NL Reading: Ezekiel 37:1-14
Free Resource: Bone Snapshots (Cross+Gen Education)
Advent Theme (December 3—December 24): God’s Presence Brings Life
“Ezekiel connected dem dry bones,” begins the old spiritual. But, the truth of the story is that Ezekiel was only the instrument. It was God—God’s word and God’s breath—that brought life to those dry bones.
A Different Advent
Unlike last week’s lesson from Daniel 3, the story of Ezekiel and the Dry Bones does appear in the Revised Common Lectionary. However, it is never an Advent text (rather it shows up in Lent, Easter Vigil, or Pentecost). It does not directly focus on the coming of the Messiah. What it does do is provide a beautiful image of the power of God over death, God’s word bringing life. Ezekiel speaks to a people who have nearly given up hope waiting for God’s rescue from exile. God comes to those who are waiting. God’s word brings resurrection and new life. Sounds to me like a perfect story for those awaiting the advent of our God (then and now).
Death Makes Dry Bones
It is not a revelation to think of dry bones being a symbol of death. Bones in general, and the human skull specifically, has been an image of death for a long time. But, there are various kinds of death. There is, of course, biological death. At some point, all living creatures experience total cellular death, a permanent end to brain activity. That is the image in Ezekiel 37, but not the true meaning of the passage. No, the death in this story is the death of hope. Without hope, we are left only with despair.
God’s Word to the Dry Bones
Dry bones fill a valley, the people of Israel have lost hope. But, while we are waiting and wondering if our deliverance will come, God waits only for the proper time to act. Nothing is beyond God’s power. God commands the prophet to speak, but the words are God’s words. These words of prophecy are not like others. Instead of bringing understanding of God’s vision for Israel, these words enact that vision. God is present and active in the Word. Through the Word, God creates and re-creates. Through God’s Spirit, God brings life and hope where there was none.
Show and Tell
God could have just given Ezekiel the promise, that God has not abandoned the exiles and will indeed deliver them from Babylon. God has given that promise directly before and will later. Instead of just telling, God showed Ezekiel a vision, in fact God calls the prophet to enact this metaphor. God shows and doesn’t just tell.
You can do that, too! This is a visually rich passage, so capitalize on that and for all ages. Our free activity this week, “Bone Snapshots,” calls listeners use their bodies to create tableaus (silent, still scenes) of different portions of the passage. This can be done in worship or outside of it, in small groups or a large group, and by all ages. It can be a way for children and/or youth can be involved with the reading of Scripture, or it can be a “competition” between intergenerational small groups. Use the activity in whatever way it works for you. This activity was created originally for our Living the Word: Cross+Generational Education curriculum.
For more great ideas on how to engage participants of all ages in the story of God’s love, check out our Living the Word series for elementary students, youth, adults, and intergenerational settings!
How will you visualize this vision of the dry bones?
-Gregory Rawn (Publisher)
Image Copyright: scottff72 / 123RF Stock Photo