Ezekiel 37:1-14  NRSV   CEB

I’ve heard rumblings of concern that the Narrative Lectionary selections as created over at working preacher are not Advent-y enough. As I read this Ezekiel text, I could not disagree more… and not just because when I stand in a store in an over-heated mall this time of year I feel like a dried up pile of bones who desperately wants to return home.

Ezekiel is a prophet. He is also a priest which has a tendency to color his ‘repent’ commentary. Like many preachers he has a flare for the dramatic and uses bizarre imagery in an attempt to gain the audience’s attention (who, me?). His ministry lasted about 25 years, but the location of his activity is a bit harder to pin down. Minimal research on my part leans towards the idea that he only personally prophesied among the exiles and was never in Jerusalem in person. However, like everything else when it comes to scripture/religion/life there is an opposing argument that says Ezekiel was personally in Jerusalem. The confusion stems from his visions of the Temple – did he actually need to be there to make those prophesies? It wouldn’t be the first time a prophet prophesied in reference to a place they had never actually been.

One more exegetical note and then I’ll move on to things that are actually helpful if you’re looking at this on Saturday (12/7).  🙂

The book of Ezekiel is separated into three sections: Chapters 1-24 – Prophetic words of judgment against the exiles (kicking them when they’re down); Chapters 25-32 – Oracles against foreign nations (they are finally gonna get it… eventually); Chapters 33-48 – Words of hope (for new life and new religious community in Jerusalem… stop him if you’ve heard this one before).

Towards the Sermon…

1) I’m not sure exile means what you think it means…

Some may have hit this theme already with previous prophets, but if not there is an opportunity to talk about GoVeni_Medieval-Hymns_1851_p119d not being way over there, but right here. The people of Israel were weary of exile and into the next generation of pining for home. I’m sure by that time it had become a place of legend – of butterflies and rainbows – or at the very least the place where God was because that is where the Temple was. Ezekiel is proclaiming that God isn’t only there – God is here.

Working through the NL has made these lyrics all the more poignant.

The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all round them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. (v. 1-2)

God led Ezekiel through the valley – God is in the valley – and it is God breathed (ruach) that there be life!

2) World War Z…

Yes, I had to go there and I know some of you may be dying (ahem) to go here too. If you know enough about the zombie entertainment genre to not get yourself into trouble I say go for it. Shaun of the Dead does a brilliant job of showing the ho-hum everyday lives of ordinary people to be strikingly similar to zombies. (WARNING: language NOT appropriate for most of us to give a pulpit recommendation to go home and watch that movie instead of Elf.)

Are we living our faith like zombies, or are we engaged in our faith and trust in God? We may think we’re supposed to be quiet and worshipful, but in fact our mission is to bring things back to life!

3) Do you want to be healed?

This idea comes from our Associate Pastor of Pastoral Care. So often we work and pray with folks who, truth be told, would rather dwell in their wound(s) than be healed. Our Associate Pastor picked up on verse 10: I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.

God breathed life into them and they lived… but it was up to them to stand on their feet.

Other thoughts/prompts to ponder…

  • What about the connections to the creation narrative and the very first text from this year, Genesis 1:1-2:4?
  • Second Sunday for Advent for us is peace, anyone see a link there?
  • In this text the body builds back up layer by layer, every step is named, presumably each one takes time and the order matters…
  • No matter how long or how dead… there is renewal.
  • Human nature vs. God’s nature…

What are your thoughts? Please share in the comments!

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13 thoughts on “Narrative Lectionary: World War ‘Z’eke (Ezekiel 37:1-14)

  1. First thought on peace…Over at the working preacher commentary, they point to how this scene is like battle in reverse: a scene of death progresses toward a scene of life. I think you could probably get quite a ways with the “anti-battle” as a proclamation of peace.

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  2. We are doing the “Elemental Advent” angle, so this week’s key word is “breath/wind”….I don’t know how to do anything new with that, but I’m hoping to come up with something that will probably follow on the idea about being filled with breath not being the end of the story, but rather just the beginning of a new chapter. Sort of like we’re not just saved from something, but for something.

    I need it to be a heavy-on-the-grace kind of week, since yesterday I compared us to Nebuchadnezzar. 🙂

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    1. I think you can go similar to what was used at Lent because the different season will give it a different context. 

      And yes, heavy on the grace sounds appropriate. 

      — Sent from Mailbox for iPad

      On Mon, Dec 2, 2013 at 5:21 PM, RevGalBlogPals

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  3. Considering a couple of possibilities
    Using breath/wind to blow up towards Christmas
    Doing a riff on how the bones might be like the stars that guide us on our journey.
    Bones are useless unless they are connected to something else.

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  4. i find the theme of exile, which showed up last week as well in Narrative text, to be incredibly applicable to the season of Advent. I appreciate the note from your Pastoral Care associate….have to stand up by yourself. We used a drama series for Lent back in 2005 build around the theme “Can these bones live?” It invited the preacher to walk through an imaginary field of dry bones….the stories and connections of our lives that make us feel dried up…and note each one for the way it has contriubted to who I am today. There is life…random thoughts!

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  5. Your point about building up the body back again layer by layer, every step named, each one takes time…reminded me of the 5 steps of grief; Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. Those in exile where certainly feeling all of these. The theme of death and loss is on my mind as a member of the congregation is experiencing the sudden death of her father at too young an age (61) this week and this being a second loss of a grandparent this year for her four kids. All will be in church this Sunday. Glad that there is a theme of hope in this week’s reading.

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    1. It seems like so many face those challenges during this time of year. Certainly that message of hope and rebuilding will have plenty of ears to hear.

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  6. I’m wondering about leading a “visioning” exercise during part of the sermon. After making it clear that this is a vision God is giving to Ezekiel, I’d like to talk about the vision God is giving Pope Francis (for the life of the faithful) and gave Nelson Mandela (for a united South Africa). Have people close their eyes and think of something in their life or in the world that needs change. What does it look like? Ask for a vision of God giving it new life… what does that look like… forgiveness? activism? prayer? All hands on deck?

    Still playing with this.

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  7. I am thinking about the connection between the Ezekiel passage and the Second Sunday of Advent theme of peace. Jesus always greeted his beloved disciples with a word of peace when he was present with them. When the Spirit is present there is peace. And here in Ezekiel, God is present in the Valley of the Dry Bones and in that presence there is peace. Thinking out loud now. 🙂 So presence and peace. I always appreciate your commentary, KJZ and love the World War Z stuff.

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