Dry bones (@jhosborn)

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http://www.stmarystjames.org.uk/images/dry_bones.jpg

Ezekiel 37:1-3 The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry.He asked me,

“Son of man, can these bones live?”

It occurs to me that Christianity is often characterised as dry and dusty bones. Most recently by the response to the Bishop’s letter in the past week, it is clear that many both within and outside of the religious establishment feel that the church has little to say to the current political situation. Christians portrayed in the media are often ineffectual or crazy.

At the other end of the extreme we have those Christian groups who regularly appear to be peddling hate and judgement in a very in-your-face kind of way. These guys preach a gospel of exclusion and do so in a way that makes many of us hang our heads at how they are reported in the news. They are driven, so it would seem, by a very powerful desire to be right or belief in the absolute. Their interpretation of the Bible is right, and the truth. They are confident and believe also in their own powers of persuasion. I discovered something of this in myself recently in reaction to a FaceBook post in which someone criticised a review of 50 Shades that I had agreed with. This person had CLEARLY misread or misunderstood and I could make him understand this by making one or two ‘salient’ points in the comments (you know, like “Er, have you actually watched the film?” ignoring the fact that I haven’t).

So, we are either silent and irrelevant or vocal and offensive. There must be a middle ground somewhere? Jesus wasn’t silent but neither did he deliberately undermine others by making snide ‘helpful’ comments. He spoke gently and with kindness to those he was teaching, saving his anger for those who prevented others from getting to God. Think about it. The woman caught in adultery, the Samaritan woman, the lepers, the blind man at Bethsaida, the disciples (over and over and over again!) he talks to each of them as if they need love and compassion, not hellfire and judgement. The money-changers/sellers in the temple courts, the Pharisees and Sadducees, anyone who prevents small children from coming to God, these are all people who were preventing ordinary people from experiencing God and these are the guys Jesus has the harshest words for.

In John 13 Jesus is predicting that one of his closest followers would deny that he had ever known Jesus. If I knew that one of my young people was about to be put under extreme pressure to either disavow or acknowledge that they had known me I think I’d take the opportunity to impress upon them the importance of what I’d taught them, to remind them of having been in my youth group for the previous 5 years and that I knew all their secrets!! But what does Jesus actually say? “I’m giving you a new rule to live by: love one another. That’s it. Just extravagant, outrageous, all encompassing love. And in fact if you love each other like that, then other people will see and take notice.” [my own paraphrase of John 13:34-35]

Can these dry bones live? Is anything impossible for God? Well, I believe that if we choose to show extravagant, outrageous love for each other in all our interactions whether these are face-to-face or online, then people will notice and the miraculous will begin to happen. Dry bones to living flesh and blood. Ezekiel 37:14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.

About Jenni Osborn