- Date: Sunday, December 5, 2021
- Bible Reading: Ezekiel 37:1-14
- Free Resource: Essential Breath, Essential Hope (3rd-6th, NL)
- Advent Theme (November 28—December 19): God’s Presence Brings Life
- The Point: God’s powerful presence brings new life and heals broken relationships.
Imagine you’ve just survived one of THOSE days. You sit in your car and before you even start the drive you listen to that ONE song that restores you. Maybe it’s not a song. Maybe it’s someone’s voice, a joke, a Bible verse. What brings you back to life?
A few years back, I knew this guy… (don’t all great stories somehow start like that?). I knew a guy who was working on a low-budget horror movie. He was part of the sound editing team, and they needed a good sound for intestines hitting the pavement. Having no real experience in what this must sound like, we began to experiment. A bowl of wet pasta was pretty good but kind of flat. After various trials and errors, we finally wound up taking the cover off a couch cushion, wrapping it in duct tape, leaving the ends exposed, and then filling it with water. Oh, what grossness prevailed. One of the things that strikes me about The Valley of the Dry Bones story is the sound. If they ever made EZEKIEL: The Movie, it would be a sound editor’s dream. Listen for it.
- Dry bones
- Swords and Armor
- Weaving Veins
- Stretching Skin
I’m guessing the folks who produce The Walking Dead television show must have a massive sound library.
Ezekiel had done everything God had told him to do, trying to get the message to his people. God made Ezekiel preach naked, eat a N-A-S-T-Y diet, sleep on one side, shave his head, and finally, God took away his wife (“the light of your eyes”). Ezekiel gets one of those classic Old Testament shaking-his-fist-at-the-sky moments, and God picks Ezekiel up by the hair and drops him in the valley where the Walking Dead scene happens.
What would it take for you to believe God is speaking to you? Would you need a literal voice? A miracle? Some people preach the word of God like a hammer; others use a paintbrush. What makes you feel truly alive? Think about doing something that while you are doing it, you think, “I could do this forever?” St. Ignatius said this is when we are in the presence of God.
Do we hear this story as allegorical? Or do we really want to believe in the dead soldiers standing and skin stretching around the bones? God says, “Preach to them.” And the breath of God fills these dead-beings, and they become alive again. No matter how you look at it, the message seems to be “It’s going to get better.”
We all have those “valley” moments so Devoid of life and breath and emotion that we feel like we don’t even WANT to be alive.
Then God tells someone to preach to us; if we are willing to listen.
Intelligence is learning your lessons. Wisdom is understanding your lessons can come from anywhere.
What’s the oddest messenger you’ve ever encountered? What was the message? Messages from God can come from a song, a billboard you pass on the highway, a text from a friend. If we listen, the words can come from anywhere: any place, any time, and they can turn your day, week, life around.
What if WE are the messengers? What if God wants us to be the kind word, the encouraging text, the conversation over coffee?
We have the same reaction as Ezekiel and most of God’s messengers…
How do I start?
What if they don’t listen?
What if I screw up?
And God answers all our questions in one go. Listen. “I am God.”
Sometimes we just need to give people the Truth (note the capital “T”) and let the Truth do its own work.
Next (Walking Dead) Steps
- If you are teaching this as a lesson, dig out that old favorite of dropping a Mentos into Diet Coke. (If you are teaching indoors, use a video). The dead are the Coke, God’s breath is the Mentos.
- Reread what God says to Ezekiel. Put it in your own words. Now reduce it down to just two words. Take a permanent marker and write those two words on the palm of your hand and let it wear away on its own. RESTORATION for example.
- God will very often speak to us in one of two ways. God will whisper in your ear or hit you upside the head with a brick. It’s best to listen for the whisper.
God offers us the chance to put our lives back together, to stand up again. We can get it together, but God makes us real. God gives our lives meaning.
May the God who never stops listening hear your prayers and offer comfort and joy beyond your expectations.
Steve Case is a 30+ year youth ministry veteran. He’s written books reimagining the words of a 17th-century monk as well as three books of biblical Dad-jokes. His latest book is called F**k Death. It’s a hard-core guide to grieving for those who are sick of pity and condolences.
During the main Narrative Lectionary year (this year: Sept 12 to June 5), we provide a free resource download from one of our products to help you in your faith formation ministry. This week, download the activity “Essential Breath, Essential Hope” from our Living the Word: Kids (3rd-6th, NL) curriculum which can be used with many ages in many contexts!