Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Agents of the Resurrection

Whenever we took our kids on a holiday in the car, the travelling time seemed interminable to them.  We did all sorts of things to distract them.  We had music tapes of stories and songs that they really loved.  And I remember taking Ben and Laura to Carnarvon by myself so I organised for both of them to have their own Gameboy Console to play endless games on.

But inevitably they would ask the very simple question – “Are we there yet?”

Perhaps you are feeling a bit like that after a full month of Lenten thoughts and meditations – whatever you might have been doing.

Our readings today are a bit like an orchestral overture – giving us a hint of what we are set to catch a glimpse of in just a short while – the Resurrection!

I want you to bring up in your imagination an image of that valley of dry bones that Ezekiel is confronted with in his vision.

You have to admit that it is an extraordinary image.  But it is clearly a metaphor of what God wants the people of Israel to understand – a metaphor so vivid that its message will be unmistakeable.  God would restore the long-exiled nation back to their homeland.  This would be on a national scale like the resuscitation of Lazarus, Jesus’ friend.

I want us to do some work on this story with a Gospel twist to it – perhaps one you might not have expected, but one which is clearly derived from the text.

You all know that I began my professional life as a Primary School teacher and even though I only spent 3 years as a professional teacher, I feel like I have been involved in education all my life, especially in my last few years at YouthCARE as Head of Religious Education and Volunteer Services.  This role involved me in a great deal of training of staff and volunteers for their roles in YouthCARE’s work.

Along the way I have gained a lot of inspiration from the ancient wisdom of the Chinese in this proverb:
“Tell me and I will forget.
Show me and I will remember.
Involve me and I will understand.
Step back and I will act.”

I believe there is something really important for us to understand as we look at the way this story is told.

The Lord transports Ezekiel into this vision and asks him what he sees.  The Lord then asks Ezekiel an important question: “Can these bones live?”

I love Ezekiel’s response:  “O Sovereign Lord, you alone know that.”  It was as if he was retorting back to the Lord “Is that a trick question?”

But the Lord presses on.  “Prophesy to these bones,” he said.

Now Ezekiel was a professional Prophet for over 50 years as best we can tell, and he had always understood that words of prophesy were to be directed at the people – never before had he been directed by the Lord to prophesy to inanimate objects of any kind.  Yet here was the Lord commanding him to do just that.

It is a wonderful story as it unfolds, and the Lord is particular to explain clearly to Ezekiel what it all means – it is of course about the restoration of Israel from the Exile they had been condemned to in Ezekiel’s earlier prophesies.

What strikes me as interesting in this story is this.  It all happens in a vision – it isn’t “real” so to speak – so why didn’t the Lord just explain to him what all the dry bones represented and ask Ezekiel if he thought that he, the Lord, could make them all come alive again?

As the story unfolds it is clear that the Lord wants Ezekiel to be involved in this.  This is where I feel like the wisdom of the proverb is coming in. 
·        The Lord could have told Ezekiel what he was going to do – maybe he would have remembered it. 
·        He did show him what he was going to do – that would make sure he remembered it. 
·        But he went further – the Lord involved Ezekiel in the story.  The Lord told Ezekiel to Prophesy.  I wonder even if there was something of a point being made that the Lord could not actually do it alone – without the voice of Ezekiel to Prophesy.  I wonder if this is what Ezekiel understood.

At the end of the Vision, of course, the Lord did step away and turned it all over the Ezekiel.  It was now up to him.  He had become an agent of the restoration of Israel – if only he would prophesy as the Lord had commanded him.

Now this is a thought I want you to consider.  Soon we will be joyously celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus.  One thing we know about this is that this resurrection was just the beginning of a much greater resurrection in which we can all experience new life in God.  And resurrection has become a powerful means by which people and even whole communities can be transformed.

In what ways, then, can we be like Ezekiel?  Can we see ourselves becoming agents of Resurrection in our communities?  God has shown us the resurrection in Christ but he needs us to be the ones who bring it into being in our communities – empowered by the Spirit of God. 

Teresa of Avilla in Spain penned this wonderful poem:

Christ Has No Body
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes with which he looks with
Compassion on this world.
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good.
Yours are the hands with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks with
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

We are called to be agents of the Resurrection.  May God give us all the grace and the will to share this in our communities.

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