This is the Sermon for Quasimodogeniti Sunday -- April 12, 2015 at

Shaped by the Cross Lutheran Church
Laurie, Missouri



Ezekiel 37:1-14

The hand of the LORD was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones. And He caused me to pass among them round about, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley; and lo, they were very dry. And He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, Thou knowest.” Again 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 that you may come to life. And I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin, and put breath in you that you may come alive; and you will know that I am the LORD.’”

So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, sinews were on them, and flesh grew, and skin covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they come to life.”’”

So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they came to life, and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army. Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel; behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope has perished. We are completely cut off.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, My people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves and caused you to come up out of your graves, My people. And I will put My Spirit within you, and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, the LORD, have spoken and done it,” declares the LORD.’”

Sermon for Quasimodogeniti Sunday                                                                                                                                                                                                     4/12/15

Can These Bone Live?


My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Dem Bones, Dem Bones, Dem dry bones; Dem Bones, Dem Bones, Dem dry bones; Dem Bones, Dem Bones, Dem dry bones; Now hear the Word of the Lord!

I heard that song over and over again as a child. Don’t ask me why. The song must have been popular or part of something going on in the Fifties or something like that. We all sang about how the foot-bone connected to the heel-bone, and the heel-bone connected to the ankle-bone, and the ankle-bone connected to the shin-bone, and so forth. It was all very rhythmic and musical and fun. I remember, vaguely, knowing something about how this came out of the Bible, more or less. I was amazed when I actually read the prophet Ezekiel and discovered what it was and what it meant. This morning, you will discover too, if you don’t already know. Our theme is, Can These Bones Live?.

The answer most of us would give is, “Of course!” We would answer that way because we have read the story, and because we have seen the bones in Ezekiel’s vision come to life. One or two of us might be realistic enough to say “No.” Bones don’t come to life, except in visions, in dreams, in Hollywood Effects, and in the Bible. Both answers would be wrong, of course. Ezekiel gives the right answer – “O Lord God, You know.” It would be wrong to say ‘yes,’ unless God says “Yes.” If God is not behind it, and wanting these bones to live, they have no chance whatsoever. On the other hand, if God wants them to live, they will – look what He did with a handful of dirt! Besides, if there were no possibility that the bones could live, we would have to deny the resurrection – especially the resurrection of those whose bodies have decayed.

The answer is, “If it is in your will, O Lord, they shall live.” It all depends on the Lord. But this lesson is not about the ability of God, or of the bones to live, it is about the promise of God to rescue His people -- in spite of what they may believe is overwhelming odds against them. The Children of Israel were facing the reality of their situation – they were conquered and taken into exile. They believed that their situation was hopeless. They were facing the fact that they had no power, and no hope in and of themselves to set themselves free. Because they had been favored by God, and now were crushed and exiled, they were also despairing.

The Lord brought Ezekiel to the valley of the dry bones in the spirit and asked him if those bones, long dead and dry could live. Ezekiel recognized that he was in a vision and waited for the Word of the Lord. Then the Lord commanded him to speak – and told him exactly what to say. “Prophesy to these bones,” God said.

Ordinarily, we would say that speaking to the lifeless is pointless. But Ezekiel prophesied as he had been commanded. Because he spoke the words which the Lord had given him to speak, the effect was immediate and powerful. The bones grew new sinews and new muscles and new flesh. It wasn’t Ezekiel’s power, nor was it the power of the words themselves, but it was the power of the Word of God. And God didn’t speak directly or act simply by divine fiat. He accomplished all that He wanted to do by means of His Word, and, this is important, by means of His Word spoken by the one He called to preach it.

The lesson was the that the children of Israel were down and defeated and certain that there was nothing left for them. They were moaning and complaining to one another about how they were crushed and there was no hope. God showed Ezekiel the truth. He showed Him not just what could happen, but what He was going to do. He promised the people through Ezekiel that they would return from their exile, and that they would have good days again, as a nation – although those who received the promise were not going to see those days themselves.

Something more, though. God promised resurrection from the dead. Now, many of those who heard the promises probably took them to simply mean the resurrection of their hopes, since they were all talking about how their hopes were dead and they were completely cut off, and it just sucked the life out of them. But God clearly promised to raise them from their graves! This is the promise of the resurrection which Jesus began to demonstrate the fulfilment of on Easter!

Just like ancient Israel facing the destruction of Jerusalem, we have had those among us who seemed to expect the worst. We have heard some former members say “we’re not going to make it.” “This congregation cannot survive.” “We’re going downhill.” Tell me if that complaint doesn’t sound like ancient Israel? “Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel; behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope has perished. We are completely cut off.’”

The only difference is that Israel had just endured military defeat. They had watched their neighbors killed and enslaved and forcibly resettled in another country. They had good reason, by comparison, to be upset and frightened. Their problem was that they no longer trusted in God. When they could not see how things were going to work out the way they wanted them to work out, they just figured there was no hope. They were wrong, but that is the way they thought. And God showed them that the power to accomplish what they wanted to do was His, not theirs. He showed them that His Word could accomplish much more than they dared imagine – and then promised them the unexpected – and nearly unbelievable!

Now, what are our problems about which people might fret? We have had a couple of members pass away over the years – remarkably few for the age of our congregation – and we have had a handful of people leave our congregation. The cumulative effect of those who moved away, and those who passed away, and those few who gave up on us is that our congregation is a little short of cash, and we are getting things done much more slowly that we might hope. When some of them left, they left telling others that they were leaving because this congregation would never survive. One couple left because they believed we would never be able to build a church building. And perhaps some of you believed it a little. Maybe not.

Well, whether or not Shaped by the Cross Lutheran Church survives as a congregation is not really in your hands. It is in the hands of God. This is His church, and if He has use for it, it will survive to serve His purposes. While we have lost some members, we have welcomed some new members over the years who want to hear the Word of God and want to fellowship with the people of God. We have our faithful visiting members too. We may not be huge, but we have the Word of God – and the fellowship of God’s Holy People, here.

The vision of Ezekiel reminds us that life is possible with God where it is unimaginable to us. We are the dry bones of the vision. Can we live? Of course, if it is the will of God. The correct answer, of course, is, “If it is in your will, O Lord, they shall live.” And the power that will work life and health and strength here at Shaped by the Cross is just exactly the same as worked in the valley of the dry bones – the Word of God, proclaimed by the one God has called and instructed to proclaim it. If we think it is dependent on us, our wit or our abilities, we are mistaken. God wants to use us, but whatever good we may do, and how we prosper as a congregation is in the hands of God and our hope is in trusting Him and doing what He sets before us to do, and hearing His Word!

And His Word to us is just the same as it was to ancient Israel! It is the promise of salvation and of the resurrection from the dead. Our goals here is not to build the largest congregation on the Lake. That would be nice, and my ego would certainly enjoy it if everyone loved me and crowds flocked to hear the wisdom that dripped from my lips and to worship among us. We have wonderful people here and God’s absolute truth is proclaimed here, and it would be a blessing for everyone in the community to be a part of our congregation. If they were here, they would fellowship with you good people, and they would feed on God’s holy Word of grace and salvation. But that isn’t the way things in this world work most of the time. Usually, the closer to the truth and to Christ we stand, the more troubles and persecution we can expect. Jesus said so. Our mission here is not to impress the community with our church, it is to proclaim the goodness of the Lord which we just celebrated throughout Lent and especially on Easter.

We know the secret of God – we know what His will for us is! And what is that will? He has chosen us for salvation. We shall rise from our graves and shall enter the promised land of heaven, and shall live in God’s presence forever. And it won’t be because we built a big church, or because we were such great people, it will be because of Jesus, and because God chose us in His grace, called us by the Gospel, baptized us into His family, and then kept us until we made it all the way to heaven.

We have a sure thing. Our hope is not dead, or dried up. We are not going to fall apart, fold up, or blow away. We are going to live by the grace and power of God, as He shares it with us through His Word, and we are going to rise from our graves to everlasting life in glory. And it will all be God’s doing – here and now, and then. Listen to how it works, in the words of our text, "Therefore prophesy, and say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, My people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves and caused you to come up out of your graves, My people. "And I will put My Spirit within you, and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, the LORD, have spoken and done it," declares the LORD.'"

Can these bones live? “You know, O Lord.” Our well-being as individuals, and our success as a congregation, and our hope for resurrection, and everlasting life and salvation all rest in the hands of the Lord. Easter tells us that Jesus’ hands are a pretty good place to leave our hopes, our aspirations, and our future. If it is the will of God, these bones will not just live, they will thrive!

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

(Let the people say Amen)


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