Change, whether joyful or painful or even mundane, compels us to assess what has been in the past as we make our way toward the future.
Sometimes the hardest part of change is looking at the past honestly. How does Ezekiel not faint with despair when he gazes at the valley of dry bones that the Spirit shows him as he reflects on his people’s history of struggle? How does he not fall apart in grief every time his people ask, “When will we get to go home? Will God spare the Temple from destruction in this war?” Dwelling on the past can overwhelm our hearts with grief. Our desire to know what has been and why can consume us.
Other times the hardest part of change is sustaining a vision for the future. Ezekiel serves God as a prophet for more than twenty years; the Babylonian exile lasts seventy years. How does Ezekiel hold on to God’s vision for the people’s restoration? How does he nurture the people’s curiosity for God’s future? Setting our sights on the future can foment impatience: “If things will be different someday, why can’t they be different sooner?” We can cling to the future so fiercely that the eyes of our hearts narrow to believe that only one vision can be true and good.
Most often, however, the hardest part of change is attending to the present, the moment when the brutal honesty of yesterday and the vague promise of tomorrow collide to ask, “What is needed right now?” Ezekiel sees yesterday’s dry bones and tomorrow’s revived community, but he can only act on what God gives him to do in the present: “Speak to the bones, Ezekiel. Tell them what I will do, and then I will take care of doing it. But for today, I need you to speak.”
The present is the only moment when faith can take action. What does God call us to do now?
Eternal God, I confess that I am still processing yesterday and am already anxious about tomorrow. What would you have me do today? Amen.
Ezekiel sets the stage for the readings this week. In a vision, the prophet sees a seemingly hopeless situation, yet God restores flesh to the bones and brings them back to life by breathing into them. The psalmist calls out to God from the depths of devastation and waits confidently for God’s redemption. Paul plays off the double meaning of the Greek word pneuma: “breath” and “spirit.” Just as Ezekiel’s dry bones are brought back through the breath of God, so are we raised through the Spirit of God. The Lazarus story provides a bookend resurrection story for the week. Here Jesus demonstrates in the physical realm the spiritual realities described in the other passages. These resurrection stories point us toward Jesus’ resurrection and ultimately the promise of our own.
Read Ezekiel 37:1-14. When have you heard from God directly or through others in times of devastation? How did you respond?
Read Psalm 130. How can you listen for signs of hope and look for God’s voice?
Read Romans 8:6-11. What helps you remember that you cannot save yourself and to put your trust in God?
Read John 11:1-45. When have you been disappointed in God’s timing or response? What would be different now if God had met your expectations then?
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