All Saints Anglican Church, Prescott, AZ
April 29, 2018
Text: Ezekiel 37:1-14
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be always acceptable in thy sight, O Lord my strength and my redeemer. Amen
This morning we are going to talk about the valley of dry bones and the resurrection portrayed there, the resurrection of Christ, our resurrection, and how we should live. Before we talked about that, we need to ask the question, from what do we need to be resurrected?
The predominant cultural view of our own humanity is that in ourselves, we are not really that bad. Within our hearts and minds our sin is not terribly grievous. Though, we look at the world around us and it is easy to see the sin of others, simply turn on the news – and we are quickly convinced of the wickedness of humanity but we commit that crime of first John of saying that we have no sin, and deceiving ourselves. No, let us not be mistaken - we all have sin that resides in our heart, we all like sheep have gone astray and rebelled against the source of our life, that is God.
Yet, it is easy to say or think, it is all well and good to acknowledge that we have sinned, or it is fine if you want to say “Jim or Joe or Suzy or Liz over there have sinned, but please don’t insinuate that I have.” We need to be willing to look within ourselves and see the darkness of our own sin. For it is that sin that has separated us from God. It is that sin that has caused our spiritual death, and inevitably causes our physical death.
This is what we see in Genesis Chapter 3 where man is condemned to return to the dust from which he was created. To lose the very animation that God has given him and not only that but for Adam’s sin humanity is driven from the garden in which they enjoyed perfect fellowship with God.
This theme of sin and death weaves its way through scripture – but we see it no more clearly articulated than by St. Paul, in particularly in Romans where he says: therefore just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned, and again he says, for the wages of sin is death. Make no mistake, for although it is hard to hear, sin has corrupted us all, this sin is grievous, and this sin leads us to our death.
When we confess as we pray our Daily Office, it reiterates this fact. It is the same truth – that we have no heath in us. Here heath is understood as life – that is to say, we have no heath, that is no life, so we are dead in our sins. The Holy Communion confession is a little different – but the gravity of our sinfulness remains the same.
I hope that you are seeing why we need a firm understanding of the gravity of sin. Now, there is a stream of thought throughout our culture that says “I can do all things through myself, and through myself who strengthens me” and we like that idea don’t we? It makes us feel powerful, but it is of course is the antithesis of the great passage of scripture that says “I can do all things through Christ we strengthens me.” So, we get uncomfortable when we are confronted with our own sin because it reminds us that we cannot do all things through ourselves.
Yet, if you hear nothing else, hear this: if we do not see our sin as grievous, if we do not taste it and realize how profoundly bitter it is, how sour and deadly it is, we will not delight in the joy of Christ, we will not taste Christ and see how sweet he is. No, without knowing the bitterness of sin, how can we become truly alive in him? However, when we grasp how great our sin is and come running to the cross and hear the comfortable words: If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He is the propitiation for our sins. What joy this truth gives us!
I know it is hard to look in the mirror and see the darkness of our hearts, but when we do, in light of the fact that Christ, the son of God descended from heaven, lived the perfect life that we fail to live and died the death that we ought to die and rose again from that death and that when we follow him, we are given resurrected hearts, and renewed minds – what a great joy that is. What a great joy it is that although the wage of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. When we start to realize how bitter our death is, what a sweetness we find in Christ!
This needs to be clear – that there is no depth no chasm so deep or wide that the cross of Christ cannot find the sinner. There is no sin so bleak that Christ cannot forgive us. So we repent – but this also changes how we interact with others, doesn’t it? As we have been freely forgiven for the sin we’ve committed, so we must forgive those who have wounded us along the way.
Now, let us move along to the resurrection. We find ourselves this morning in the valley of dry bones. There is an eerie beauty as we read this passage and see the bones that are described as being as dry as dust having life breathed back into them. As we read, if your imagination is prone to create a picture for you, we see the bones coming to life, we the sinew and the muscle being placed back on the bones. And then the Lord breathes life into them. They become alive.
Is this what the resurrection of Christ, and by extension our resurrection is? No! Christ’s resurrection was no mere reanimation. In His resurrection He was glorified. These bones which were given new life will die again, but Christ will not die again, but has ascended into heaven. He was unrecognizable to his friends on the road to Emmaus. Christ was changed in his resurrection, and Christ died once for all our sins. He is not re-crucified again and again and he was raised from the dead never to die again.
On Easter Sunday we talked of the proofs of this resurrection, and whether we could trust the biblical accounts of it. I think a fairly strong case was made, but if you have doubts, let’s talk. I do not think we need to rehash those arguments again. However, let there be no doubt in your heart, that Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.
And what of our resurrection? Are we placing our hope in Christ to one day be reanimated, or is there something more? If you have been reading the Eastertide readings you already know the answer to this. I believe this passed week we read through 1 Corinthians 15 which extrapolates and describes our resurrection.
