They are beautiful, fantastic words of prophecy and resurrection hope that we hear this morning. For any who despair and fear death, can we believe dry bones live, the dead can be raised?
A vision of dry bones called by prophetic words to rattling and being pulled together with sinew, flesh and skin, and finally breath/spirit to live again as hope for God’s ancient people and as prophecy for us and people and our world now. In a time and planet of sharper contrasts, either parched and bone-dry here, or flooded and drowning there, can we hear and believe in Creator’s desire to bring back life to desert places and lives, our own and others, the earth and all its creatures, in flesh and bones and breath again, filled with the Great Spirit?
And the seventh and final of the great narratives of John about Jesus, friendship, illness and death, about Martha and Mary’s terrible grief and deep faith, and Jesus the “I AM the resurrection and the life,” with them in compassion and tears, in decomposing stench and miraculous resuscitation and the unbinding of Lazarus from death to life, that foreshadows Jesus’ own death and burial in a tomb, a stone rolled away, and graveclothes in which he was bound, lying there. A profound witness to the “I AM the resurrection and the life” and that in Jesus there will be no barrier between life and death, for all creation, for us and this broken world and everyone and everything in it. When so much holds death and fear of it, from the devastation of Ukraine and violence in the Holy Land, Afghanistan and Yemen, destruction in Syria and Turkey, Madagascar and Mozambique, to national and local suffering and pain in states of emergency for Indigenous communities, with toxic drugs and homelessness, in healthcare and the crisis of metal illness, that can all overwhelm and deplete and defeat us. Can we possibly believe God brings life again to dry and weary bones, raises up the dead and dying, those most suffering, our neighbours here and across the world in pain and grief, and even our weary bones and despairing hearts, life again to a weary planet, life beyond death, hope over despair?
Are there signs that dry bones can live? Is it possible to see the great “I AM the resurrection and the life,” alive and among us and this world, creating life out of death?
Today we have the joy of sharing in the baptisms of two of God’s beloved children, in words and water and loved ones and a community gathered. In these storied waters of Creator, we say and trust that for these little ones and for us all, they are joined to the death and resurrection of Jesus, that there is a new birth, a living hope, a delivering from sin and death and raising to new life. And united in the body of Christ and anointed with the gift of the Holy Spirit, they and we join in God’s mission for the life of the world. “How can water do all this?” Luther’s Small Catechism asks. “It is not water only, but the word with and alongside the water and faith, a grace-filled water of new life, a bath of rebirth in the Holy Spirit.” These waters and words are signs that we pray Layne and Mira can return to every day, any time they touch or drink or bathe or swim or play in water, reminding them in any and every circumstance, that in the Spirit, in Jesus the resurrection and the life, in Creator’s love, there is new life, new hope, in them and around them, in all others and in all creation, always. Are these little ones and the waters of baptism not signs that even dry bones can live, and of Jesus, the resurrection and the life?
With great thanks to Boston’s generously offering from his Métis tradition, we once again have the opportunity to share in the sacred ceremony of smudging before worship. From Boston’s words in the Crossroads newsletter, “Smudging is the act of burning a sacred medicine (most often sage) and letting the smoke act as a cleansing. It is a spiritual practice that is used in many Indigenous spaces, even among nations that did not originally practice it. The purpose is to center oneself, and cleanse negative energies, emotions, and sometimes spirits,” - acknowledging that the meaning varies between communities. And today we will also hear “Good Words” in Michif from Taryn, mother of Layne, to begin the baptism and connect Layne’s Métis identity and heritage with her Christian identity and nurture. The gift of celebrating and honouring Indigenous spirituality and ceremony is possible only because of the gracious generosity of Indigenous siblings, and our own journey of truth-telling and learning and unburying the horrible past and present of colonial genocide of Indigenous peoples, including within the Church, and genuinely seeking to be accountable and working toward redress and right and good relationships as Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples together on these lands and everywhere, all by the grace of Creator. Is this ongoing work and these sacred ceremonies, signs that dry bones can live, signs of the resurrection and the life?
Last Sunday, Terry Edison-Brown, (with apologies to Terry for the misspelling of his name in the Crossroads newsletter this past week) Director of Anawim House, was our guest. And he spoke about his sacred and courageous journey of recovery, and his connection and gratitude to Anawim House for life-saving support. And now as Director, Terry shared how that same life-saving support continues welcoming people and accepting them as they are and supporting them in recovery to new life. And how the community has continued to grow and the plans for a new women’s residence to expand the support. Terry’s and Anawim’s story are stories of new life. They are signs that dry bones can live, of the resurrection and the life.
And so also, connections to the funeral of Fred Jauck yesterday, celebrating his 104 years of life and service, especially in support of those who struggle and are marginalized. Fred’s own connection to Anawim House was recognized by people present from the community. And also, the Friends of Music Society, for which Fred was a founding member. One person from the society spoke to me after the funeral and shared his own story of being in the Eric Martin facility struggling with mental health, and being asked if he could play an instrument. He said, “Yes, in High School.” And coming out and joining in the music. And he said, “As my playing got better, so did I. Until one day the staff said to me, ‘You’re playing so well, you don’t need to be here anymore.’” And he has been playing and staying well ever since. Isn’t that a sign that dry bones can live, of the resurrection and the life?
And also healing prayers offered throughout Lent, as sign of God’s caring touch and wholeness and healing in the Spirit. And bread and wine as means of grace and reminder that we are fed and to feed others that all have enough. And prayers, and the community gathered as the body of Christ in mission for God’s love of the world – all gracious life-giving signs, and more that we can and need to see, that these dry bones, including our own at times dry and weary bones, can and do, live! Signs that Jesus, the resurrection and life, lives! and gives life to all and all creation, making what seems impossible, possible, life out of death, everywhere and always, now and forever. Let it be so, in all our relations. Thanks be to God. Amen.