Sermon- The Valley of Dry Bones (Ezekiel 37)

Sermon Series Parables 1110 x 624 (1)

Sermon Series: Parables
Message 2 of 4: The Valley of Dry Bones
Scripture: Ezekiel 37:1-14
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 8/4/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. There is no recording of this message.

Ezekiel is a wild book of the Bible, full of powerful visions and dramatic choices. It’s also a book of hope. Today, we need a word of hope for so many reasons, including the mass shootings which took place in El Paso and Dayton.

Imagine yourself around age 25, living in the big city, the capital of your country. All your life you’ve known what you’re going to do- go into the family business. This blessing would bring you purpose and position, financial security and a bright future.

One day all of it crashes. A mighty foreign power invades, but they don’t destroy the city. Instead, they gut the hope out of the people by kidnaping the best and brightest of the young people. You are taken far from home, those you love, and your future.

This is what’s happened to Ezekiel. He thought he would become a priest at the temple in Jerusalem. Instead, he’s taken into exile in Babylon.

The Book of Ezekiel starts 5 years later. Ezekiel is at a refugee camp by a river in Babylon. It’s his 30th birthday, the time when he was supposed to start serving as a priest. The time his life was supposed to begin.

Ezekiel has a vision – 4 powerful creatures, each with 4 faces, traveling in formation. Underneath them are wheels. They form a divine chariot for God’s royal throne. The very presence of God rests there.

In this overwhelming moment, God calls Ezekiel to be a prophet instead of a priest. God tells Ezekiel to speak truth, to speak out against violence, injustice, and the worship of false gods, to call people back to remembrance and repentance and relationship with God.

Ezekiel begins to speak the truth to everyone- no one listens, their hearts are hard. This goes on for years. Ezekiel stays true.

Ezekiel is also called by God to proclaim another attack is coming to Jerusalem and this time everything will be destroyed. Ezekiel’s prophesy comes true- Babylon attacks again. People of God are murdered and scattered. Jerusalem is destroyed, including the temple-

  • the center of government,
  • the needed place for forgiveness and cleansing and thanksgiving and praise
  • the home of the presence of the One True Living God

Ezekiel wonders – Is God done with us? Have we blown it for good? Too much sin, apathy, worshipping false gods…

The question is fresh for us.

Is God done with my nation?

  • Growing secularization and apathy towards God.
  • The polarization based on economics, race, age, political party
  • Wars and rumors of wars
  • 44 mass shootings in the last month

Is God done with the church?

Is God done with me?

  • Often heard people say, “If I walked into a church, the roof would cave in.”
  • I don’t think I want a conversation with God because I don’t want to hear what God would say to me.

Is God done? The resounding answer of God is NO! I’m going to do something new.

It’s not because we are deserving or worthy. It’s not because we’ve said the magic words or earned it with a magic sacrifice.

It’s because this is God’s character. God’s being. God says this is who I am. I am the One who makes all things new. I am the One who creates. I am the One who saves and I do not change.

valley dry bones

The Valley of Dry Bones (Ezekiel 37:1-14) Notice how often the spirit appears in this passage!

1 The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry.

Dry Bones

  • Very Many Bones- it takes time to tour the valley. Reinforces the loss.
  • Very Dry Bones- the people have been dead a long time, the bones are picked clean, bleached white

Rebellion against God brings death

  • Death of Ezekiel’s dream to be a priest
  • Death of home, of life the Promised Land
  • Death of Jerusalem and Death of the Temple
  • Death of many people
  • Death of the covenant? God says, “No!” and God creates.

3 He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.”

4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them:

  • This is how God creates, God speaks. Consider the creation story in Genesis and Jesus the Word made flesh.

4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6 I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”

  • God speaks and there is breath and life and holiness and goodness. God does this for us. In our dryness, our desert, our death, God speaks.

7 So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8 I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them, but there was no breath in them. 9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” 10 I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.

