Day of Pentecost Scriptures: Ezekiel 37:1-14, Acts 2:1-18
Let us pray:
We believe, Lord, that you are here, present. Although our eyes do not see you, our faith senses you. Take any stray thoughts from our minds. Enable us to understand the truths you would desire to teach us in this meditation. Empower us to put them into practice. Your servants are listening; speak, Lord, to our souls. Amen.
God and Ezekiel had a pivotal conversation. When the hand of the Lord came upon him, God asked Ezekiel to prophesy to old dry bones – and the bones moved and knit together, remaking a vast multitude of lifeless human skeletons. Then sinews and flesh grew upon them until an army of lifeless zombies stood before him. Then God told him: “Prophesy to the breath, (ha ruach) prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath (ha ruach): Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, (me arba ruchot ruach) and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” (Ezekiel 37:9) And lo! Before Ezekiel’s eyes, the breath came and filled them, and the vast multitude lived!
This is Israel, says the Lord God. Now prophesy to them and say, “I will put my Spirit (ruach) within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken and will act,” says the LORD. (Ezekiel 37:14)
Take heed to what the Spirit is saying to the Church of today: Who is Israel? Is it a nation state in the Middle East or is it a body of spiritual descendants who look to Jewish spiritual ancestry for guidance in being God’s chosen ones? Are these children of God literally dead, scattered across the wastes, slain in the valley, buried in graveyards? Or, are they the “unliving” – walking corpses who trudge through life with no purpose? Or, are they living beings filled with the breath of life, which is God’s own Spirit poured out on all flesh? Which are you, individually? Which are we, as a church?
Beyond scenes of zombies and the power of regeneration, this text has something even more amazing buried with its words, laying there for us to ferret out. It is a deeper issue that intrigues me and potentially affects all believers. God and Ezekiel have this conversation, and God calls on Ezekiel to “prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” (Ezekiel 37:9) What astounds me about this is this: God delegates an incredible amount of power to a mere mortal: “say to the Spirit, come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain that they may live.”
Long before Jesus and Pentecost, Ezekiel, a mortal like each of us here today, bids the Spirit of God itself to come, and the Spirit comes! What does this mean? Does that mean, O God, that any of us mortals can do the same? We who have been baptized with water and are members of your body, do we hold the power within our own selves to call forth the Spirit of God from the four winds and breathe new life into the “unliving” of the world? Is that what it means for us to live out the Great Commission Jesus taught?
Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20, emphasis added).
Beloved, I would not go so far to presume that the Holy Spirit of God is our servant or at our beck and call; however to think that, if God wills it and asks it of us, we could actually bring about a Pentecostal movement if we ask for it. What would that be like, to set in motion a Holy healing, a Spirit awakening? Just imagine: we, who may be dead in our own sin, could be stirred from our lifelessness and filled with the Holy Spirit of God to do great things on God’s behalf. O Lord, let it be so! As the hymn sings, “Spirit, Spirit of restlessness, stir us from placidness; wind, wind on the sea.” Send your Spirit O God! Dare we ask that you anoint us with your Holy Presence that we may be filled with your love and empowered to pour out mercy and justice upon all whom we meet in this worlds-realm that we inhabit? Then by your Holy Spirit, may we actively live out your will and reign on earth! Can I hear an Amen?
Now, before we leap from our seats with the fire of the Holy Spirit ignited within us, there is a possible prerequisite I read from this text. This is the prerequisite: Like Ezekiel, God must command us first, before we call on the four winds to send the Holy Spirit of God. The text is very clear: God asks Ezekiel, and Ezekiel calls on the Holy Spirit to come, and then the Spirit comes. But, that was long ago…
Recall that today we remember the first Pentecost from almost 2000 years ago now, celebrating the coming of the Holy Spirit to the Christian movement, which was originally a sub-sect of the Jewish faith. With that in mind, I must ask, have the rules changed for those of us living in a post-Pentecostal world? In the same… breath… I must also remind all of us that the Holy Spirit has made numerous appearances since then-with and without a request. At least three episodes of awakening are recorded by historians on this continent within our Christian US culture alone since 1730. Two more awakenings, although less accepted by historians, have occurred with in the last part of the 20th century and the first part of this century. These, The Toronto Blessing (Canada) and the Brownsville Revival (Florida), have been documented to include miraculous healings and other manifestations of the Spirit.
So is the Holy Spirit still active and at work? Undoubtedly. So what does this mean for us? It means, we are all potential vessels for Holy Spirit work here in this place, in all the lives we touch. How will we know if we are in the midst of such work? The apostle Peter reminds us of the prophet Joel’s words:
“‘In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.’” (Acts 2:17-18)
Have you heard from God lately? Have you dreamed dreams that you know are messages, not just movies in your mind as you sleep? Do you have a holy vision of what living out the Reign of God on earth really looks like? More importantly, are you studying and reading up on what the Kingdom of God is like so that you can actively participate in ongoing fresh expressions of its reality as we prepare to meet the second coming of Christ?
O Holy Spirit, what would you have us do and be? Speak, Lord, for your servants are listening.
Let us pray: Lord, you have said: “All things are possible with you if only we believe.” Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in us the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and we shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth. O God, who by the light of the same Holy Spirit instructs the hearts of the faithful, grant that we may be truly wise; truly loving, truly servants of the Most High, in the name of Christ we pray. Amen? May it be so.
Questions for Reflection (From Feasting on the Word Commentary liturgy aids)
Consider how many ways and through which persons you are shown a new path for your life. Watch for startling nudges or sudden epiphanies; listen for sighs that signal letting go of something pressing so that you can hear the Spirit’s guidance. What have you learned? How can you give thanks?