Grace and peace to you, from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
This week, we hear from the prophet Ezekiel. Ezekiel was a prophet from the northern kingdom, and was among the elite who were exiled in Babylon. He lived around the same time as the prophet Jeremiah, who we heard from last week. Ezekiel’s message is to a people without hope. The exiles he was writing to were in complete despair of ever returning to their homeland.
Ezekiel’s message is in the form of a vision he had. He wrote that God swept him up and took him to a valley full of dry bones. And after God had led him through the field full of dry bones, God asked Ezekiel a question. “Mortal, can these bones live?” Ezekiel does not answer directly. He skirts the question by replying to God's question this way, “O Lord God, you know.” Ezekiel is being evasive, not wanting to commit to a straight answer. Then God commands Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones. And when he does, the bones come together. They are covered with sinew flesh and skin, but there is no life in them. Then God again commands Ezekiel, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” And the breath of life returns! And a great multitude of people are restored to life!
This is God’s promise for the future of Israel. This passage is powerful for me whenever I am in despair and think there is no future, no hope. I return to this passage from Ezekiel and I remember that nothing is impossible for God. There are times when there doesn’t seem to be any way forward, that nothing will ever be the same. When we lose a loved one, or we fear the test results from the doctor’s office, we too can fall into despair. Where everything looks hopeless and we can see no way out of our situation – through this poetic prophesy God is calling them not just back to physical life, but to spiritual life as well, giving the people hope and a reason to live.
Even though the exiles that Ezekiel is prophesying to will never return to their homeland, their children WILL return to Israel after 70 years in Babylon. So, their renewed spiritual life is vital for them to be able to give their children hope for the future. It is this generation Ezekiel is speaking to so that they can pass on the faith and trust in that God does not abandon God's people.
Advent is the season of hope when we await the return of Jesus in glory. But we are not just to wait. We are called to share the Good News and trust in God even when things seem to be falling apart. God is with us. That is the promise we have through Jesus. Many congregations are going through a time when we cannot see what the future will be. Many are struggling financially, and many are mourning the loss of beloved people. Just as the Israelites, we need to trust that God is with us, as we navigate uncertain times. And we like the Israelites have to do more than just survive.
We do not know when Jesus will return. So we are called as disciples to continue to share the Good News that God loves us and all creation. And God calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves. We are called continue to support each other and our ministry in this place and in the community. It could be that you are being called to join the leadership of this congregation. You may be called to teach or do outreach in our community. You can make meals for Midnight Run, which will be on December 30th. There are so many ways we can be God's presence in this community. So, I encourage you to pray and ask God what it is you are called to do to support our mission in Dobbs Ferry and the world. Amen.