Pentecost: Whitsunday

Sermon preached at Lucea Cure May 23, 2021
by Rev Nina Rae

Ezekiel 37:1-14

 O Breath of life, come sweeping through us,
revive your church with life and pow’r;
O Breath of Life, come, cleanse, renew us,
and fit your church to meet this hour.

O Wind of God, come bend us, break us,
till humbly we confess our need;
then in your tenderness remake us,
revive, restore, for this we plead.

I speak to you in the name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit

Have you ever been in a situation where you have had to ask God what it is that you should do as everything around you seemed hopeless? And sometimes in the midst of the hopelessness, God tells you to do something that seems impossible. Nonetheless, you must listen to that voice or that tug on your heart and do what you are called to do. Today, we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost. Imagine the fanfare in the account of Acts 2:1-21, the loud gasps of amazement, the excitement, the voices of others telling their friends to come and see what was happening, The Holy Spirit was at work.

As we read Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of the dry bones, (Ezekiel 37:1-14) we also see the Holy Spirit at work, but this time there is the smell of death, hopelessness, nothingness, silence, no fanfare. The vision may be seen as a lament of the exiled Israelites as they reflect on their mistakes and it can also be seen as a promise to the same people, a promise of new life and hope. Yahweh, in all of Yahweh’s power will put His Spirit in Israel and give it a new Spirit and a new life.

As the prophet looks around, the prophet will understand the true power of God and the meaning of God’s words to him – “I am the Lord”. It is only by the power of the Lord, that the Holy Spirit will move upon these bones and life recreated. Just like the day of Pentecost upon the gathered disciples and people, the Holy Spirit will do amazing things as Yahweh commands It. Yahweh, the powerful and all mighty God asks a question of the prophet, “Can these bones live?” The Prophet responds, “O God only you know?” This was a question of faith.  A question that we must answer for ourselves. As we try to respond, one must pay keen attention to the lessons imparted to us from the vision. For these bones to live, for our desperate  situations to change, we must be faithful and patient as we profess our faith.

In this life, we are called to be agents of transformation. And to be such a people our fidelity is essential.  The reality is we like to be the ones on the sidelines as mere spectators rather than getting our hands dirty in this mission to which we are called. That is too much work for us, too tiresome, but on the same hand we want to see transformation and liberation happen. We find so many excuses as to why we cannot carry out our mission. We say, the people are dying out, nobody wants to listen, nobody wants to give, nobody is willing to come. But may I remind you that the prophet stood in the midst of dry bones where there was no evidence of life, where none could hear or do, but remained faithful to what he was called to do. He could have come up with a myriad of excuses, but it was upon his faithfulness, his fidelity, that the Holy Spirit worked and created hearers for itself.

 It was by his faithfulness that the Holy Spirit acted and worked. God gave him one job, prophesy to these bones everything I tell you to say. He did not complain or make an excuse.  He followed as directed.

Our loyalty and faithfulness to God will drive us to do things that seem impossible or to be people who may be considered strange. But there is no other way that people will experience hope, or transformation or liberation. It does not matter if we do not see the results today. We are to remain faithful in preaching God’s word, doing God’s work, showing mercy, and justice, extending acts of grace and love. The renewal of a nation was made possible in vision because the prophet clung to his faith and did his work. It is not for us to see who is listening, and who will come, as the Holy Spirit will enable its own listeners and doers. Many times, we are surprised when approached by people who say we did something or said something for and to them and how much it changed their lives and we had no clue whatsoever. Faithfulness can be the birth of Fruitfulness if only we remain obedient and never cease to do the will of God.

The vision of valley of the dry bones also imparts on us the lesson that the Holy Spirit will work in our lives as we exercise patience.  In the Acts account of the coming of the Holy Spirit, some people became perplexed as they could not fathom what was happening. They even thought that the men were drunk and they spoke in different languages. But here we see the prophet give a detailed account of everything that took place. Again, no excitement, but things unfolded gradually. The bodies did not just come to life as we often see in the movies. The prophet realized something was happening as there was a noise, a rattling as the bones came together, then came sinews, then flesh, then skin, then, at God’s command, he prophesied for breath to enter the bodies so that they live and finally, they stood on their feet.

You see life nowadays is lived rushed and, with everything at our fingertips, we expect the Holy Spirit to work in like manner. But, with the Holy Spirit, one must develop the virtue of patience. The Holy Spirit is never at our command; It can never be controlled by us, but given as we are faithful. It is Its own master and thus we must be patient. And we know this because we never know how the Holy Spirit will work. The way the Holy Spirit works for you may not be how It works for me. You may feel a warming in your heart, another may be motivated to go beyond one’s comfort level and another may be led to use one’s gift. The Holy Spirit may help immediately or for others, take time. As we remain faithful to our tasks as Christians even though things may look daunting and uncertain, be patient as you pray for the Holy Spirit to work in your life. 

Today we may ask, will the Holy Spirit come, can the Holy Spirit still work? Can the dry bones of today live in our lives? By remaining faithful and patient to and in God the dry bones of our now, of our lives can indeed live. There is hope, there is the promise of new life, there is the promise of restoration. Yahweh asked “Mortal, can these bones live?” the prophet answered, “O Lord God, you know.”

Can the dry bones of the COVID-19 pandemic live; the mass burials, the pain and hurt as loved ones die. Will we be able to pick up the pieces, to go and socialize as we please, to go to church without restrictions, to hug the people we love? Yes, new life will come.  Can the dry bones of our churches that have lingered for years live; the declining membership, the closing of doors, the unbelief of our own family members? Will people love God with their whole hearts?  Will the church be seen as a place of healing rather than a place of condemnation? Yes, new life will come.  Without a doubt in our hearts we know that God can restore us. We know that God has the power to change our situations, whether on a personal level or that of the wider society.

We know, O God, that you can make our dry bones live.  We know that you have power to transform our lives. We know O God that you have power to command the Holy Spirit to free us, to heal us, to protect us, to comfort us and to keep us on the right path. O Lord God we know that the Holy Spirit has the power to make all things new, to put new life in us, to transform us, to liberate us. O God we know that these bones in our lives can live as the Holy Spirit will come to us, to make us stand on our feet and make us your people, a holy people.

As the prophet looked out at the valley of bones, the desperate situation of his people, we too must look to God with the concerns of our desperate situations. This is the message for all of us, every aspect of our lives, within our families, in our communities in our society that cause us pain and make us feel dead can be renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit. Be Faithful! And Be Patient!  in discerning the will of the Holy Spirit. Israel was promised renewal despite defeat and exile, it is the same God who promises for us the same. So never fail to speak affirming, that yes, these bones can live as there is no limit to the work of God through the power of the Holy Spirit. We live as faithful and patient Christians because at any time the Holy Spirit may break into our lives and transform us and make our dry bones come to new life. AMEN.

Contributed by Rev Nina Rae Barrett