without the inexhaustible powerhouse that is: “the Lord and giver of Life.”
As we recall today’s Old Testament lesson heard earlier from the consecrated lips of Deacon Brian let us also take note that Ezekiel is referred to some 90 times as the Son of Man. By this title God shows him to be a prophecy and type of Christ; who refers to himself in the Gospels about 80 times also as the “Son of Man.”
It is a term he uses almost exclusively to refer to his redeeming death on the cross; that he suffered for the Life of the World.
While there were 3 crosses that day on Calvary, only the one in the middle purges the world of its sin. Their sin, your sin, all sin, so that indeed there is no wrong, no error, no debt, transgression, trespass or deeply regretful case of bad judgment that is not now washed away by the blood that fell from our Savior’s side to renew the face of the earth, and the people on it.
You re those people.
It is the same blood that is sprinkled on us in Baptism, and fed to us in the Holy Grail of the Lord’s Cup, which IS, by definition, The New Testament.
By our Lord’s demise on the cross; and by the Word and Sacraments which distribute the cross’s benefits to us, we poor sinners, like the dry bones in Ezekiel’s Valley, are clothed anew with the sinews of Christ himself! And filled with Holy Spirit whose Temples our bodies now are.
What the LORD told Ezekiel to do in this vision – to speak the Word of the Lord over a valley full of very dry bones, “dead in their trespasses and sins” – Jesus did in reality when he who is the Word of God made Flesh uttered the words, “It is finished,” and thereby pronounced absolution on all of humanity.
But you should also know that when the old Bible translations say that he “gave up the ghost” that such a translation doesn’t do justice to what the Evangelist is saying. More correctly “gave up the ghost” should be translated “handed over the Spirit,” for that is what our Lord does. He “who gives the Spirit without measure.” (Jn 3:34)
That is the self-same Spirit that he breathed onto his disciples on Easter evening when he commissioned them to forgive the sins of the penitent, and to withhold forgiveness from the unrepentant. (This is the Great Commission)
The same Spirit that he poured out on all flesh on this grand and glorious feast of Pentecost; so that following THAT brilliant Day there is no corner of the earth, no place in the heavens, the seas, or in the world of the dead where we can flee the presence of this “Lord and giver of Life” “who proceeds from the Father and the Son, and with the Father and Son is together worshiped and glorified.”
It is the same Spirit who made his presence known at the 2 “Gentile Pentecosts” recorded in the Book of Acts
The same Spirit that according to Psalm 104 “renews the face of the earth” so that it is no longer a valley of dry bones.
Apart from Christ, Beloved, and apart from the Spirit who proceeds “from the Father and the Son,” there is no life here! Only millions upon millions of square miles of dry bones.
Dead men walking.
Suffocating with the knee of the devil on our collective neck; so that we cannot breathe; and smothered by our communal greed, our lust and the largest outbreak of arrogance since the Tower of Babel.
But how did we get this way?
The question could be answered in many ways, but in a word: We have not listened to Ezekiel when he says: "O dry bones, hear the Word of the Lord."
Jesus is that Word.
The Word of God made flesh, who dwelt and still dwells among us: Full of grace and truth; light and life; peace and rest!
But let us ask a more pertinent question, one that will get us somewhere,
“Can these bones live?”
Will we ever be able to “exalt our low desires, or extinguish passion’s fire” as we sing in the Pentecost hymn? Will humanity ever humble itself and call on the name of the Lord so that it might be saved? So that it will not be put to shame over and over again, as one failing human vision, paves the way for the next?
Can these bones live?
Now enter Pentecost! Now enter the Breathe of God. The Holy Spirit. Poured out upon all flesh, to regenerate us and assure us, and fill us with good hope that: Yes! These bones can live!
Can these bones live?
Now enter the Holy Word of God spoken by his prophets;
Now enter the Holy Church, Holy Liturgy; the sacred rites and rituals, ceremonies and celebrations by which we are set free from our demoniac, disordered, ecclesiastical tendencies, and sit fully clothed in Christ; and in our right minds at Jesus’ feet.
Now enter Jesus himself, the Lord of Life and Lord of Glory who comes to his church in the flesh at every Eucharist to Commune with His Spotless Bride.
Now enter his clergy, his modern day Ezekiels, whose ranks have blessedly increased by 5 this Pentecost.
These are the 5 men sitting before you who are now consecrated, commissioned and installed to assist the pastors of Christ Lutheran Church to speak the Word of God over our dry bones as they read the Sacred Scripture to the Church, so that we might come to life again and again.
When they read Sacred Scripture let all eyes and ears be on them because they stand before you in the person of Christ.
When they bear the Gospel Book they are the Holy Revelation Angel presenting the Book so that the Lamb of God may break the 7 seals and thrill his people with the glorious future that awaits us with our God.
When they give out the offering plates and receive them back again, they offer them to the Lord who once again does the miracle of multiplication.
Not in QUANTITY now, BUT IN QUALITY – and Oh what QUALITY!. So that what starts as bread and wine becomes for us the radiant, life-giving, health-restoring Flesh and Blood of Jesus.
All that these men do from now on is God’s gift FOR YOU.
But they – strike that – WE need your prayers, your love and your support because in the entire enterprise of salvation WE are the weakest link. If for as little as a single minute we take our nose out of the church’s books, the church’s agenda, the church’s way of saying and doing things … or should we ever decide to spice things up a bit with our own flair, or tickle you by our own interpretations … then you are the losers.
And so YES, we need your prayers, your love, your patience, your encouragement and support. But above all we need God’s Holy Spirit so that like Ezekiel we will always say: O dry bones, hear the Word of the Lord.
Then you will live.
Then you will never be put to shame!