Can These Bones Live: Overcoming F.E.A.R.
Sermon Title: Can These Bones Live: Overcoming F.E.A.R.
Good News Statement: God rattles your bones to live again
Preached: Sunday, October 31, 2021 at Dogwood Prairie and Seed Chapel UMC
Pastor Daniel G. Skelton, M.Div.
Scripture (NRSV): Ezekiel 37:1-6, 10 – Today’s scripture reading comes from the Book of Ezekiel chapter 37 verses one thru six and then verse ten. Listen to the rattling words of God:
37 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. 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: 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.”
10 I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.
Being that it is Halloween, I thought we would begin with some Halloween humor. These jokes are courtesy of my oldest nephew, Kohen.
-How do you fix a broken Jack-O-Lantern? With a pumpkin patch!
-What song don’t Vampires like to hear? You Are My Sunshine!
-How do you open the door to a haunted house? With a Skeleton key.
-Who was the best dancer at the Halloween Party? The Boogieman.
-Who do witches call for breakfast while on vacation? Broom Service.
-What do you call a skeleton that sits around all day? A Lazy Bone.
And for you older kids out there, this joke is titled “Halloween Group Therapy.” During a group therapy session, a Ghost, a Pumpkin, a Witch, a Zombie, and a Head in a Jar were asked this question, “What brings you here today?” The Ghost said, “I’m not the man I used to be!” The Pumpkin replied, “I feel hollow inside.” The Witch yelled, “I curse everything.” The Zombie simply said, “I haven’t felt alive in years.” And the Head in the Jar said in a whisper, “I just feel disconnected.” Lastly, Halloween is a day in which some people choose to wear a mask, while others finally feel safe to take theirs off.
For some of us, Halloween may be associated with fear, but others Halloween might be associated with fear, with being scared or even terrified. We think about the movies such as Friday the 13th (1980), Scream (1996), The Omen (1976), A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Carrie (1976), The Exorcist (1973), or Paranormal Activity (2007). We also might think of It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown (1966), The Addams Family (1991), Hocus Pocus (1993), The Haunted Mansion (2003), Halloweentown (1998), Beetlejuice (1988), Beetlejuice (1988),….,Ghostbusters (1984) or Casper (1995). When Halloween comes around, for some of us, fear guides our footsteps: we might even feel like the Pumpkin who feels hollow inside. There is something about fear that makes us all a little uneasy, unsettled, and even a little disturbed. During moments like this we want to just step away from everything that is going on: we want to separate ourselves from the world around us.
But God has different plans for us. He wants us all to live and rise and to overcome what is before us so that we don’t always live in fear—as dry bones in a deserted valley. God rattles our bones so that we will rise again. God rattles our bones so that we will overcome the fear in our life. God rattles our bones so that we may live for tomorrow. However, the question becomes, “Do you want to live in fear—to Forget Everything and Run—or do you want live in God—Guidance over Desire?
Let us pray… Dear Heavenly Father, we are never without fear. We encounter moments in our life that makes us feel hollow inside, that makes us want to escape and hide in a deserted valley. But we know, that through you and in you, we have been given the strength to overcome our fears so that we will face everything and rise. Allow these words to help all of us rise. I pray that my words fall to the ground as your words settle in the hearts of all those before me. In your name we pray, Amen.
Three thousand years ago, God gave the prophet Ezekiel a vision. Ezekiel says, “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. He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry.” (Ezekiel 37:1-2).
Imagine the scene. Thousands of bones are spread out across the valley. Here is a skull, there is a thighbone, over there is a pile of finger bones. The bones are in bad shape. They are scattered, disordered, and dry. Not even the birds like dry bones, they are good for nothing. Dust is blowing everywhere. God has placed Ezekiel in a land that is not “flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3), but instead is flowing with defeat, dread, doubt, and death. I’m pretty sure if Ezekiel wasn’t extremely terrified, he probably would have noticed ghosts, goblins, witches, and zombies. At this point, like the Head in the Jar, Ezekiel feels a little disconnected from his usual way of living.
Do any of you ever feel disconnected from your usual routine? Has something in your life caused you to be placed in a valley? You’ve gotten injured and feel like nothing will get better. There are family issues happening in your life that are unexplainable. Friends are no longer communicating with you. Work is stressful and unpredictable causing you to worry about everything. Things at school may even cause you to worry. Are you worried about tomorrow?
After bringing Ezekiel to this valley of dry bones, the LORD said to him, “Mortal, can these bones live?” With everything that these bones have gone through—the pain, the struggle, the defeat of life—can they live again? With everything that you have gone through, can you live again?
Remember, these bones are scattered everywhere: there is a thighbone here, a finger bone there, a skull resting in a pile of rib bones. Not only are these bones dry and lifeless, but they are mangled and dispersed all over the valley. On top of all this, the LORD asks a mortal—a human being, a simple person, an individual with no special talents or gifts—only a question that He alone can answer. Ezekiel responds, “O LORD God, you know” (Ezekiel 37:3). The LORD doesn’t even address Ezekiel as a prophet. But yet he still asks him, “Can these bones live?”