  • They lived and they stood. They stand, withstand, and stand firm. They were not just flesh and bone, not the walking dead. Now they were bone and breath and life.

11 Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’         

  • Have you ever had that voice running through your head? I’m just dried up, no good, all is hopeless, a lost cause, no one to help me, no one who loves me, this bad choice will haunt me forever. That isn’t the voice of God.

Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber Quote: God simply keeps reaching down into the dirt of humanity and resurrecting us from the graves we dig for ourselves through violence, our lies, our selfishness, our arrogance, and our addictions, and God keeps loving us back to life over and over again.

12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. 14 I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord.”

We will know that we know that we know.

It’s not enough for us to try harder and do better. We surrender into life by the breath of God.

Our God is a God of creation, a God of life – just like Genesis 2, just like the raising of Lazarus, just like Pentecost, just like the resurrection of Jesus, God brings life to our bones. Not just bones but breath.

God cleansing. God breathing. God creating. God resurrecting.

Let us breathe and be full of hope. God is not done with us. We’ve got work to do. To help other folks find what’s found us. We are the people of hope.

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The Valley of Dry Bones © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Easter Message- Collective Trauma, Collective Hope (Matthew 28.1-10)

Sermon Series: There’s More to Life
Message 5 of 5: Collective Trauma, Collective Hope

Scripture: Matthew 28:1-10
Notes from a message offered Easter Sunday, 4/21/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Read Matthew 28:1-10

notre dame burning

Last Monday, the Paris Cathedral of Notre Dame burned. 

  • Where were you when you heard the news?
  • What did you think?
  • How did you feel?

As I watched, heartbroken and sick to my stomach I thought of the three historic African American churches which burned in Louisiana in the last few weeks. I prayed it wasn’t intentional, arson or terrorism.

I heard this term for the first time: Collective Trauma

  • trauma that happens to a large number of people
  • the size of a community or so large it can cross national boundaries
  • it can affect generations to come
  • The older you are, the more you’ve experienced collective trauma
    • war, genocide, slavery, terrorism, natural disasters, accidents

We mark days, time, and life by collective trauma- before and after the trauma

  • Pearl Harbor
  • Deaths of Famous people- President Kennedy, Dr. King, Princess Diana
  • Chernobyl
  • The Challenger Explosion
  • The 9/11 attacks

Yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of Columbine school shooting. Fifteen persons lost their lives that day.

Rick Townsend, whose daughter, Lauren, was 18 when she was gunned down, said
“It seems like every month there’s a new tragedy of some kind somewhere around.
It just makes you feel sometimes hopeless.”

Now we add the Burning of Notre Dame to this list.

  • UNESCO World Heritage Site, over 850 years old
  • Survived: crusades, reformation, revolution, 2 world wars
  • 13 million visitors a year. That means millions and millions of memories- that once in a lifetime vacation, an encounter with Gothic architecture or art, a profound moment of prayer. Maybe they were baptized there. Now millions share the pain over the burning of Notre Dame- collective trauma.

Why does this affect us so deeply?

  • We care about beautiful and sacred places and the people tied to those places
  • What would it be like if my church burned?
  • Something we presume will always be there is gone or forever changed
  • Increased sense of impermanence, mortality, vulnerability, helplessness

notre dame post fire

Yet in the midst of the darkness, pain, tears something new rises

  • In one of the most secular cities in the world, bystanders did not watch indifferently
    • They held each other, raised candles and sang hymns in the streets. Ann Voskamp said, “Songs rose like incensed prayers, mingling with plumes of smoke.”
  • People worked together, risked together, to make a human chain to pass sacred objects from flames to safety- what some believe to be a nail that held Christ to the cross, the crown of thorns which pierced his brow, and a piece of the cross itself
  • At that moment, the world was drawn together in a common goal in the midst of their common pain and it broke down all the dividing walls that so often separate us from each other.
  • Now there is a commitment Notre Dame will be rebuilt on those ancient foundations. Something new will rise.

