Can these bones live?

The story is all too common.  A person of peace gets wound up in the world's violence with tragic results.  It happens all the time, mostly in a way which escapes notice of of the world with the exception of the near and dear. But it happens all the same, and we accept that.

And then it happens again, and you happen to be connected some how, and it becomes all too real, important.  In the past weeks, Michael J Sharp went missing while on a peace making assignment in the violent regions of the Congo.  Just yesterday, it was confirmed that his body was found in a shallow grave  alongside the other members of his United Nations peacemaking team. (See the story from The Canadian Mennonite).  While I did not know Michael spare as a friend of a friend, or someone with whom I was no doubt acquainted given shared circles, but fail to specifically recall, I am moved by this senseless death all the same. There is little doubt in my mind that this is a person who did what he did, was who he was, and took the risks that cost him so much for a single reason-- it was his calling as a follower of Christ.  And we are left with our all too familiar question: why would someone who was so full of life be asked to give up that life?  What good can come from such intractable waste of life, resources, hope both for those  who would make peace and those who are simply victims of the conflict?

All of which make the text that I am sitting with this week all that much more important.  We all have these valleys in our lives, our world, where death seems to rule. All seems dry, disconnected, and pointless.  And we spend time wondering why God would allow such suffering in our world, and why we could not just be better off without this much pain.  We  want God to be a totem against all that would harm us, dismay our sensibilities, or bring our lives to an end.  But we are reminded time and again that it simply is not so.

Yet we are resolutely people of resurrection.  We cannot come to faith with the naive impression that it will somehow protect us from the place of dry bones, but with the consumate conviction that even here our God reigns.  Chrisitianity is not a faith of ease, but is a doctrine that death in all its forms pales in comparison with the will of the one who gives life to all things.  God will breath life into all that seems deadly, even when we cannot ourselves see what that might be.  This is the hope I carry for Michael and his family.  This is the hope  that we keep alive in so many places of our lives that even when all seems lost, life might yet be known.

Can these bones yet live?  O God you know.  Perhaps these words of faith are our greatest confession, looking for God's life even where death seems to rule.  For when we look for resurrection we are given the courage that we might even least expect to find.

Ezekiel 37:1-14

New International Version (NIV)

The Valley of Dry Bones
37 The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. 3 He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”

4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath[a] enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8 I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.

9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.

11 Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’”