Delivered at Ames UCC
on December 3, 2017
©The Rev. Eileen Gebbie
Sermons are written to be heard, rather than read.
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When we are born, our bones are small, like us. They are weak, like us. Over time, they grow as we do, in whatever way we do. Some of us get quite tall, some of us stay small. The strength of our adult bones varies according to our genetics and our habits. Weight training helps. If our bones break, they can often be repaired through surgery, pins, casting, traction, implants, and time.
Our bones keep aging along with our skin and our hair and our organs. They say now that the image of an older person falling then breaking a hip is wrong: it is actually that the hip breaks and then the fall happens as a result.
Then we die.
Different things can happen to our bones on death. Some of us here will be embalmed. Our bones will be laid to rest with flesh for company, in a box in the ground. Some of us will be cremated, and our bones become like the dust with which we are anointed on Ash Wednesday.
Some cremated bones are buried in a small box in the ground. Some are set free into air and soil. I have an urn in my office with the residue of many loved ones that I have had the honor to release back to our mother.
So whose bones are filling a valley, whose neglected bones are we looking upon today?
You’ll remember that three weeks ago we heard God speaking through the prophet and priest Jeremiah, before, during, and after Jerusalem’s fall to Babylon. Jeremiah’s audience in the aftermath was the elite who had been forcibly displaced into exile. Just because the elite had lost their nation, they had not lost God.
God told the people newly in exile that they should settle in, plant a garden, have kids. They were not home so they needed to make space for survival until they could find their way back.
It was a story of removal.
Then Last week Brett preached about three of those exiles—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—and their response to the pressure of religious assimilation by Babylonian culture and authorities. They chose a furnace over one more compromise, and lived to tell the tale.
It was a story of resistance.
Today, Ezekiel gives the exiled a vision of return. A return as powerful as the resurrection of the dead.