The prophet Ezekiel had a vision. God took him to a valley where there must have been a terrible battle a long time ago, and the bodies had been left, abandoned. All that was left was the bones.
But then God tells Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones, to call the bones to come together. And the extraordinary thing is, that they do! There is a shake and a rattle, and the dry dead bones come together.
And yes, you’ve got it of course – this is the Bible passage that the song “Dem Dry Bones” comes from. Hip bones connected to the thigh bones, and all of that.
But it goes on! God tells Ezekiel to prophesy again, and the bones start growing flesh and sinews, so that they are whole human bodies. But lifeless.
No longer quite such dry bones.
And then God tells Ezekiel to prophesy to the four winds to come and breathe in these lifeless bodies. So the winds turn up and the Holy Spirit breathes on the corpses – just as Jesus breathes on the disciples and gives them his peace after his own Resurrection – and the bodies stand up and move, and there is life.
The story is set alongside the long account of the Raising of Lazarus, when Jesus calls his friends back from being 3 days dead.
Again, new life.
And in 2 weeks’ time, it will be Easter Day, and we will be into New Life in a Big Way. But we are not there yet. First we have to walk with Jesus to the cross, and dare to spend time alongside our suffering Saviour. And that’s hard to do. But it’s important. If you jump into Easter without going through Good Friday, then you miss out on so much. You get the sugar frosting without the sandwich.
After this service, we will hold our Annual Meeting. It won’t take very long, and we would love you all to join us. We will reflect on what we did in 2013, check on the state of the finances, and appoint the people who will lead this church for the next year or so.
If someone walked in off the street and looked at us gathered here today, what would they think?
Most of us are getting on a bit, though I would say that there is still life in these old bones.
What about our spiritual life? Would people recognise the presence of the Christ here? And the Holy Spirit?
If Ezekiel was here and calling upon the four winds to animate these dry bones – what would it be like?
The point about Ezekiel’s story is that the situation is never hopeless. If God can bring new life to dry bones in the desert, then new life can be breathed into this church. Nothing we can do will make the difference – only God can bring new life.
So we need to ask him. We need to show that we want God to make a difference here. So I would ask you to pray for this church, for new life in this church, every day when you pray.
And I am going to pray now:
We bless this Church of St Chad in the Name of the Lord.
We bless it as a place of flourishing, where people show love and care to one another.
We bless it with compassion, where those who struggle can find a home.
We bless it as a beacon of light and hope, where people come to know Jesus.
We bless it with new life, as the old bones rattle and revive.
We bless it with vision and energy, as the Spirit breathes in strength and courage.
We bless it with joy, as the Resurrection life spills over into our streets.
And as we bless, may we be a blessing to all we meet.
In Jesus’ name, may this blessing abound. Amen