S-1424 5SMIL/3A 4/06/2014 Hymns: (O) #18; S #370: (C) #47
Texts: Ezekiel 37:1-14; Romans 8:1-11; John 11:217-27; 38-53
Theme: “Hope in the Midst of Death” (Ezekiel 37:3-6)
Question: “How hopeful are you for the future?” Armour, SD
Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia! Te text is from the O. T. lesson “And He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 37:3-6).
INTRODUCTION: In Nomine Iesu.
Beloved saints in Christ there can be denying it for the truth is very clear, we live in a broken world. While we may become more desensitized to this reality as each day we are confronted with the misery and mourning, agony and anguish, helplessness and hopelessness that seems to fill our world. Whether it was the images of the mudslides in the Pacific Northwest, the horrific images of yet another shooting at Ft. Hood or even the images of uncontrollable grief from the families of the missing Malaysian Airline flight 370, we see this brokenness and hopelessness all around us.
But these images are not just from the other side of the country or the world. We know that this same hopeless, brokenness hits us close to home too. We are all too familiar with the images in our heads of those moments we found out that a loved one was seriously ill or in an accident that threatened their life. We have seen with our own eyes bodies full of life and promise broken and happy futures turned into futures of questions and concern. We have even seen with our own eyes the images of loved ones for whom life was no longer measured in years and months but hours and minutes up until they take their last breath.
So when someone asserts like I am today that the world is broken, you know it! You have heard the news. You have seen the sights. You have felt the lump in your throat, the pain in the pit of your stomach and the grief that can at times seem to overwhelm. They overwhelm because these events in life are tragic. The grief and pain of brokenness tears at the very fabric of our family and our personal life. When this happens we are disoriented and we scramble to pick up the pieces. There are even times when we begin to wonder if it is even possible to rebuild that which has fallen apart. Brokenness and death can leave us feeling this hopeless and helpless!
As we look at the image of the dry bones in Ezekiel 37 that serves as our sermon text for today, we see brokenness. The Lord takes Ezekiel to a valley. But this is no ordinary valley. This is a valley that is filled with bones. Not just one or two bones. Not just a couple of skeletons for soldiers long dead. No, this valley is filled with bones. This image that the Lord shares with Ezekiel and us is one of death. Can you even imagine the sight of it? To view these bones is to realize that each set belonged to a person that had long fallen in battle. These bones at one time knew life. They had mothers and fathers. Perhaps some had wives and children. But no longer. They are broken. They are cut down. They are dead. There is no life in them. Without life, there is no hope. Sounds a lot like our world doesn’t it?
But today our Lord does not bring the Prophet nor you and me to this valley to fill us with despair and hopelessness. No, the Lord brings us to this valley again so that we might know hope in the midst of death. The Lord who showed Ezekiel these bones then shows that while the eyes see hopelessness and death, the Lord has in store hope and a future. Of these dry, lifeless, hopeless bones the Lord asks a question. Son of man, can these bones live?” Our human experience knows the realistic answer. We know that once death lays hold on a person, like a pit bull with a locked jaw it refuses to let go of its prey. But the Lord has not brought Ezekiel or us to this valley to show us human wisdom. No, He has brought us here to show us HIS wisdom and power!
To that end, the Lord tells Ezekiel “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6 And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.” When Ezekiel does what the Lord told him to do, it is exactly what happened. Bone joined to bone. Muscle covered those assembled bones. Skin coved the muscle and life was breathed into the lifeless, dry bones. God spoke through His prophet and hope replaced hopelessness. God’s Word produced life where it seemed that death would reign permanently. This is the miracle of hope that God’s Word worked that day.
But know this: The Word of the Lord working hope in the midst of death was not just a one-time thing in a Valley so long ago. We see the same kind of Word-inspired hope in the Gospel lesson for today as well. Mary and Martha felt the helpless feeling of death as their dear brother Lazarus was dead and buried. 4 days he had laid lifeless in the tomb. The stench of death was clear. It might have been closed in by the stone and covered by the spices, but it was death nevertheless! There was no hope for this family that had been so important to Jesus. Once again for them, death left them hopeless and broken.
But Jesus had other plans! John shares Jesus words with us: Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” The Word made flesh speaks as the Eternal Word and undoes the power of death. The decaying and drying bones of Lazarus were at once made alive by the all-powerful WORD! This word restored hope to Mary, Martha and Lazarus even as it gave life in the midst of death. This is the way God works!
And it is the way God works in your life too. You too were broken and lifeless like the bones that Ezekiel saw. Your sinful nature had done battle with the Law of the Lord and you were killed. We were spiritually broken with blindness, dry and brittle in the death of sin and the Lord was not our friend but rather our enemy! Our condition was hopeless!
But into this hopelessly broken condition came the Word of God. The same Word that spoke creation into being and life into those lifeless bones and to Lazarus, spoke life into you! Our Lord took the blessedly simple element of water and combined it with that Word and gave you hope and life. In that moment the Word washed over you like the Spirit rushed over those dry bones. The Word spoke to your sinful lifelessness and hopelessness and called you, like Lazarus by name. And in that instant, you were no longer broken. You were no longer hopeless or helpless. In that instant death no longer had a claim on you! From then on you are alive in Christ!
In this Christ we have our hope. The classic hymn captures our hope like this: Our hope is built on nothing less that Jesus blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus name. On Christ the solid rock I stand! All other ground is sinking sand! This is our hope. Our confidence, wholeness and hope is in Jesus Alone! His is the One who destroyed the power of the grave. He is the one who has overcome all of the brokenness in the world in general and our lives in particular! His life, His death and His resurrection is the Word of Promise that seals and guarantees our hope now and for eternity!
The Apostle Peter put it this way: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). Here it is again; hope in the midst of death. But not only hope, but living hope of which no one, no situation or no event in life can rob us.
The brokenness of this world will continue. There will still be people’s lives that are torn apart by catastrophe, broken by the sins they someone commits against them or they against others, and an overwhelming sense of hopelessness will continue to wash over our world. As you read the Scriptures it will even get worse the closer we get to the return of our Lord Jesus in glory. This is just another sure sign of the death that has reigned in our world.
But we have hope! Our hope lives and breathes in the midst of all of the death around us. Our Lord has called our names in the waters of Holy Baptism. In this hope-filled adoption we have become sons and daughters of God Himself. He clothes us in the skin of His righteousness and breaths into us the breath of life that is the forgiveness of sins! And then He sends us to share this hope and life with this world of death. We become His breath, sharing the same life-giving Word that caused the bones of the valley and lifeless body of Lazarus to live.
This Word is our hope. In the mercy of God there is hope in the midst of death. No matter how bleak the situation is. No matter how many hardships we go through. No matter how difficult life has become, remember there is hope in the midst of death. AMEN.
Now the peace…
SOLI DEO GLORIA