From the looks of them, I would say no. But I know that God can work miracles! Once in a while, God may ask us the same question, “Can these bones live?” Can the hurt that we are experiencing be removed? Can the moments from our past that put us in a valley be removed? Can we overcome the fear in our life—the very fear that has caused us to forget everything and run? Can we become alive again? What would you say if God asked you, “Can these bones live?”
Knowing that he is a mere mortal that has had visions of a chariot in the sky and a wheel that keeps on turning, Ezekiel is probably thinking why me. Why am I placed in this valley? Why have I been chosen to see and witness these lifeless piles of bones? I simply just want to keep dreaming about weird things. Realizing the fear that Ezekiel must be experiencing at this time, the LORD prompts Ezekiel with what to say. Ezekiel is to prophesy, “O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the LORD GOD to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I 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” (Ezekiel 37:4-6). You shall know that I am the LORD.
No matter what these bones have been through. No matter the pain that they have experienced. No matter the dread, doubt, or defeat that conquered their spirits, God is willing to bring them back to life so that they can embrace a life that is surrounded by His love and comfort. Even if you feel like you are in the valley, God is willing to bring you to life: to give you what you need to overcome what you are going through right now. God is waiting for you to ask for help, to seek His aid, and to knock at His door (Matthew 7:7-8). God wants you to know that it is okay to feel disconnected and to not feel like yourself. Why? Because He has been and will always be there for you. God wants to put you back together.
We are reminded in Isaiah 41:10, “[D]o not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” God is promising us, is promising you, that He will be there. He will be there to conquer your fear. He will be there to strengthen you. He will be there to help you and uphold you. He will be there to give you life again. He will be there as we come together to build His church for all those that need to know that fear is something to not run from but to rise against. No matter what you are going through, no matter what kind of valley you are in, God is with you; and he is waiting for you to witness His miracles.
Ezekiel states in 37:10, “I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.” A mere mortal listened to God and brought life to the dead. Through his fear and uncertainty and worry, Ezekiel, with the faith and strength of God’s right hand, brought a vast multitude out of the valley of dry bones. If God can give one person that much power to change the lives of many just think what God can do when you lean on Him for help. It’s almost as if God is saying, “How long will you lie there, O lazybones? When will you rise from your sleep?” (Proverbs 6:9).
The Valley of the Dry bones is our wakeup call to no longer be lazy. Instead, God wants us to be awake. Not only does God want us to be awake, but He wants us to no longer live in fear. I’m not talking about those phobias in your life that cause you to be scared (i.e. arachnophobia –the fear of spiders, acrophobia—the fear of heights, insectophobia—the fear of insects, pyrophobia—the fear of fire, trypanophobia—the fear of needles, or wiccaphobia—the fear of witches.) I’m talking about our fear to go to God at a time of need because we think we can handle it on our own. We must not be lazy when talking to God. We must be proactive and consistent when talking to and with God. When we do so, others will see how we have come alive and they will want to know how they can experience the same thing. And you can say, “I heard this wonderful, life changing message, at Dogwood Prairie/Seed Chapel!” Or you can say, “I let God remove my fear and worry. I let God help me. I let God breathe life back into me.” I let go and let God. In the words of Mary Shelley from Frankenstein, “There is something at work in my soul.” Are you allowing God to work in your soul?
What took place in the Valley of the Dry Bones was no hocus pocus. As a matter of fact it was a Casper moment: a moment where God asked, “Can I keep you?” and you responded with “Can I keep you?” God wants every dry bone to live. If you feel spiritually lost or spiritually dead, today is the day for you to come alive! God says to you, “Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live” (Ezekiel 37:13-14).
Believers are encouraged to remain faithful at their present task because there are no limits to what God can do. Whatever you are going through, know that God is with you. Whenever you feel lost, know that God will always find you. God will give you the strength and the breath that you need to overcome any valley: to put you back together when you feel disconnected, hollow, or not yourself.
Today, I invite you to seek God for help, to pray to God, to lean on God, to receive the spirit of God. Today, is not a day to live in fear—to forget everything and run. However, it is a day to face everything and rise. “The breath (of life) came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet.” If dry bones can rise, then so can you.
Let us pray…Dear Breath of Life, although we have been or may be going through a valley, we know that you are there with us; helping us overcome the fears, the doubts, the dread, and the uncertainties in our life so that we can be brought back to life. Lead us towards the path of righteousness—the very path that reminds us to not run but instead rise. Lord, rattle our bones so that we can bring life back into our church and our community. In the strong name of Jesus we pray, Amen.
The LORD has breathed life into you; He has rattled your bones; He has put you back together so that you will no longer live in fear, but live eternally in His protection and love. In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, go in peace as you live wisely and well in God’s world. Amen.