On Thursday evening, a couple of members of the transition team and I were at an event hosted by St. John’s United Church in Halifax. They opened the evening in the same way as they open worship, with three deep breaths. I think they were a centering breath, a grounding breath and a releasing breath. As our note in the bulletin said earlier:
• Most of us breathe too shallow
• Take a deep breath all the way into the far corners of your lungs…
• fill up your breath… fill up your spirit
• Then let it empty all the way out, long and slow…
• Let it all go and take with it the toxins of your life (Marcia McFee, Worship Design Studio)
Every time someone else leads me in that exercise, I realize, once again, how shallowly I breathe most of the time. The last few weeks have been demanding ones:
• Collating and sorting all the data from the Listening Circles is always a bigger task than I remember, don’t forget, I am presenting that next Sunday after church!
• Regular ministry, whatever that is.
• The beginning of Lent.
• Regional work that as past president I am still involved in.
• Pastoral care in a variety of ways.
• And of course, Laird’s funeral on Friday.
All of those things are sacred, all of them are important and all of them are an integral part of my life as a minister. And I love being in ministry, and I love being in ministry with you folks. But… as I sat in my ‘lazygirl’ chair at home on Saturday to write my sermon for today, the words from our opening sung meditation kept going through my head:
Come and rest
Come and listen
Lay the fullness of your lives before the Maker.
I felt like Ezekiel’s valley of dry bones. I had nothing left to offer. And so today I have just a short reflection, based on the writing of Joyce Rupp and then we are going to sing a couple of extra hymns. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Valley of Dry Bones story, it’s from Ezekiel 37 and the first three verses are these: 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.”
That’s how I felt… dry, lifeless… nothing left to offer… Have you ever felt that way?
Take some time to quiet your body… Be aware of your breathing… Begin by feeling the bones in your body .Begin with your skull, your neck bones, your shoulders, your arm and hands… continue through your body slowly, being mindful of how you are created and shaped by your bones.
Close your eyes… go to Ezekiel’s valley… Imagine your bones in a pile, no flesh, no sinew, no skin… Just your bones… they are all there, in a heap. See their whiteness, their dryness… there is no life, no movement… only silence, dead silence. Out of the silence a small voice is heard. It is your voice. You tell God about your dry bones… the situations where you lack life…how you feel about your deadness.
Then you listen… God speaks to you, the same words spoken to the dry bones: “I am now going to make breath enter you, and you will live… I will put sinews on you… I will make flesh grow on you… I will cover you with skin and give you breath… And you will live… And you will know that I am Yahweh.
What else does God tell you about your dry bones? Listen… Imagine your dry bones – brittle, hard, dead… Hear God say, “Come from the four winds, breath, breathe on these dry bones that they may come to life.”
Feel God’s breathe fill your dry bones… hear the bones clatter as they begin to rise and fit into each other… See the life returning to your ankles, feet, legs, your hands, arms, neck… all the parts of your body… everything coming together into a wonderful wholeness…into you.
Feel your breath… breathe in and out. As you breathe in and enjoy the life filling you, you see yourself rise, and dance with joy… Embrace the God of life. When you are ready open your eyes. (Adapted from May I Have This Dance – Joyce Rupp)
Look around you. God is here. In our brokenness and our wholeness. God is here. Like the psalmist cried out, God is singing! And once again, I am convinced that nothing can separate us from God.
Not life, not death, not fatigue, not sorrow.
Not life, in all of its challenges.
Not the things we worry about.
Nor failing bodies and even failing breath.
Nothing can separate us from God’s love.
And when we are convinced, we are liberated and set free!
Thanks be to God for the challenging and the opportunity of living in faith, love and community. Amen.
Psalm 33: 3-6; 20-22
Romans 8: 26-28, 35-39
March 8, 2019 – SMUC