April 02, 2017

Can These Bones Live?

Ezekiel 37:1-6

The Lord . . . brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones.

—  Ezekiel 37:1

God showed Ezekiel a frightening vision and asked the prophet, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

Jesus, the Son of God and Son of Man, had certainly read this passage before beginning his ministry. But unlike Ezekiel, Jesus knew that he alone had to restore life by putting death to death. So he headed to Jerusalem.

As a navy chaplain and a pastor, I’ve dealt with death often. The first time, holding the hand of a young man my age as he died of cancer, is a sacred memory. Years later, in a graduate course, a professor urged us to see loved ones as “dead bones” to fully appreciate what they mean to us alive. Painfully difficult, it nonetheless worked.

Later, at a friend’s funeral, God showed me that we’re all death in the making. Christ’s work at Calvary and the empty tomb became extraordinarily personal. I realized anew that he’d raised our sun-bleached bones from the sin-scorched earth to eternal life (1 Corinthians 15).

“Can these bones live?” God’s question highlights the essence of Lent: walking with Jesus and following him as he dies and rises from the grave—so that our bones can come to new life. Our response to God’s question reveals whether we’ll spend today living for God or lying about like dead bones.

Almighty God, we are born as dead in sin as sun-bleached, dry bones. Grace us with faith to believe your Son died for us so that we might live forever with you. In his name, Amen.

About the author — Norman F. Brown

Chaplain Norman F. Brown graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, in 1969. He served aboard destroyers during the Vietnam conflict and ashore in San Diego, Calif., as an instructor. By then God had made clear his call to work in pastoral ministry, and Norman entered Calvin Theological Seminary, graduating in 1980. Chaplain Brown pastored churches during his ministry career but spent most of his time as a navy chaplain. During one assignment he served three years at Holy Loch, Scotland, where he and his wife, Ruth, encountered the Iona Community and their emphasis on spiritual disciplines. Chaplain and Mrs. Brown have three married children and nine grandchildren.

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