We extol you all you peoples!
Great is your steadfast love toward us,
and your faithfulness endures forever.
Praise the Lord!
(adapted from Psalm 117:1-2)
Ezekiel was speaking to people in exile. Was their home lost for them forever? Did the losses in their lives prevent them from worshiping God, from being connected to God? Could they still be a people? Does the despair that comes from the pain in our lives keep us from any hope?
The Lord comes to Ezekiel and asks, "Can these bones live?" Ezekiel says, "You know the answer."
The answer that the Lord gives him is in the form of an instruction, "Prophesy to these bones. Tell them what I am going to do."
Ezekiel does speak to the people. And as he does, those scattered bones come together, sinews and flesh and skin cover them. But, no breath.
Here we are, a bunch of individuals grouped together, yet not accomplishing anything. Economic times are tough. Where will the money come from to satisfy our needs? our wants?
A bunch of bones lying in a field. Even when connected, they're not getting the job done.
God says, "I'll put my breath into you and you shall live again."
This state of life works as a metaphor for our own times. A couple of examples: We can use it to despair of our economic difficulties or of the decline in organized religion--or in our particular denomination. We may still look the way we did in the past when things were better, but things aren't the same. We aren't as productive, we fear the future.
Here we are, church congregations, fearful of their present and for their continued future, who can celebrate receiving God's own breath into their midst.
When there was no breath in those mortals, the breath of the Lord God came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet.
O Lord, lift us from our fear.
God created us with God's purpose in mind. So, we are to act in a way that will fulfill God's purpose.
The first requirement is a hard one: Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger. Also, eliminate sordidness and wickedness.
What kind of person would be like this? Oh, right. The kind of person that will be able to welcome God's word that can save our souls.
James knows that we are familiar with scripture, can even recite it or discuss it, and he knows that we may have not allowed that scripture to change us very much. He says "But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves."
He cautions us to look at what the Bible throughout has required.
His test for whether someone is religious includes care for orphans and widows in distress and keeping oneself unstained from the world. Some of us think that one of those is more important than the other. James is holding out for both--as well as refraining from anger.
Being religious might be hard for some of us.
James wrote to the Christians of his day "What good is it to say you have faith if your neighbors need food or clothes?"
The wicked flee with no one pursues,
but the righteous are as bold as a lion.
Prayer for Today: O Lord, calm our fears. Increase our trust in you so that we have the courage to follow your commands to be more generous. Amen.