Hollowed and Whole

‘Jesus wept’ is the shortest passage in the Bible. It may or may not be familiar to you. We just listened to those passages of scripture woven together. Mary and Martha’s brother Lazarus is sick and they send Jesus a message asking him to come to Bethany in order to save him. For some unknown reason, Jesus doesn’t hurry to them, but waits for two days before travelling there. And of course, by the time he gets there, Lazarus is dead and has been in the tomb of 2 days.

And Jesus wept.

Wept in sorrow?

Wept in the loss of relationship?

Wept in regret?

John’s gospel is full of signs and wonders and remember John’s gospel was written almost a century after Jesus’ death, not as it was happening. So it is full of metaphors and stories that help bring us into a deeper understanding of Jesus if we don’t look upon them as history. Too often we get hung up on the ‘facts’ of a story and ignore the truth of a story. Perhaps Jesus was weeping because he was imagining Lazarus as one of the sets of dry bones as envisioned by Ezekiel.

Whenever I read today’s passage from Ezekiel, I am reminded of the images that I have seen in books, magazines and TV of the concentration camps after the second world war. Also of the killing fields in Rwanda. Now I also envision the estimated 6000 indigenous children that died in the residential school system. .

And Ezekiel’s question, “Can these bones live?” rings down through the ages, just as it did then. Valleys of dried, bleached, dead bones, as far as the eye could see. Death and destruction all around. Hopelessness and despair. Most of us have not seen that kind of devastation and hopefully will not have to. But we have all experienced times of lifelessness, depression and discouragement. Both individually and as a community of faith.

What are the dried, dead bones of our lives? Where do we feel empty and lifeless? Where are we thirsting for the living water of hope and new life?
How are we going to let the wind of the Holy Spirit enter our lifelessness and live? There are times in our lives that we feel overwhelmed, overburdened and overtired. Times when nothing seems like it is worth living for and we cannot find joy in any of the things we do or experience. I believe that feelings like these are part of being human.

That dry bones feeling can be a sign of some deeper need, a sign that we have been neglecting an important part of who we are. We may not express it in the way that Ezekiel did…. we may use terms like

I feel like I am falling apart
I can’t seem to get my act together
I am so broken up over this (Joyce Rupp)

We can almost hear the dry bones of our life clattering against each other when we say these things. Individually, it may be problems with a family member… or financial worries… or an old hurt that has resurfaced for unknown reasons… or a crisis of faith, when you are questioning God or God feels very far away. Whatever it is, that dry bones feeling is a signal that something is not right.

And if you try and ignore it… through keeping yourself so busy you don’t have time to think… or drinking or drugs or my personal favourite, eating… you can avoid it… For a while… only a while…not permanently.

For us as a community of faith… our dry bones may be feeling as if society no longer values what we value… when we look around and see no children… or when we encounter or experience bullying behaviour in church.

We have to go down into that valley of dry bones and cry out. There may be a truth that is trying to break through, we need to stay with the experience and not run from it. We as humans avoid pain, but until we allow ourselves to feel pain, we cannot be open to the healing that is waiting for us.

Regina Coupar is a Nova Scotia artist, writer and theologian, she writes this: Real comfort can only be felt be those who are able to receive it. Without grief we have no real need to be comforted. If our pain has been restricted to a surface level, our comfort will also be superficial. If we want to be truly comforted, we must admit our pain; physical, emotional and spiritual. When we mourn from the depths of our being, we open our wounds to receive healing. The deeper the wound, the greater the cavity created which is capable of holding God’s comfort.

We have to be willing to look at the bare bones of what is causing us pain before we can receive the new life awaiting us. We need to experience pain and grief and loss and find the love that is still there in the midst of all that.

Right now, as I have conversation with folks at coffee time and meeting or during the Listening Circles, I sense a bit of new found hope and sense of life… along with the often expressed financial worry. But, I want to remind you, the more challenging work of Interim Ministry has not yet started. As we move into making some decisions, it may feel like some dry bones again. Decisions about how we worship… how we make decisions… how we engage with our community… Old ways and habits die hard… anyone who has made any sort of change knows that, but old habits have to die and NOT be resurrected in order for new life to flourish. That is the blessing and the challenge of new ways.

Jesus weeps every time we chose death instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to breathe new life into dry, empty bones. Jesus weeps when we turn away from the joy and pain of new life. But Jesus also says to each one of us, “Come out!”

Thanks be to God for the challenge and the opportunity of hearing Jesus’s voice. Amen.

Ezekiel 37:1-14
John 11: 1-45
March 6, 2023 – SJUC

Photo by Hannah Voggenhuber on Unsplash


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s