Dem Bones: The Case of the Zombie Spirit Walkers

Scriptures: Ezekiel 37:1-14, Acts 2:1-21

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.

Today is Pentecost Sunday, the Sunday in the liturgical, or church calendar where we remember the coming of the Holy Spirit to the disciples long ago. It is often called the birthday of the church. The “Christian church begins to take shape when the Holy Spirit fills those who believe in Jesus … enabling them to … witness to the Christ,”[1] What does it mean to witness to Christ? It means learning to tell your story as a part of God’s story.

Observing Pentecost like a memory or a birthday has some challenges. Pastor Jill Dufield editor of the Presbyterian Outlook points out, “Pentecost becomes … the birthday of the church instead of a day to remember that our entire world should be turned upside down and inside out when we commit to following Jesus Christ. Pentecost means that our circles of concern are expanded and multiplied.”[2]

I’d like to invite you to become detectives with me, looking for clues to what the Holy Spirit is all about. Like any good detective, however, let us begin with a bit of background. Two texts jump out at me from the readings assigned for today in the 3-year rotating study of selected Bible pericopes, or teachings, called the Revised Common Lectionary. The first is the passage from the book of Ezekiel, found in the Hebrew Scriptures, or, Old Testament – which is roughly the first 2/3rds of the Bible. The second passage that jumped out at me was from the Book of Acts, found in the New Testament, roughly the last third of the Bible. In both readings, we have a reference to the Holy Spirit. Since we are detectives today, this tells me the Holy Spirit is not restricted to the New Testament post-Jesus time frame; now isn’t that interesting?

Beginning with Ezekiel, let’s ask a few pertinent questions.

What does the story say?

Isn’t Israel a nation state in the Middle East? Who is Israel in the Bible?

If this story is a metaphor or a holy vision, and not historically accurate, then Dem Bones must represent something else. What?

I wonder if Israel might be a body of spiritual descendants? A group of people who look to Jewish spiritual ancestry for guidance in being God’s people? That opens up some interesting imaginings, doesn’t it? That even means it could include … us.

Are those children of God in the valley literally dead people, scattered across the wastes, slain in the valley, buried in mass graves? Or, reinterpreted as metaphor, could they represent “unliving,” zombie-like walking corpses who trudge through life with no purpose, no connection to all that is Good, God-breathed, and Spiritual? In the story, the Holy Spirit breathes new life into them. Does that mean God’s own Spirit can be poured out for anyone? Even breathe new life in us? Take that, and the story, a step further: 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 what Jesus taught and modeled with his life? Is that what we are supposed to be as the church, the body of Christ in the world today?

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).

Inspector, do we have a case? Let us not leave any stone unturned. Looking at the next passage, from the book of Acts, we find a different Holy Spirit action taking place. Again, let’s start with some questions.

What happens in this story?

Does it seem more or less real than the last story?

Who are the disciples?

Why do you think the Holy Spirit was visibly and audibly present this time?

If you could have been in that scene, who would you have chosen to be?

Do you think it is too late to choose to be amazed and awed by God and filled with the Holy Spirit in today’s world? Why or why not?

Concluding observations and additional source information: “Pentecost is a foundational theological event for the church because the Spirit is sent by God to incorporate people, universally, into the body of those who acknowledge Jesus as the Christ. It is God who initiates Pentecost, as God initiates salvation. God’s Spirit calls a people to faith and comforts, challenges, and guides the church. The reality of the Spirit’s presence is the church’s guide to living as faithful servants of God in the world and faithful witnesses to Jesus Christ.”[3]

2) The author of Acts “associates the pouring out of the Spirit on Pentecost with the prophet Joel who announces the coming Day of the Lord when God’s righteousness and mercy will be revealed and enacted. The messianic reign is marked by the reception of the Spirit by “all flesh.” The Spirit is for all people who are united by the Spirit in the praise of God in prophecy, visions, and dreams. Humans are now united in their diversities of age, gender, and social status by the great outpouring of the Spirit.”[4]

Here is a third point for those familiar with the story of the Tower of Bable: “Sometimes Pentecost is seen as the reversal of the effects of the tower of Babel (Gen. 11:1–9), when the languages of the world were “confused” and people were scattered across the lands and became their own tribes. Peter’s association of the Pentecost event with the outpouring of the Spirit foretold by Joel means that there is now a new community of women and men where the one Spirit bestows many gifts—on all people, regardless of who they are….The church is the place where this new fellowship begins to take shape as it recognizes the gifts of the Spirit in and for all people. To realize that “all flesh,” all people, receive the Spirit, enables us to watch and participate in God’s work in this world with a wide-open vision. We live in eager anticipation of the Spirit’s work in our midst as we join with all others to accomplish the Spirit’s purposes.”[5]

And that is exciting and Good News indeed. May all glory be unto the One who lived, died, and rose again for us, even Him who is the Christ. Amen? May it be so.

[1] Donald K. McKim, “Theological Perspective, Acts 2:1-21” in Feasting on the Word – Year B, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008). Accordance edition hyper-texted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.0

[2] Jill Dufield, “Looking into the Lectionary,” Presbyterian Outlook, May 14, 2018 (http://pres-outlook.org/category/ministry-resources/looking-into-the-lectionary/).

[3] Donald K. McKim, , “Theological Perspective, Acts 2:1-21” in Feasting on the Word – Year B (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008).

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

Questions for Reflection

In this coming week 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?

Household Prayer: Morning

God of newness and delight, you greet your world again with light and life. I awaken to your presence behind, before, beneath, above, and within me. I thank you for another day and ask only that you keep me so firmly in your care that I can move gracefully through all I have to do. Guard my family, my friends, and all my brothers and sisters in faith. Let me be a peacemaker today; in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Household Prayer: Evening

Good and Holy One, you have led me through this day of many encounters to the time when I may close my eyes and dream. I thank you for the people you have sent my way today, for the work I have had to do, for the food, shelter, and safety you have given. I pray that people everywhere may have all necessary comfort and nourishment and that I may lie down in peace, resting in the trust that you are watching over all creation. I pray this in the name of the One who made Earth, called the children to come, and blows through our days with wisdom. Amen

About Scottrick

Parent ~ Pastor ~ Poet ~ Author
This entry was posted in Christian Education, Conversation Starters, Sermon. Bookmark the permalink.

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