Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
Sunday Worship
11:00am Service
Pastor Heidi R. Chamberlain
Information info@potsdamumc.org

Are We Dried Up?

Listen to the Sermon or the Entire Service

April 6:

Call:    Romans 8: 6-8
Text:    Ezekiel 37: 1-14
Prayer:  W&S #75
Psalm;   Psalm 130   (848)

            Are We Dried Up?

I had an eerie experience this past Friday,

As I read the words from Ezekiel
And as I thought about the question in the message title
the words "Sometimes I feel discouraged ..., but"
kept running - actually racing - though my mind.

I knew the words were from a hymn
In fact, I knew they were from an African American spiritual
But as much as I searched my brain to figure out which hymn
   I not only could not come up with it
   I got more and more frustrated - perhaps even obsessive

And then       I remembered that not terribly long ago
   God created Google.

And God created Google for people like me
   So that we can get our questions answered
and rather quickly at that.

As I googled, I found the words and the hymn.

I actually found them in an article on Martin Luther King
   Which talked about how this hymn
   Was his favorite
and  how it helped him through many trials.

The first verse goes like this,
   Sometimes I feel discouraged
   And think my work's in vain
   But then the Holy Spirit
   Revives my soul again.

The chorus of the hymn contains the title
   There is a balm in Gilead
   To make the wounded whole;
   There is a balm in Gilead
   To heal the sin-sick soul.

I was delighted to find the hymn
I was delighted to be able to focus my attention elsewhere

But the aggravation of the search was worth it

For, although this hymn answers a question raised by Jeremiah
I believe it helps us to understand words from Ezekiel.

But the eerie aspect is that I was searching on Friday
   And Friday was April 4
   The 46th anniversary of Dr. King's assassination.

And so I found a hymn that was haunting me
   A hymn that I felt I needed to help me share this message
      Through a man who had loved and lived that hymn
      46 years    to the day  after his death.

I am confident that you and I,   like Dr. King,
   Sometimes get discouraged
   And think our work's in vain
   And then we wonder and question whether God
   Can revive our souls again

Well, the very point of our text from Ezekiel is
   That God can indeed do that.
   For in the text,  God does even more.

And God does it dramatically and powerfully
   Creating an image that is lasting
   And lessons that we so often need.

Ezekiel is, of course, an OT prophet

But unlike Amos and Hosea, he did not prophesy
   In the Northern Kingdom before the Assyrians conquered it

Unlike Jeremiah and First Isaiah, he did not prophesy
   In the Southern Kingdom before the Babylonian exile

And unlike Haggai and Malachi, he did not prophesy
   In that Southern Kingdom after the return from exile

Instead, Ezekiel prophesied while actually in exile in Babylon.

And his prophecies were dramatic visions
   Some of the greatest imagery found in scripture are found in Ezekiel's words.
   Art and spirituals have been inspired by those words

Even those of us living in a very different time and place
   Find these images powerful, dramatic, and at times disturbing

The words we hear from that prophet this morning
   Are the words relating the third of his four visions

I believe that we will find them powerful and dramatic
   And although some find them disturbing
   I think that we ought to find them encouraging
      In fact comforting and inspiring.

These are those words      [Ezekiel 37: 1-14]

The first part of the lesson is clear:

   When we are discouraged
   When we are so indifferent as to feel like we are dead
   When we feel spiritually dried up
   When we feel like life is hopeless

Then what we need is
   For God to put us back together, to reassemble us
And for
      The breath of God,   the Holy Spirit
      To blow life back into us

And God wants to do that.
Remember, God is the one who initiated the events of the vision
   It was God who took hold of Ezekiel
   It was God who set Ezekiel down in the middle of the valley
      A valley filled with dried bones,   very dry bones

But the second part of the lesson is
     That we have to remember that while God initiated the process
     And while it was God's power that accomplished the result
   God still worked through Ezekiel.
   And that today, God wants us to take on Ezekiel's role

Remember, the scene in the valley begins
with God asking Ezekiel a question of faith
and   with Ezekiel giving an answer of faith.
The persons whose bones were lying in that valley
   Had been dead for a long, long time
   That is clear from the emphasis that the bones were very dry

And the prophet knew
   That in human terms, there was no way for life to be restored

Ezekiel knew this when God asked the question,
   "Mortal, can these bones live?'

Ezekiel could have answered
   "No, God, but I wish they could.
Did you bring me here to give them a proper burial?"

But instead he responded with an answer of faith and trust in God,
"O Lord God, you know."

And after God received that answer of faith
   God began to work through the prophet, telling him to
      "Prophesy to these bones."

Again in a faithful response, Ezekiel did just that
   And suddenly there was a noise, a rattling
   And the bones came together, bone to bone
      And then sinews, and flesh, and skin.

But still at this point, they were empty shells
with no breath in them

And so God again commanded Ezekiel to prophesy
   This time to the four winds

Still again, Ezekiel obeyed faithfully
   And breath came into [those shells]
and they lived and stood on their feet.
God was done with the dry bones,
   But God was not done with Ezekiel

"Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel."

They [that is, both those exiled and those still back in Jerusalem] say
   "Our bones are dried up and our hope is lost;
   we are cut off completely"

But God wants to do something about that

And so God tells Ezekiel   (And God tells us as well)
   "Prophesy to them"
      That the Lord will open their graves
      And that the Lord will put the Lord's spirit in them
      And that they shall live!

In other words, prophesy to them
   That there is a balm in Gilead - and everywhere else
      For God can - and wants to - make them whole
   And   God can  - and wants to - heal their sin-sick souls

Isn't that why Jesus, in addition to dying for us
gave us the Great Commission
   Commanding us and demanding of us
to be witnesses and to make disciples for Jesus Christ,
in our communities,
in our country,
and throughout the world?"

God wants to work through us
Just as God wanted to work through Ezekiel

And so God asks us,     "Can my people live?"
And we   can answer  in human terms
   "No, God, but I wish they could.
Did you call us here to give them a proper burial?"

Or we can respond like the prophet
with an answer of faith and trust in God,
"O Lord God, you know."

And then show we mean it
   By doing what God commands us to do.
      By loving and forgiving
      By witnessing and making disciples.

We should at times see Ezekiel's vision
   As if we are the dried bones needing God's reassembling us
and blowing life into us

But at all times we should see the vision as if we are Ezekiel
Observing what God can do
And then as faithful, obedient, and inspired people
   Sharing that with others

And when we get skeptical
   It may help us to remember not only the vision
      that in order to understand and share the vision

      I had to answer a question raised by one prophet
      With the words of another
         And with a song
         That I located
         Because another man had loved and lived it
         On the anniversary of that man's death.

We should never underestimate God
   Not even when we feel dried up.