This is the Good News of Easter
What starts in darkness, pain, and tears will rise, it ends with new life.
Earth to Earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust ends in Resurrection!

As much as there can be a sharing in communal trauma, this rising can be shared. All of us begin our lives in the darkness of our mother’s wombs. And there is pain and there are tears and there is new life and there is rising.

That first Easter morning, the women started for the tomb in darkness.
Mourn-full, tear-full
Mind-full of the trauma and pain
Expecting to encounter death
Instead, they found a rising. They found new life.

Matthew 28:5b-6
Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified.
He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said.

He is not here! He is risen!
What? How?

Why do you seek the living among the dead?
He told you… remember, he told you
He is not here! He is risen!

Blinding light begins to rise within them
Awe-full, Hope-full
Mind-full of words and wonder, this story and this truth
He is risen! Hallelujah! He is risen, indeed!

Where are you experiencing darkness pain tears?
They do not have the last word
There is new life coming, available
There is a rising

What needs to die, that you might know resurrection?
They need to die because they bring on the pain, darkness, and trauma.
Let them die so Christ may be alive in you.

Pastor Lisa’s Testimony

It is Easter! Christ has risen! He has risen, indeed!
It is not about collective trauma, it is about collective hope!
Collective grace
Collective blessing
Collective new life available to each of us

Communion Prayer

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Collective trauma, collective hope © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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Celebrating Your Life and Witness, a resource for preplanning the worship services following your death

Ria Munk on her Deathbed, Gustav Klimt (1912), Oil on canvas

Ria Munk on her Deathbed by Gustav Klimt. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

There’s a growing trend to not have a funeral or memorial service following the death of a loved one.

Hear my plea- have the service!

Those who remain need it. It’s a critical part of a healthy grieving process. We need to stop, gather, remember, and give thanks in a season of death. It’s a mile marker moment. If we don’t stop, it will chase us.

Christians have even more reasons to gather. We stand on thousands of years of tradition. Good, meaningful, helpful traditions. Traditions of gathering as a community to lament, gathering to embrace the consolation of Christ, gathering to hear the testimony of a faithful Christian witness, gathering to claim Christ’s victory over death and offer of eternal life.

Here’s the heartbreaking part- I’ve sat with many Christian families who tell me their dying loved one told them “don’t go to the bother” of a service or “don’t go to the expense”. They think they are doing their loved ones a kindness, but the truth is they aren’t.

Here’s another heartbreak- If your worship planning is left up to family members who do not value your faith, there may be no service at all. These dear ones don’t understand how meaningful and vital this type of worship experience is.

Think about how not having a service would affect your friends who are believers. Think of the opportunity lost for your own family to hear about your faith and what Christ makes available to them as well.

In my tradition, a worship service following the death of a loved one does not have to be complicated or expensive or formal. It can be in a church or funeral home or cemetery, but it can also be on the beach or in a living room. It can be both faith-full and welcoming for those yet to believe.

The important thing is to stop, gather, remember, and give thanks.

Take time to pre-plan the worship service following your death. To do so is a tremendous gift to your loved ones since they will not have to make these decisions in the midst of grieving. To do so is a witness to your faith in the promises of Christ.

Click the link below for resources to help you pre-plan. Feel free to leave questions or ideas in the comments. I pray these resources are a blessing and a balm to you and those you love. – Lisa <><

CLICK HERE for a pdf of the following resources

  • Descriptions of the different types of worship services which may take place following a death. Remember, there’s no one right way to remember and give thanks for a life. Different types of services and locations are often combined at the preference of the family.
  • Descriptions of the different parts of a worship service to help in your planning.
  • A worksheet to record your planning decisions
  • A worksheet to help you write your testimony

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Celebrating Your Life and Witness, a resource for planning the worship services following your death © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Growing in Resilience: The Too Proud Faces of Death, based on Isaiah 47.10-11

mourn sorrow

If you know the name of this work or its creator, please let me know so I may give proper credit.

