Sermon for the Day of Pentecost (May 19, 2024)

Readings: Ezekiel 37:1-14; Acts 2:1-21

Scene one.

Ezekiel has been brought by God in a vision to a place of death. He isn’t there simply to gaze upon the mass of dead lying throughout the valley; he’s led to walk around and through the countless bones bleached and drying under the sun. He’s guided to an understanding of the full measure of the horror that’s taken place. There are no graves; only the unburied. God has brought him here to be a witness to the ultimate insult and act of disrespect toward the defeated dead by the victorious living.

Did the words of earlier prophets and leaders ring in his ears as he looked upon this scene? Perhaps he heard the voice of Moses speaking words of warning from his final address to those freed from Egyptian bonds: “You shall become an object of horror to all the kingdoms of the earth. Your corpses shall be food for every bird of the air and animal of the earth, and there shall be no one to frighten them away.”[1] Perhaps it was the voice of the great Jeremiah issuing his prophetic warning to a disobedient people: “[T]he officials of Judah, the officials of Jerusalem, the eunuchs, the priests, and all the people of the land who passed between the parts of the calf shall be handed over to their enemies and to those who seek their lives. Their corpses shall become food for the birds of the air and the wild animals of the earth.”[2]

Or was it only the voice of God that Ezekiel heard, the voice commanding him to prophesy? He’s been brought to proclaim words to the dead, the dead in this valley certainly but also in a broader sense those who have experienced a type of inner death found through disobedience to God. In the valley of bleached and dry bones, Ezekiel – in the words of Luke Powery – is to “proclaim a life-giving word to this community.”[3]

Ezekiel is to prophesy hope.

Ezekiel, tell these bones that despite all that’s happened breath will again fill their lungs, and they shall live. Tell them their bodies will be resurrected. Tell them that all that’s gone before will be erased. Tell the house of Israel I still love them. They are still my beloved children. Our covenant will survive.

I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live.[4]

Scene two.

The disciples are together, existing in two places. Physically, they’re gathered in a house or room. Spiritually, they’re gathered in a place of … confusion? Fear? Uncertainty? Ten days earlier they’d chosen Matthias to fill the final spot among the Twelve, the place vacated by Judas through his betrayal and – ultimately – death. The number of completeness was again reached. But now what?

Now what? We’re together, but we’re drifting. We can’t go back, but we don’t know how to move forward. When He was with us, we were filled; now that He’s gone, we feel empty.

As they dwelled in their own valley, a place of dry bones caused in this case by the absence of the Son, the Spirit once again moved. No one spoke words of prophecy in advance. God didn’t give them a heads-up that something was about to happen. It simply happened. Without warning a deafening sound filled the space where they were gathered. Tongues of fire appeared and settled upon them. As with the dry bones in the valley of Ezekiel’s vision, the breath of God entered them.

The Spirit filled their emptiness. Their dry bones once again lived, breathing with the breath of a new life.

Scene three.

The dry bones of the valley and the disciples gathered in that room are companions to whom many today can relate. There are those feeling separated from God. Broken promises, broken covenants, and broken relationships can leave us feeling exposed – withering and bleaching under the heat of a sun of deep emotions and anxieties. Many legs of a journey may have passed easily, only to bring travelers to a sudden standstill – a point where they confront the difficulty of not knowing what to do next. Events may leave us feeling bereft; uncertainty and fear may leave us feeling empty. We become boats beating against a current, seeming to move much further away regardless of how much rowing we do to move toward.

Despite it all, despite feeling alone or adrift, God is here. Despite feeling afraid or apart, God is here. The breath of God is here. The Spirit of God is here. Pentecost moments aren’t limited to just the day of Pentecost, nor are they necessarily moments of loud rushing wind and tongues of flame. A Pentecost moment can be something as simple as a moment when you can exhale. It can be a moment when you sense the presence of God – in a single person, in a feeling or moment, in a quick glimpse of something wonderful. It can be when you feel your lungs filling with new air, your body filling with new life, and your journey filling with new possibilities.

Wherever you are, whether it be in low valleys or in upper rooms, God will be there. In every moment of your journey, the great ones and especially the small ones, the calm ones and the especially the disquieting ones, look for God – and listen for the voice of God. 

You shall live, and you shall know I am the Lord.[5]

Amen.


[1] Deuteronomy 28:25-26 (NRSVUE).

[2] Jeremiah 34:19-20 (NRSVUE).

[3] Luke A. Powery. Dem Dry Bones: Preaching, Death, and Hope, p. 21.

[4] Ezekiel 37:14 (NRSVUE).

[5] Ezekiel 37:6 (NRSVUE).