Wednesday, July 06, 2016

A Clue about the Meaning of Easter

The hand of the Lord was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones,
And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry.
And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord God, thou knowest.
Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.
Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live:
And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the Lord.
So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone.
And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them.
Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord God; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.
10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army.
11 Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts.
12 Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.
13 And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves,
14 And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed it, saith the Lord. - Ezekiel 37:1-14
One of my favorite movies is Clue, based on the board game, and starring some comedy greats, such as Tim Curry, Eileen Brennan, and Madeline Kahn, among others. It brings to life the game, with the characters, such as Colonel Mustard, the rooms, and the weapons, as they try to figure out who committed the murder where and with what weapon. But one of the best things about the movie is that there are three endings, each done after the other – so the viewer is free to pick the one they like best.

Now you may be wondering why I am talking about such a ridiculous movie at the Easter Vigil. But here's why – thanks to the resurrection, we have a different ending as well.

We just heard a wonderful set of some of the best readings from the Old Testament, which describe the creation and exodus from Egypt and other major points in the story of God's relationship with the people of Israel. They are all my favorites – but one I especially love to hear at Easter is the story of the valley of the dry bones from Ezekiel. In one church I attended, in college, the choir would sing the old spiritual "the knee bone connects to the foot bone" as the response to this reading.  Maybe we can do that one year!

What I love about that story is the way that God gives a different ending to the story. The people in the story are dead.  Not just dead, but so dead that all that is left is very dry bones.  No flesh. No muscle. No fat. Just dry bones.

But then God asks Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones, and they start connecting with each other, and are covered with muscles and skin, and become people again.  But there is no breath in them. So God asks Ezekiel to prophesy again, and the breath enters them, and they are alive again!

I think we have all been in the valley of the dry bones.  We have been in situations where we feel like all that is left is dry bones. 

When we think of the sins we've committed – the way we've hurt others, ourselves, the planet.  When we think of the ways in which we've been sinned against, and hurt, and wounded.

But that isn't the ending.  There's another ending.  Jesus Christ took our sins, and put them to death on the cross, and rose again, victorious over sin and death.  We are now forgiven, absolved.  Those sins no longer exist in our lives. 

That is the power of Easter.  A new ending.

We've been in other situations where we feel like all that is left is dry bones.  The relationship that didn't work out.  The job that didn't pan out.  The ways we beat up ourselves for being failures.  We've all been there, or at least had loved ones who have been there.
But thanks to Easter, that isn't the ending.  There's another ending.  We know that our self-worth doesn't depend on our relationships, or jobs, or successes, or failures.  We were created by God, and we were redeemed by Jesus Christ.  Our self-worth comes from being created in the image of God, and being redeemed by Christ's death and resurrection.  

We've all been trapped by sickness, or known someone who was.  We've had loved ones who have died.  And that story is very depressing, very sad – no one will be permanent in our lives, because they will all eventually die – unless we ourselves die first.

But thanks to Easter, that isn't the ending.  There's another ending.  We know that Jesus Christ, through his glorious resurrection, has conquered death, and enabled us to do likewise.  We will see our loved ones again. We will live in joy in eternity with God.

We celebrate this Easter, because the ending of our story has been changed to a new ending – a much, much better ending – of life, joy, and companionship with God and one another.  Thanks be to God through our Lord Jesus Christ who gives us the victory!

Alleluia, Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!