Growing in Resilience
Day 8, Read Isaiah 47
Reflection: The Too Proud Faces of Death, based on Isaiah 47:10-11

You felt secure in your wickedness; you said, “No one sees me.” Your wisdom and your knowledge led you astray, and you said in your heart, “I am, and there is no one besides me.” But evil shall come upon you, which you cannot charm away; disaster shall fall upon you, which you will not be able to ward off; and ruin shall come on you suddenly, of which you know nothing.

Will wickedness always remain?
Will violence and war continue to claim their prey?
Will daily needs go unmet forever?
daily bread undiscovered
daily water contaminated
daily shelter out of reach
Will oppression and poverty and captivity shriek their horrid victory?
Will isolation entomb us?

It’s all death
The too proud faces of death
death of goodness
death of peace
death of provision
death of dignity
death of relationship

O Lord, will it always be this way?
Your answer?
No!

Oh, how we need this reminder!
This promise!
This truth!
This hope!
Oh, how we need this now!

Hear our cry, One True Living God
Wield your resurrection love
Yours is the power and strength
Yours is the victory
Reveal it now! Grant it now!
Your people coming before you and coming together and overcoming

Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. – 1 Corinthians 15:54b-58 (NRSV)

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Click Here for more on the Growing in Resilience Reading Plan sponsored by Bishop Ken Carter and the Cabinet of the Florida Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. 

The Too Proud Faces of Death© 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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Great is the Lord, a shout of praise based on Isaiah 25:6-9

praisejesusBased on Isaiah 25:6-9

In a group setting, the words in regular print are spoken by one voice and the words in bold print are spoken by all.

Rejoice and be glad in the God of our salvation!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Great is the Lord who destroys the shroud cast over all people and nations
Remove it now, O Lord

Great is the Lord who swallows up death that we may feast forever
Save us, O Lord

Great is the Lord who wipes every tear from our faces
Console us, O Lord

Great is the Lord who removes our disgrace
Deliver us, O Lord

We wait for this day with hope
We work for this day on earth as it is in heaven
In your mercy, our healing and forgiveness is made complete

Hallelujah to the God of our salvation!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Amen!

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Great is the Lord © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

We Stand in Awe, a prayer of praise based on Luke 7.11-17

Christ Raising the Dead by Louisa Anne, Marchioness of Waterford 1818-1891

Christ Raising the Dead Louisa Anne, Marchioness of Waterford 1818-1891 Bequeathed by Adelaide, Lady Brownlow 1917 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N03222

Based on Luke 7:11-17, Jesus raises the widow’s son

Jesus, we stand in awe before your mighty power
You defeat the grave
You are victorious over death
Raise us from our funeral beds
Raise us to life
Your word awakening us
Your Divine breath once more in our lungs

Jesus, we stand in awe before your great compassion
You defeat our isolation
You are victorious over our poverty
Raise us from our mourning
Raise us to life
Your word transforming us
Your daily bread once more in our mouths

Hallelujah to Jesus, our Savior and Lord!
Hallelujah to your mercy, to your favor, to your presence!
You meet us where we are
and meet our most desperate need!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Amen!

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We Stand in Awe © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Prayer- Lord Save Us, We Are Going Down (Matthew 8.23-27)

CalmingOfTheStorm by Sparling

Calming of the Storm by Darel Sparling

Based on Matthew 8:23-27, Jesus calming the storm

Lord save us, we are going down…
another disease
another divorce
another death

Lord save us, we are going down…
another scandal
another shooting
another suicide

Lord save us, we are going down…
another craving
another closure
another conflict

Lord save us, we are going down…
another addiction
another abuse
another attack

We are afraid
We are undone

We are not alone

You stand
our refuge and strength
our help in storm and struggle
rebuking the crushing chaos

There will be calm
There is calm

Blessed be your Holy Name
Jesus Christ
Our Savior and Lord forever
Amen

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Lord Save Us, We Are Going Down © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.