Sunday, December 10
Narrative Lectionary Daily Devotions written by Kace Leetch from Clergy Stuff.
Physical illnesses like cancer, diabetes, MS, Parkinson’s disease; mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, bipolar, schizophrenia, dementia; addiction; broken relationships; financial stresses – these and so many more can feel like death. They feel like our bodies and souls are not more than a pile of dry bones. Everyone has the experience of despair and suffering at one time or another. It’s one of the hardest things I’ll ever do as a parent – watch my children suffer, knowing there is nothing I can do about it.
God nailed it when God showed Ezekiel a valley of dry bones. As a parent, God would have been grieved to watch the children of Israel suffer in exile. But God could, and did do something about it. God promised Ezekiel and the Israelites in a vivid vision that the children of Israel would one day be restored. Bones came together, then sinews, and then flesh, and skin, but no breath. Anyone who has experienced suffering knows that the ending of suffering can be a long, slow, painful process. It can seem as though there will never be any breath that can restore us to new life.
But God does promise breath and God delivers the breath of life. For the Israelites, new life came in the form of restoration from exile back to their land and their culture. For us, new life might come in the form of healing of body, mind, or spirit. New life might come through recovery from addiction. New life might mean the restoration of relationships or finances. It might also mean an acceptance of things lost and a new way of looking at the past, present, and future.
My hopes for my children when they were born were not surprising – good health, education, jobs, marriages, retirements, and long life. Before my first baby was two, we lost the dream of good health to T1D (diabetes). By the time my second child was in first grade, we lost the dream of a seamless education as long days of sitting still in classrooms for the next twelve years became a daunting task for an active, creative, distractible little boy. By the time my oldest turned nineteen we had potentially lost the possibility of job, marriage, retirement, and long life with a diagnosis of MS. (Would he be able to work? To have a family? To retire and do as he dreams?)
For us, acceptance of what is lost has become our saving breath. And with the letting go of the “perfect” lives we envisioned for our kids came a tremendous freedom to dream about the many alternative ways our kids can live out their lives. Happy. Loved. At peace. As healthy as possible.
And always in the hands of a loving God that continues to breathe God’s breath of everlasting life in us.
Narrative Lectionary Text: Ezekiel 37:1-14
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 around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.” So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude. Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act,” says the Lord.