by Andrew Stephens-Rennie (originally published at www.wordmadeflesh.ca)
Blood and bones cry out. Groaning, Yearning. Hoping, Searching.
Blood and bones cry out. For the life to come, the life that will be, the life that’s been promised, the life they cannot see.
Blood and bones cry out. Awaiting redemption, anxiously awaiting with bated breath.
We wait. Even today. Even here in Ottawa, we wait. We wait with expectation. We wait holding firm in faith. We wait for God’s great revealing. For the gift of God’s spirit to be made manifest amongst us. We sit here waiting for a miracle.
Some of us are waiting, like the disciples, for God’s life-giving breath. The breath that animates us, the same breath that first brought creation into being. That spirit on the water, that first, primal breath on the face of the deep.
When the day of Pentecost had come, Jesus’ disciples had gathered together in one place. I wonder what they were thinking, feeling, planning and discussing in that moment before everything changed once again?
The day of Pentecost has come, and here we are, disciples of Jesus gathered together in one place. What are you thinking, feeling, planning and discussing in these moments – these moments on the cusp of whatever will be?
The day of Pentecost has come, dear friends, and we’re gathered together in this room. Who of us are afraid? Who of us can anticipate what comes next? Who of us will dare to dream God’s dreams? Who of us will dare to prophesy? Who of us will see visions and share them for all to see? For divine inspiration, that divine, holy breath to meet us here again in this place.
What are your deepest hopes and dreams this morning? Is it possible that those dreams might take on flesh?
You know the story, and you probably know it well – the story of that old-time prophet, Ezekiel. Zeke, the crazed performance artist prophet swept up by the spirit of God, whisked away and set down in the valley of the shadow of death. He’s suffering post-traumatic stress in yet another a middle eastern conflict. It’s a far cry from our stresses this morning as we try to wade through Race Weekend traffic without spilling our lattes.
Ezekiel’s journey through the valley of dry bones, his ecstatic, prophetic vision brings into focus the realities of exile and dispersion, his people scattered to the four winds, reviled and oppressed. And unlike us, Ezekiel had no reprieve. There was no way to escape this tripped out live-action biblically-inspired Dawn of the Dead.
The Bible: birthplace of the modern zombie movie.
Bone after bone, skeleton after skeleton in a never-ending panorama of the killing fields. The bones of Israel. The remains of an entire people. Wiped Out. Discarded. Cast away. Face-to-face with his own mortality and the fate of his people. Face-to-face with desperation and despair. Face-to-face with God and the limitations of his own faith.
It’s in this place, this place of utter disorientation and death that God intrudes on Ezekiel’s reality. It’s in this place that God demands he prophesy the improbable story, the impossible promise that dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.
As I pondered these things this week, it seemed that this is where God often meets us. It’s where God has been meeting me lately, at any rate. It seems to me that this is one of the places where we comfortable North Americans can finally accept God’s grace. Why is it that the places of deepest uncertainty and anxiety are precisely the places that God chooses to meet us?
Does it have something to do with our vulnerability? Defenses down; none of our own designs, none of our self-righteous retorts can keep reality at bay. When our ego can no longer get in the way, when we are no longer the gods of our own universes, the one true God appears. In such a place as this we’re once again able to confront our own brokenness and to respond to God in humility. We come to realize that we can no longer do this on our own. We can no longer claim to be the centre of our own private universe.
Since January, I’ve had the privilege of working with Word Made Flesh, an incredible community of contemplative activists serving Jesus amongst the most vulnerable of the world’s poor.
This work has been and continues to be profoundly transformative. And in the midst of it, I find myself constantly confronted by my own brokenness. It’s in the face of material poverty that I’ve had to confront my own poverty of spirit. It’s in relationship with men and women who’ve been made victims of poverty both at home and abroad that I’ve had to rethink my own privilege.
This continues to be a season of death and resurrection for me. A time of waiting for God’s breath of life in our movement – for God to birth something new. For God to breathe new life into weary bones.
Our communities can be found in places like Kolkata, India and Lima, Peru. We serve amongst women and children exploited by the commercial sex industry and street-involved youth without access to education and opportunity. And it’s in these places, alongside people affected so deeply by material poverty that we continue to meet God. And we continue to see and experience the power of resurrection. This is where we experience God’s life-giving breath.
My friend Sarah, who serves with our community in Kolkata shared some reflections in a blog post earlier this week, admitting that
There seem to be 20 stories of loss for every story of hope and new life. It would be easy to stop looking for the light and let the darkness overwhelm.
The darkness can be overwhelming, and yet God has promised us the Spirit, the Advocate. And so, in the midst of death and dying, we, like Ezekiel must prophesy as God gives us strength. We must be prepared to die to ourselves, even as the early disciples were forced to do time and again. Even in the most dire of situations, God calls us to bear witness to hope, a hope that boldly stands up and says to the darkness, “we beg to differ.”
Our challenge today is to listen to what the Spirit is saying to the church. For those of us in Word Made Flesh, God continues to call us to serve amongst our friends who are poor in the slums and red light districts of the majority world. And we’re always looking for others who want to join us in those resurrection stories. The stories of dry bones coming to life through the power of God’s spirit.
God calls each of us to pay attention to the movement of that spirit in our midst. I hope that today, and in the coming weeks your community continues to seek new ways to follow God’s spirit. To be open to whatever God will bring. How will you, how will this community, like Ezekiel and the first disciples, practice resurrection? How will you join with others doing the same?
Will dry bones live?
In the end, it’s not up to us. In the end, it’s up to God’s spirit working in and through us. In the end, only God knows. But we must make ourselves available. We must continue to gather, to dream, and to respond to God’s spirit. We must boldly bear witness to hope, the hope that new life is possible, that breath can once again animate these dry bones.
Blood and bones cry out. Groaning, yearning. Hoping, searching.
Blood and bones cry out for the life to come, for the life that will be, for the life that’s been promised, the life they can’t yet see.
Blood and bones cry out. Awaiting redemption, anxiously waiting with bated breath.
Until blood and bones cry no longer, bone embraced by sinew and flesh. A brand new creation animated by God’s inspiring, world-changing breath.