Powered by Blogger.

Follow by Email


Thursday, April 07, 2011
Lectionary Scriptures: Ezekiel 37:1-14, Psalm 130:1-8, Romans 8:6-11, John 11:1-45

Most of the readings for Sunday, April 10, touch upon finding life in the midst of dark places, even places of death. The power of life, they tell us, comes from the breath of God’s Spirit, from the presence of Jesus. The Hebrew word, “ruwach,” can be translated as spirit, wind, or breath.

In today’s reading from the Hebrew scriptures, we find ourselves in a valley “full of bones,” where the people of Israel are exiled in Babylon. “Our bones,” they say, “are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.” (vs. 11) The answer to their predicament, it seems, is blowing in the wind, a breath of fresh and living air. “Thus says the Lord God: come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live . . . the breath came into them, and they lived.” (vss. 9-10) It is a message to the people that, even though their hope has died, “I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live.” (vs. 14) It’s not so much about literal bones as it is about spiritual death and life.

I sometimes leap from a scripture or theme to songs that have touched me at one time or another in my life, often in my early years. This time it was “Dem Bones.” When I was young we used to host quartets that visited our church representing different schools. One from what was then Multnomah School of the Bible regularly sang “Dem Bones” with vigor and drama, so that you could almost see the bones clicking into place as they were joined one to another. “The toe bone connected to the heel bone, the heel bone connected to the foot bone, the foot bone connected to the knee bone, the knee bone connected to the thigh bone, the thigh bone connected to the back bone, the back bone connected to the neck bone, the neck bone connected to the head bone, Oh, hear the word of the Lord.” The text from Ezekiel doesn’t speak of the connections in quite that way, but it talks about sinews and skin which hold the bones together. It is a story, among other things, of connections, but it takes more than sinews and skin to give life. Ezekiel 37:8 notes that “there was no breath in them.” Looking at the song and the scripture I was reminded again of the power of breath, spirit, wind to bring life into the connections we have with one another. Without it we are as good as dead, without hope.

The Psalm also cries out from the dark places of life, “out of the depths.” (Psalm 130:1) Even in the depths, we need not give up hope. We are to wait for it because there is “hope in the Lord” and his “steadfast love.” The fulfillment of hope is as sure as the coming of the morning sunrise after the darkness of midnight. (vss. 5-7)

Romans contrasts death and the “Spirit,” which is “life and peace.” (Romans 8:6) If “the Spirit of God dwells in “us,” we “are in the Spirit . . . If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.” (vss. 9 & 11)

The long reading from John’s Gospel involves Jesus and his disciples in a series of conversations and events intended to show that Jesus is “the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25-26) Some suggest the story was prepared as a dramatic presentation to be used in worship. The plot revolves around the death of Jesus’ close friend, Lazarus. Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha, send word that Lazarus is ill, but Jesus says, “This illness does not lead to death.” (vss. 3-4) So, we might ask, was Lazarus really dead, or is this another story about spiritual death and life? (The question is again addressed in verses 11-14 when Jesus speaks of Lazarus as “fallen asleep,” but finally says, plainly, “Lazarus is dead.”)

After a couple of days, Jesus decides to go see Lazarus, but none of his disciples want to go. It’s too dangerous. The threat of death is everywhere in Judea. “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus tells them that they need not fear the dark and dangerous places of life if they have the light with them, in effect reminding them that he’s already told them “I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12 & 9:5) Thomas finally agrees that they should go to Lazarus, but he considers it a journey that will end up with all of them dying “with him.” (vs. 16)

Mary and Martha, separately, try to lay a guilt trip on Jesus. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (vss. 21 & 32) How often do we throw barbs of guilt? “You weren’t here when I really needed you.” It’s also possible, though, that part of the metaphor is that Jesus is like the wind of life blowing into town. It is only when we keep ourselves close to his presence, or open ourselves to its presence, that hope is restored.

There’s something in the situation that moves Jesus to tears. Whether it is the weeping of those around him, his frustration with their inability to see, his chagrin at not having been there when they needed him, or something about what his good friend Lazarus has had to go through, we find that “Jesus began to weep.” (vs. 35) It is a verse that contains almost all that needs to be said about Jesus’ revelation of the heart of God. It is God’s nature, the nature of the universe to join in our weeping and pain. When we hurt, the entire heart of the cosmos aches.

I’m trying to get you to see, people,” Jesus says, “that the resources of love are built into the very fabric of the universe, in its breathing and blowing." The cosmos is on our side. I’m reminded of the song by Bob Dylan—“The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.” It set me to thinking about solar winds, astrophysical winds, and cosmic winds, so I did a little cruising on the web.

The wind is all around us. The solar wind is a stream of charged particles that streams from the sun in all directions at speeds of about one million miles per hour. Black holes, I read, can drive extraordinarily powerful winds that push out and force star formation and shape the fate of a galaxy. “A galaxy is a huge vortex in space driven by ‘cosmic’ wind, like a huge hurricane.”

The point is that there’s a lot of wind out there. Some glibly say, “Jesus is the answer.” We may not go deep enough, however, in understanding that answer. He showed us the very nature of the loving wind blowing all around us. It’s there. We live and move and have our being in it. Pay attention to it. Feel it. It is life giving.

So meditate on the words of Bob Dylan. I hope its not too sacrilegious to suggest that we might even hear Jesus humming them to himself and offering them in concert to us.

How many roads must a man walk down
Before they call him a man?
How many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
How many times must the cannonballs fly
Before they are forever banned?
The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind;
The answer is blowing in the wind.

How many years must a mountain exist
Before it is washed to the sea?
How many years can some people exist
Before they're allowed to be free?
How many times can a man turn his head
And pretend that he just doesn't see?
The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind;
The answer is blowing in the wind.

How many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
How many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
How many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind;
The answer is blowing in the wind.


Post a Comment

Blog Description

Kairos-Milwaukie UCC Blog

Reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary by Rev. Rick Skidmore and Rev. Jim Ogden.

Subscribe Now: RSS Feed

Blog Archive