I just finished reading Ezekiel 37. This chapter is one of the more well known passages in Ezekiel, it has been preached about, taught, pondered and even sung about ("dem bones, dem bones"). The story is of Ezekiel being shown a valley filled with dried up bones. He is told to prophecy to the bones, to preach new life into them and to preach to the wind, the breath, and the spirit to return to these bones that have dried out and give them life again. As he preaches, the bones come together, flesh is restored, sinews reappear and finally the breath returns and what was hopeless lives again.
Someone once said that we can live for 3 weeks without food, three days without water, 3 minutes without air . . . but we won't last 3 seconds without hope. Victor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning tells of concentration camps survivors and how they survived. All of them had a story of hope -- they could see themselves beyond the horrors of the present moment. Hope had given them a vision, a picture of a preferred future. This hope allowed them to live through today to get to tomorrow. Frankl's own story of hope was to see himself delivering a lecture on concentration camp survivors and he writes he could see himself standing in a famous lecture hall in Berlin delivering the lecture and his findings. This picture kept him going.
And I stand with Ezekiel looking at seemingly hopeless things, like valleys of dry bones, and I too wonder, "can these bones live." I work in a denomination that is aging, shrinking and slowly dieing and I find myself powerless and occasionally apathetic to do anything about it. Can these bones live? I see many lives on a daily basis -- kids getting lost in drugs, families being torn apart, friends making one really bad relationship decision after another, people struggling with life threatening and life debilitating illnesses; I read e-mails from friends in Zimbabwe and have conversation with Pastor Joseph of the Karin tribe in Burma as he tells of persecution and violence against his people; and I hear the question: "Can these bones live?" I look at a world bent on violence and its people, oppressors and oppressed alike, searching for some ray, some glimmer, some fragment to hold on to.
I hear Ezekiel's solution. "Hear the word of the Lord!" A fresh word from God is always a word of hope. It is a word of hope for restoration, a word of hope for renewal, and it is a word that allows us to see a fresh picture of a preferred future. Denominations, congregations, kids, friends, and families alike "Hear the Word of the Lord!" What was believed to be lost beyond hope is never lost. As a Christian, I am a person of the resurrection. I believe the dead will rise again, I believe all is never lost. I can believe this because I am part of something that was here before I was born and will be here when I return to dust -- I belong to God. I hear the word of the Lord, and that fills me with hope.
Find hope, live into hope and be hopeful,