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Dr. Jeffrey K. London
“Can these bones live?” God asked the prophet Ezekiel.
• Can the kid who just shot up his school ever be saved and rehabilitated?
• Can the abusive husband ever become a gentle loving husband?
• Can the hate-filled white man and the bigoted black woman ever sit down together and share a meal?
• Can Palestinians and Jews ever live in peace?
• Can a cure for cancer ever be found?
• Can hunger and homelessness ever be eradicated?
• Can the world ever learn to speak one language of understanding and acceptance?
“Can these bones live?” God asked the prophet Ezekiel and Ezekiel gave a very politically savvy answer, “O Lord God, (only) you know.”
The truth of the matter is that when we look at much of the world we see valleys filled with dead dry bones, and we see no hope within them, no chance for breath and life. That’s the real answer to God’s question. If we’re honest with ourselves and with God, the real answer is “No, we don’t think the dry bones of the world can ever live again.”
For the people of Israel, the dry bones symbolized themselves, lost in exile with no hope of ever returning home.
For us, the dry bones of the world symbolize all the hopelessness and pain around us and within us, all that we feel helpless to change, all that is beyond our control to make better.
Of course, the Good News of God to Ezekiel is that these dry bones can live, that there is hope, that all things are possible with God.
And we shake our heads and say, “O yeah, sure, all things are possible with God.” And we want to believe it, but we don’t really believe it…at least not in the deepest darkest recesses of our heads, where we struggle with questions of “Why?”:
• Why do bad things happen to good people?
• Why did my marriage have to end in divorce?
• Why did my child have to be born sick?
• Why am I the one who had to get Parkinson’s Disease?
• Why does getting older have to be such a painful time?
• Why do my parents ignore me?
• Why did a financial crisis have to hit my family?
• Why do I feel so alone all the time?
• Why doesn’t God come and put breath and life into the dry bones of my life?
Pentecost picks up where the Ascension left off. Pentecost is about the assurance of God’s grace in Jesus Christ. Pentecost is about the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to be with us always, no matter what; to give strength, courage, and power to us.
Our problem in believing this, in believing that all things are possible with God, in believing that dry bones can live, is that we tend to intellectualize it, we tend to think about it in our heads instead of experiencing it in our hearts. We try to prove it by looking for verifiable, scientific proof.
Now of course “thinking” has a has its place in the faith, there’s no question about that, faith seeks understanding, but thinking that’s separate from the knowledge and experiences of the heart is just… “thinking.”
You see, God’s grace is like being in love. We don’t intellectualize love. We can’t prove love through scientific analysis. But we know love when we experience it. We know how to give love and we know how to receive love, and we don’t do either one of those things with our heads. We do them with our hearts.
My analogy is that of an extension cord between the head and the heart. Most of the time this extension cord is not plugged in and we make decisions with either our head or our heart. Seldom do we think and feel together.
Yet, to be whole, to be wholly created persons is to plug that extension cord in and be the thinking feeling human beings God intends for us to be.
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This is true in the realm of faith as well. Some flavors of the faith are criticized for being too intellectual,
to cognitive, to…presbyterian. Other flavors of the faith have been criticized for being too emotional, to feeling oriented, to experiential.
Well, the truth is that we need both. In order to be fully human we need both. We need to be thinkers and feelers in our worship. We need to ponder the depths of God’s wisdom and we need to experience the breadth of God’s grace.
For some of us it may be like being in a house where all the windows have been shut for a long time. It’s time to open the windows and let some fresh air blow through. Pentecost is all about opening the windows of our hearts and letting the wind of the Spirit blow through and rearrange and reorient our inner being.
Pentecost is about the experience of experiencing the assurance of God’s grace with our hearts, not just our heads. It’s about believing that we are loved so much by God that God would find a way to be with us all the time, and give us what we need to weather any storm the world might throw at us.
Pentecost is about experiencing in our hearts the belief that dry bones can indeed live, that human hopelessness can indeed be transformed into hope, that mountains can indeed be moved, that someday all the world will most certainly know what it feels like to live and love in peace.
When we get down to it, Pentecost is about something very “un-Presbyterian,” it’s about…feeling….it’s about…emotion! It’s about being vulnerable enough that we might dare risk letting go and letting the Spirit blow through our lives.
No one knows where the wind comes from, or when it will come up, or what direction it will blow in. The wind cannot be controlled, and that’s exactly what scares us. The wind can only be experienced.
And Pentecost is God’s call to experience the power of his love and the assurance of his grace…not just with our heads, but with our hearts.
Pentecost is God’s call to not give hoot if the world thinks we’re all drunk at 9:00 in the morning because we’re laughing and smiling and enjoying being together!
Pentecost is the gift of God’s Spirit that frees us to celebrate the love of God and the fire of hope that burns within our hearts.
So the Good News, this Pentecost morning, to a bunch cerebral- Presbyterians is this: Stop thinking so much and risk feeling the faith with your heart! Come to realize that the truth of some of life’s most fundamental questions cannot discovered in our heads, but can only be experienced in our hearts.
“Can these dry bones live?” The answer is “Yes, they can,” as long as our windows are open and we feel the rush of the wind kissing our hearts.
Copyright 2003, Jeffrey K. London. Used by permission.