Monday, August 02, 2021



The Old Testament reading set for Morning Prayer today is one of the most evocative passages in the whole Bible, Ezekiel 37:1-14.

In a vision, the exile Ezekiel is carried off to the site of a massacre. The jackals have had their fill of the carcasses of a fallen army; the bottle flies have bloomed; the carrion birds of the air have gorged themselves, and fed their young; the ants have picked clean whatever was left; and the sun has bleached the bones brittle dry.

The Lord instructs Ezekiel, like a forensic investigator leading a detective through a crime scene, and, highlighting Ezekiel’s humanity—Mortal—asks, ‘Can these bones live?’ Ezekiel replies with an honesty that is exposed and unashamed: You know, what I do not.

The Lord instructs Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones, and, as he does so, bone comes together with bone, sinews re-joining them, flesh covering them. This is no zombie apocalypse, but the giving back of what was taken from them, as they were, on the day they fell. But there is, as yet, still no life.

Then the Lord instructs Ezekiel to prophesy to the breath of Life, calling it from the four corners of the earth, to come to these precise coordinates and re-animate those who dwell in homes of clay.

Ezekiel is instructed to speak what he has heard from God, in relation to both components of human life: that which is of the ground and that which is of God. The bones that had returned to the earth from which they came, and the breath that had returned to God from whom it came. Ezekiel is instructed to speak restoration, and this as a sign and a symbol of the restoration of a people to come. The valley of dry bones, a metaphor for exile, for the tragedy of national humiliation, becomes the grounds on which to rebuild.

The problem facing nation states—and today we prayed for Afghanistan and South Africa, but the list goes on—is that they experience (internal and external) factions who play a zero-sum game. Men and sometimes women of violence, who refuse to be joined to those who are bone of their bone and flesh of their flesh, until their acts become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Seen through the lens of Jesus, who was stretched out to die, surrendered his spirit—his share in the life breath of God—and whose body and breath were given back to him, the vision given to Ezekiel is expanded, to take in not only a fallen Israel but an exiled humanity.

One of the most positive statements of the Olympic games (despite the IOCs murky underbelly, which needs at least lancing) is the Refugee Olympic Team. It is truly an act of prophesying, to the bones and to the breath, before the watching world. A prophetic act that proclaims judgement and deliverance. A sober joy.

Lord, have mercy.


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