The situation in Ezekiel 37 seems extreme; yet many of us have experienced, witnessed, and survived such utter devastation. We have witnessed the complete disruption of life, the dismantling of everything familiar, the place from which life cannot continue as usual. What had once been the Promised Land and the seat of God—the ancient kingdom of Israel—has been torn apart by international war, shifting empires, diplomatic games, and competing religions. The people of Israel are torn apart. Prophets and politicians disagree about which empire to trust as an ally. Prominent leaders are exiled. Families are separated. Faith seems lost without a stable community to sustain it, without a Temple, without the clear presence of God. To Ezekiel and his audience, those days feel like death, like hope evaporating under a relentless sun, like dry bones scattered in the dust.
Today in our own lives these days feel like death—when life is scattered by unforeseen events, when faith can’t find its breath amid the chaos, when the way forward seems impossible between a rock and a hard place. God asks Ezekiel: “Is new life possible even now when the people despair? Is renewed faith possible for people whose spirits have suffocated from despair? Can community be rebuilt among people who are separated by fear and violence?” Ezekiel replies honestly, “I don’t know; but God, I believe that you know” (ap). The most faithful response Ezekiel can give is to confess that he himself cannot envision possibilities for the dry bones. But he believes that if life is possible, God is the one who can envision it and bring it about.
When nothing seems certain but chaos, when life has lost its footing and faith has lost its imagination, we can confess that our future still holds something good, even if we do not know what it is. God knows.
God of wisdom and mystery, I confess my despair, my doubt, my disappointment. Please breathe life into the possibilities that I do not yet know. 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?
Respond by posting a prayer.
This season, Whitney R. Simpson has given us the gift we must open: a clear, accessible invitation to connect with the divine spark that is within us. This is the best present: being present for Jesus’ birth, God made human.”
Learn more about our newest Advent resource, Fully Human, Fully Divine here.