[Pastoral Article for April Newsletter]
“’Son of man, can these bones live?...I replied, “Lord God, only you know.” – Ezekiel 37:3
In my pastoral biography, I write about myself that, “He often wonders if he was a monk in a former life.” I have always said that jokingly, but never imagined that it would almost come true. We are living at such a “Medieval” time, in which we await the passing of a plague, are relegated to isolation or segregation, and fear the unknown of what might be.
Our brothers and sisters long ago feared the dark of night. Nighttime was for demons and devils. It was a time of danger and terror. There was a reason in England, when Thomas Cranmer was compiling the Book of Common Prayer, that one would was to say morning and evening prayer each day. You give thanks to God for keeping you safe through the night, and then ask for protection as another day came to a close. Fearing what could not be seen or known for certain.
Today, we live in such a time in which we fear an unseen enemy. A virus is small, often inconspicuous, until the symptoms come, and we are left to hope in vaccines and medicines. This virus being a foe we cannot expect to vanquish because we do not see him walking down the street, and putting up our guard, we cross to the other side. Instead, we are cooped up at home, or in a nursing facility, waiting. Waiting for redemption from our fears. Waiting for the end to this warfare that has no weapons.
When Ezekiel is set down in a valley, he looks out across the landscape and sees an army of dry bones. Bones that were not just dry, but very dry. They had been weathered by the sun and wind, left to rot. Unburied. Untended. The Lord speaks to Ezekiel and asks the question, “Can these bones live?” After all he has seen over the course of the other 36 chapters that came previous to this narrative in Ezekiel’s life, he has become smart enough to say the right thing, “Lord, only you know.”
Only God knows the scope to which life will come out of dried, bleached bones. Only God knows how to give life in the midst of anxiety and uncertainty. Only God knows how to bring resurrection to you when all hope is seemingly lost. As we spend our days physically apart. Fasting from fellowship and the Sacrament, remember these words – God knows. He knows your fears. He knows your faith. He will grant strength to you where needed. He will call upon you to preach to others who are feeling dried up right now, just as he does with Ezekiel. He will bring you life here and now because we already have it in Jesus.