The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on 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: 1-6
Drone images surfaced last week from Hart Island in New York City depicting the burial of mass graves. More than 7,000 deaths in that city have overwhelmed morgues, funeral homes, and cemeteries. Unclaimed bodies are having to be released not within the usual two-week time-frame, but within 6 days now. The images, though, say more about the stark reality than words. So disturbing that I could not even post a picture here.
The valley of dry bones in Ezekiel’s vision comes to mind. Israel has been exiled and the people have lost hope of returning to Jerusalem, to the place where God abides. They feel dried up, lifeless, cut off from God. And maybe we have days like this, too, when we hear news stories or see images like the ones out of New York last week. The days in isolation and physical distancing seem to go on and on. And we wonder when it will end. We can end up feeling drained and deflated as we wait.
Into this pandemic, into the places that feel like a valley of dry bones, and into places of death and despair, our God speaks and breathes resurrection hope. In Ezekiel’s vision, the Lord God breathes into those dry bones and slowly they are brought back to life. It is a vision of hope for the people in exile. God promises that they will be brought back to Jerusalem, that there is hope of a future, hope of a time when they are not in exile and hope for a normal life, the way it used to be. And this is our Easter hope and promise, too.
Our God of resurrection will breathe new life in us and we will live. We will be changed. We will have experienced losses and griefs. And even our society may be changed. God is with us in our pandemic valley. Indeed, God is the one who see us through it and bring us out of exile into new life, new hope, new possibility. And God breathes that resurrection hope and promise into the weary world and we will rise as Christ rose from his grave.
God of resurrection, we need Your breath of hope and new life to enter us and our world. As we experience death, grief, losses, and separation, breathe Your breath and Your life which offers comfort, and a resurrection hope that we need to cling to right now. Renew us by the power of your Holy Spirit, so that as Christ was raised from the dead, we too might be raised to new life in You, raised to new hope in You as we are in the valley of our pandemic. We ask this is Jesus’ name. Amen.