On this matter of resurrection St. Paul says:
But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.
So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall[ also bear the image of the man of heaven.
In the resurrection – we are no longer perishable but truly alive. It is from heaven that we are made alive. Though, make no mistake, there will be a physical resurrection, however, this physical resurrection will not be a reanimation of our bodies, but a re-creation from heaven through Christ.
There is, however, another side to this resurrection – there is the resurrection that occurs in our hearts both when we first come to know Christ and in our daily acts of repentance, our daily turning from our sin, and returning to Chirst. As we read through second Corinthians we will be reminded of this – for our life in Christ makes us a new creation.
It is this new creation that reorients how we look at the world, and how we behave. But first, it breaths into us new life. Remember, as we traced our way through the gravity of sin, the dark heaviness of it? The life we find in Christ, the new heart that he gives us, the new creation that we have become, frees us from our enslavement to it.
Make no mistake, because we are still in the world we still struggle along, we still struggle with the sins that are put before us. Yet, we are also free from these. There may be sins that haunt you, that you repent of again, and again, give these sins to the Lord in prayer, find a friend to walk with you as you struggle with this sin, that will encourage you and keep you accountable. There may be sins that have caused you or others hurt, repent of them, flee, turn the other way, and be honest, don’t make excuses for your sin. No, let’s be clear, we are broken, but we are freed.
So, we have a first taste of the resurrection, we experience this new life that comes in Christ. As we read Ezekiel we see it as an archetype for the future resurrection – that is a foretaste of what is to come. Yet, we are also given the hope of having a renewed spirit. We are given the hope that one day we will yet again walk with God.
And how does that walk look?
Do we merely say “yes, Lord, I believe,” and move along, or is there a reaction we are to have? It is easy to just react to the Lord and say, yes, be my Lord, now I’m going to keep living my life as I always have, please don’t bother me with a pesky conscience or a right way of living. I think we probably all fall into this mindset from time to time, I know at times I have, but there is a right way to live. There is a reaction we are to have, and we are to care for our souls in knowing what the Lord has redeemed us from.
Let us for a moment imagine that you have a rich uncle and one day he calls you says, my dear nephew, or niece, I am going to give you my prized car, a Bentley that I have owned for many years, it is yours now. (I know, several of you know much more about cars than I do, so forgive me if I am in error, but I am given the impression that this is an expensive and very nice car that is, in all likelihood, financially out of reach of all of us.) The uncle continues: not only will I give you that car, but I will make sure you have the money and tools to keep the car running well. We would not be so foolish as to say thanks Uncle! Then drive it and never change the oil and never tend to the upkeep. No, both to honor our uncle and to keep the fine gift in running condition we would care for it and ensure that all the parts are in good shape. Why do we think it’s any different for the care of our souls? Our souls have been purchased with the blood of Christ. Our hearts and minds are redeemed by God Himself! Through Christ’s death, how much more valuable is our salvation than a Bentley?
We are reminded of this reaction to our salvation in our reading from St. James’s epistle this morning. We are reminded that every good gift comes from God and in our gratitude we are to be swift to hear, slow to speak, that we are to shun our own wrath, lay apart our filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness (we’ll talk about what that means in a second), and with meekness receive the engrafted word.
We know the best of the good gifts that God has poured out for us is the salvation that we enjoy. That daily we enjoy his salvation and his sovereign will for us. In a reaction to that we want to listen with kindness, we want to hear the words that those around us have to say and be slow to speak. For so often we are tempted to just react. When someone makes us mad, we want to show them just how wrathful we can be and how just that wrath might feel! But, dwell in the meekness we have received from Christ. We are to flee the filthiness of sin, and flee the superfluity of naughtiness, that is flee the vain excess of our sin or as the English Standard Version puts it, we are to turn away from our rampant wickedness.
Having then come to rest in the richness of Christ’s mercy, seeing the gravity of our sin for what it is, we delight in the freedom from this that he has been given, then in reaction to this great gift of grace, we flee from our sin. We enjoy the resurrection of our hearts and mind from the rampant wickedness, and we delight in the new life we have been given. Then we look forward to the day when death’s sting will finally be extinguished once and for all. Now, we know that death has been defeated, and life has been breathed into us, let our hearts and minds rejoice and let us flee from all sinful afflictions.
Too often we forget the profound gravity of sin, forgetting that that sin brings death. Yet, in knowing Christ we need not lose heart in this fact, but rejoice, for as sour and bitter as sin is, Christ is more sweet, and delightful. Let us rest our hope in Him. In the resting of our hope – we are given new life – a new life now to serve and seek Him, and in that we look forward to a resurrected life when Christ comes again, and finally – that new life, gives us a new way to live, to live in grace, meekness, gentleness, and kindness. So with a glad heart put on the gowned of Christ, that is our new life found in Him, and seek to serve Him in all we do.
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen.