Ezekiel 37: 1-14
John 11: 1-45
The text readings of today are very well known, at least they were to earlier generations(that means we got some serious generational work to do, for God’s kingdom and will being done), and they(these texts) are so popularly known because they offer us a wonderfully deep theologically exploring vista’s of who we are in God’s site, who and what God does and offers us, promises us, and has done, because of that love that God has for us!
Now the love of God, the love that God has for you, it is critical for us to have an understanding if not an appreciation of this particular aspect or nature of God. In “1 John 4: 8,16,” we read an important approach to understanding the nature of God’s love for us…
” Whoever does not love, does not know God, because God is love.” (v:16) “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love.” Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.”
This is just a small understanding and expected outcome of being and having a relationship with God. A critical requirement when being or having relationships, means having or developing some type of manner or means of communicating, and communications. Communicating normally means being in conversation. It is extremely difficult to be in a relationship when little or no communication exists!
I want to talk about and spend some time this morning talking about and being in conversation with what I call the “Otherness” of God, the Holy One. Metaphorically, journey and follow with me if you will, each one of us has been gifted with, given this richly deep centered-being, a place within ourselves where we create. From this deep place we create who we want to be, we create who we are, we have conversations with ourselves to better know and understand who we are, and who we want to be.
If you will please visualize it like an open field that has rich dark soil, and all around the field are tools and elements(sun, rain, winds) surround this rich empty field, and there are bags of seeds, piles of them as far, as high as you can see(an unlimited, supply of these bags). The only odd thing about these bags of seeds, they don’t have any identifiable label, as to what these bags of seeds will grow.
Why is that, because it is your choice, your decision, you must determine what the seeds you plant in this soil will grow, produce and be harvested over the depth and span of your life. It is this existence that puts you in a conversation with yourself, it is a second and just as important conversation you must have, and that is with the other, that which gave and presented you both with the field, and opportunity to decide what seeds you’ll determine to be planted in the rich, dark soil of your centered being.
These are conversations we all must have, they are on-going conversations, they are powerfully transforming conversations. These are conversations with ourselves, and with the “Otherness,” the love of God both with us and towards us. God has declared I will be with you. We read of God’s declared love for us in Isaiah :43;
“But now, this is what the Lord says—
he who created you…he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
3 For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One…your Savior; Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
and because I love you, Do not be afraid, for I am with you;
I will bring your children .’Bring my sons from afar and my daughters
7 everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.” Lead out those who have eyes but are blind,
who have ears but are deaf.”
There is always power in the Word and Spirit of God; because there is movement, constant motion. A Biblical commentator writes this about our having conversations with God. “Our relationship with God is not a monologue or a lecture; it’s a conversation, one where the answers change as we try to respond to one another. Likewise this conversation is not a private one; we experience the “Holy” in the context of our community…sacred conversations both challenge us and set us free.”
The Power of the Word, the Power of the Spirit, it is movement, it is action and activity in our life, it is about our conversations with ourselves, with others, and ever so important our conversations with the Holy, with that which is the “Otherness.”
In the long John text of today(Jim Richardson read), there are on-going conversations. Mary and Martha requesting Jesus’ presence as their brother Lazarus is extremely ill, which proves to be fatal. They are in a conversation with Jesus, Jesus’ disciples are having discussions and in conversation with Jesus, about some Jews ready to destroy him through stoning, Jesus’ conversation with them is eschatological around the impending death of Lazarus.
Upon Jesus and his disciple’s belated arrival to Mary’s and Martha’s house, Lazarus had been entombed for four days (v:21), Martha says to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died(Martha’s next statement is critically important, by what it conveys). But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of Him.”
Mary and Martha, through prior and earlier conversations with Jesus, both their encounters and conversations with Jesus knew the “Otherness,” the Holiness, of Jesus the power of the Word, the Power of the Spirit, the Holy Spirit. So, Martha is not shocked, nor is she unable to comprehend Jesus’ respond to her words.
(v:23) Jesus says to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha’s response to Jesus’ words; “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day(her-words; I know he will rise).” Jesus’ words in reply, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will not die/perish. Do you believe this?”
Martha said; “Yes Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the One coming into the world.”
What a powerful conversation, look at the context, the transitions, remember movement is always present in power and transformation. Mary and Martha hope Jesus would come, disappointment the Lord is late, their brother Lazarus has died.
Conversation now around Lazarus’ death, around Jesus’ both being there, and being who he is, in the midst of these sisters grief, mourning and sorrow. Others present, who had wanted to stone Jesus, in their negative conversations they are saying since Jesus had given slight to the young blind man, had he come earlier might he had made Lazarus well?
Conversations, Conversations, Conversations;
Jesus is now at the tomb of Lazarus, he instructs persons to move the stone, Martha says there is the strong stench of death, if you move the stone. Conversations are still on-going and occurring. Jesus in continuing to converse with says not only to Martha but the gathered people; “Did I not tell that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”
They took away the stone, Jesus looked upward and said(more conversation), “Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” He cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come out!” He came out, Jesus said “Unbind him, and let him go.” The power of the Word, and the Power of Conversation.
I’m going to conclude now, but I must say something short and quick concerning the power of the Spirit. Earlier I spoke of the dark, rich soil of your spirit, and the blank bags of seed that you determine what those seeds planted in your spiritual soil will be, and produce. And I said to arrive at that point one must understand the presence and the giving/gifting of the “Otherness/Holy” that makes, all things possible.
In Hebrew there is term that denotes the specificity of the nature of God’s wind, a divine wind, associated with God’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit. The term is “Ruah.” It is understood as the divine breath of life in we humans(Genesis 2:7, “And the LORD God formed man of the dust/dirt of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being), it is also understood as the creative infilling power of God into all creation.
When Ezekiel was having his conversation with God in the valley of the dry bones, and God told him to preach to give Word to the bones, there was noise, rattling, the bones came together, but there was no breath in them.
The LORD asked of me, “Mortal can these bones live?” I answered, O, LORD God, only you know. Yes, there is power in the Word of God, uttered by God, or divinely inspired and preached by those whom God has called. There is power in the “Otherness, the Holiness,” of God, of God’s love for us, of God’s Holy Spirit infilling all creation and each of us, who have been divinely created in God’s image.
We have the power to create, those blank bags of seed, can and should be the seeds of our dreams, of our loves, planted deeply in the rich dark soil of our spirt. Nurtured by our love so as to harvest blessings not solely for ourselves, but for others. No seeds of vengeance, the weeds discontent removed, but producing a harvest whose fruits will be carried to heaven and eternity.
THERE IS POWER IN THE WORD, and POWER IN THE SPIRIT!