Pentecost – Ezekiel 37:1-14
Pentecost is traditionally called the birthday of the Christian Church; and you would expect that on the birthday of the church, there would be gifts, there would be celebration, there would be loud shouts of jubilation, fond recollections of the past, and bright beams of hope for the future.
And yet, how does the Christian Church on earth mark its birthday in the year of our Lord, 2015?
Oh there most certainly are fond recollections of the past; the glory days of long ago are recounted with a great and vivid, albeit sometimes blurry memory. The past is when great things happened, when great pastors led the church, when great programs were conducted, when there was a great love of the Word of the Lord, when there was a great rush of people that flooded the pews each and every Sunday.
Yes, on the birthday of the Christian Church, we hear the account of that first Pentecost and how 3000 were baptized, and we remember it like it was only yesterday; for in our minds, this was quite the regular occurrence not too long ago. And so we remember it like we were there ourselves.
Is that not the Church you would join? Is that not the Church that any of us would join without even a second thought? A great and glorious institution that spoke with unquestioned authority on all matters, whose sole purpose was to lead those entrusted to its care in the way that leads to enteral life.
What happened to those glorious days of the Church?
For on this birthday of the Church in 2015, what do you see?
Where are the great pastors and leaders? Where is the great love of the Word of the Lord? Where is the rush of people coming to fill these pews? What happened to those great programs? Where is that unquestioned authority?
Does the Church today more resemble a great valley full of dry bones, whose hope is lost, then the mighty rushing wind that descended upon Jerusalem 50 days after the first Easter?
There are no great pastors and leaders, for they have all fled, seeking favor in courtrooms and state legislatures to solve our problems. There is no great love for the Word of the Lord, instead there is a great desire to change the Word to make it fit our lives today. There is no great rush to fill the pews, for each believes and does what is right in their own eyes. There are programs, but each is a scam designed to line the pockets of others.
All that is left, are not the 3000 baptized on Pentecost, but instead this mass valley of bones. The bones of those who have been persecuted by Satan and his legions here on earth; the bones of those who sat in prisons and homes and street corners waiting for a visitor; the bones of those who hungered and thirsted for righteousness, yet found none; the bones of those from long ago who saw the alleged glory of the Church.
Is that the Church you would join? Is that the Church that any of us would join without even a second thought?
A Church that is bracing itself for persecution; a Church that is bracing itself for lawsuits and imprisonments; a Church that sees its numbers dwindle daily as more and more chase after the things of the world? A Church that sees Babylon at the gates, and knows that it is only a matter of time before things get much, much, worse.
Like the great prophet Ezekiel, you may find yourself standing in the middle of a valley of dry bones, and wonder if there is any hope to be had at all, for on the surface the answer is no?
After all, the first round of exiles have reached Babylon. Their friends, their neighbors, their country is about to be overrun. There is seemingly no hope at all that they will ever return to their home. All they have are the memories of what used to be: people, programs, leaders, glory.
Yet, in the midst of exile in Babylon, Ezekiel receives and preaches a message of hope. Exile will only be for a finite period of time; the people will return to the Promised Land and will rebuild the walls, the temple, and their lives; the people will one day see the glory of old again.
This valley of dry bones will reassemble itself into skeletons with flesh and blood and even breath, and they will rise up and they will live once more.
Even in the valley of dry bones, even in exile in Babylon, even in their deepest and darkest hour since slavery in Egypt, there is hope for God’s people.
And so today, even in your valley of dry bones, even in this dark hour that the people of God now face, even in the midst of a twisted and crooked generation, there is hope.
I do not stand before you to proclaim that the persecution and struggles that the Church faces today will one day be lifted and the glory of the past will be restored. Nor do I stand before you to tell you that what once was will be again here on earth. That is not the hope of the Church on the first Pentecost, nor is it the hope of the Church on Pentecost in 2015.
Instead today, I stand before you so that you may hear once more that you shall live. Your bones will reassemble, flesh and blood will once more cover you; breath will once more enter your body; and you will rise up and you will live once more.
You will live not in a promised patch of land that is sand and rocks that must be worked; not in a land with sufficient schools and business and resources; not in a land that has a proper government; but in the ultimate promised land of the new heavens and the new earth, where Christ Jesus stands supreme.
The ray of light that shines bright over this valley of dry bones, is the light of the world, Jesus Christ, who comes to you today offering forgiveness, life and salvation; with the words that your bones shall live again.
Is that not the Church you would join? Is that not the Church that any of us would join without even a second thought?
Yes, yes it is. A resounding yes. For this Church, is not based on numbers, or leaders or programs, or how much better life is because you are a member; rather this Church is built on the solid foundation that is Christ Jesus our Lord. This Church is a church that comes to you today and every day with a message that you shall live. You shall live forever in the kingdom of God without end.
The bright light that shines forth on this the birthday of the Christian Church is the same light that has shone forth for 2000 years: the light of the risen Christ. A light that offers hope to the Church in her darkest hours; a light that offers hope to those standing in the midst of a valley of dry bones; a light that shatters the darkness of sin and death, and breathes life into all people.
A light, whose message in the midst of every generation, is that you shall live.