Welcome to the second week of the church shutdown because of the coronavirus. As I work on this Reflection (Wednesday March 25TH) I just received an email from Bishop Easterling stating that “in adhering to the orders from Governor Hogan, all UMC churches will be closed through April 26th. This, of course, includes Pleasant Grove UMC.
- The main question we all ask of ourselves is can we cope with everything being closed around us and we are more and more house bound? Some of us have been creative as how we are now reacting to the pandemic caused by the Coronavirus. Ann and I have been able to receive livestream worship from the Church of the Resurrection (Adam Hamilton’s church in Kanas City www.cor.org). Helen and Tim Kemp watch the Crosswinds Church in Westminster www.mycrosswind.com). We are in video connection with our children and my Friday’s men’s group will be using Zoom – video conferencing. Jennifer, Lynn and I are going to have a Zoom connection on Friday afternoon. BTW, Zoom is a video chat that is set up on our laptop computers so that we can have a multiple visual and audio chat.
- Many of our congregation do not have email but you could help spread the connection by printing this out and sending it to your friends or even forwarding this to other friends and neighbors. We are a connected church in the difficult time. Church is us, not a building!
- As Jennifer, Lynn and I work together online – our purpose is to stay connected with you and to seek ways to spread the Gospel and the PGUMC news to our dear friends of Pleasant Grove UMC.
- Later on, in the Reflections, I will address what we are considering for Easter worship. But first, some thoughts on the Lenten Scripture suggestion for the Fifth Sunday in Lent. Today, it is Ezekiel 37:1-14
37 The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. 3 He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”
4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breathenter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”
7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8 I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.
9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.
11 Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’”
- This is a familiar passage to all of us. It explains how the Israelites of 500BC had hope in the most difficult time of their nation. Remember the old song “Them Dry Bonds”? Check it out on YouTube – it will give you quite a smile.
- Consider these difficult times that
some of us have experienced:
- A family is fighting a battle against one of life’s most feared enemies, cancer, and they watch their loved one as she literally wastes away from the disease.
- A community is ravaged by a natural disaster, and the residents return to find their homes, schools, and businesses lying in ruins.
- A man is facing an unknown future as his company conducts layoffs, and he is unsure of how his bills will be paid.
- A woman is struggling with an illness no one sees, and she struggles to make it through each day against the waves of depression.
- As we look at the world around us, it is easy to become discouraged and wonder about God’s presence in the midst of all the despair being caused by the Coronavirus.
- The prophet Ezekiel faced a situation
that caused great hopelessness in the lives of the Jewish nation.
- It was one of the darkest times in the history of God’s people.
- The Babylonians had conquered their land and carried many people off into captivity.
- The nation of Israel experienced tremendous physical and emotional losses.
- Their confidence in themselves and in Yahweh was at an all-time low. (sound familiar)
- The people needed to be reminded about
the God who loved them and sustained them. The people needed to have their
hope restored and their vision enlarged.
- It was in this time of need that the Spirit provided Ezekiel with an experience that still speaks to us today.
- The Spirit of God carried Ezekiel out to overlook what might be described as the ruins of a battlefield. There were many bones scattered upon the ground, and they had obviously been there for quite a while. There was no sign of life left in them, as they were old and dried out from the ravages of time.
- The Spirit then asked Ezekiel a pivotal question, “Mortal, can these bones live?”
- Ezekiel, like many of us, hedged his
bets. He didn’t say no, yet he wasn’t willing to say yes either. Ezekiel’s
answer was evasive at best, and in his uncertainty, he turned the question back
on God— “O Lord GOD, you know.”
- As he was faced with the lifeless bones, Ezekiel was uncertain.
- He was called to consider whether God could work a miracle in the life of a nation that appeared as good as dead.
- Ezekiel was called to examine his faith in the God who delivered them from slavery and gave them the land.
- Can these bones live? It is a difficult question to answer.
- It is difficult because it is a question that challenges the prophet to view the world around him not with the eyes of reality, but with the eyes of faith.
- Ezekiel is called to imagine the divine power working to bring life where there was death. He is called to trust in God who has acted on their behalf in the past. Ezekiel is called to imagine a future filled with hope, boldly proclaiming promise even while those around him are uttering words of despair.
- Can these bones live? God says yes.
- God knows that the bones can live
again. Could it be that by inviting Ezekiel to name the acts of God, God is
helping Ezekiel discover the answer to the question “Can these bones live?”
- God engages Ezekiel’s help in the miracle and does so in order that the proclamation of God’s word and actions may continue.
- God desires human witnesses to speak of God’s miracles of life.
- As I look at the world around me, I
find myself surrounded by piles of dry bones. There are individuals,
communities, and nations that are at the end of their ropes because of the
impact of the virus.
- I look around and there is great reason for despair.
- We are wandering in “the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4) and some around me seem to have no reason to hope.
- We are surrounded by a broken and
hurting world. People all around us ask, “Can these bones live?”
- That is why God needs prophets in the valley today.
- God needs men and women who will stand knee-deep in bones and proclaim that death and destruction do not have the final word.
- God needs us to remind those who are lost, alone, and afraid that God will “bring you up from your graves . . . put God’s Spirit within you, and you shall live.”
- May God continue to use us to proclaim the good news and the promise of new life to those who need it the most!
- Thanks be to God!
A Thought Question: Can you still proclaim the power of God in the face of the Coronavirus? Will you?
 Paraphrased from Ministry Matters.com March 29, 2020