No Bones Too Dry (Eze 37:1-13)


            When I was in college, I was a part of a vibrant United Methodist campus ministry at the University of Georgia.  The Wesley Foundation at Georgia was, and still is, filled with young men and women who were passionate about living for Jesus in every part of their lives.  That ministry was an exciting place to be because God was present there and lives were being transformed there.  I have many friends from my time at Georgia who are serving God as pastors and missionaries and in many other ways all over this country and literally around the globe.  When you look at my friends from college it is amazing how many of us are serving in full-time ministry, but there is something else that is noteworthy: the number of us who are serving in the United Methodist church is tiny, and the reason is this: many of my friends think that God is done with the United Methodist Church.  I have vivid memories of a conversation I had one summer with another young man, Alex, who thought that the idea that God might still be at work within our denomination was laughable.  He really thought it was a joke.

            That conversation led me to doing a lot of soul-searching, because I can tell you for sure that I have no interest in serving in a place that God is done with.  As I prayed and read scripture and grew in my understanding of who God is, I began to realize that that Alex did not understand God well, because our God is never done with his people.  My friends, we serve a God who never, never, gives up on his people.  We serve a God who is always ready to speak new life into dry bones and give his Spirit.  Did you catch why it was that the bones were dried out in our reading?  Listen again (Eze 37:11-12):

 They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ 12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves.

God is not looking down upon God’s people and saying, “oh, you are just a dried up, useless lot.”  Instead, it is the people themselves who have declared that their hope is gone.  They have dug their own graves.  What about us?  Do we have hope that God is still at work?  What about our church?

You know, I have had some conversations with people about our church here that remind me of my conversation with Alex.  Conversations where people have said, “isn’t it hard to be appointed to that church?”  And I tell them honestly that, yes, there are times when this is a hard appointment, but I also tell them this: God isn’t done with this church.  God isn’t done with us.  The world around us may say, “oh that is just a small country church, they are not going to make much of an impact for Christ,” but those words do not come from the mouth of God because our God declares that, even if the world around us has written us off and even if we have given ourselves up for dead, God says (Eze 37:9):

“Prophesy to the breath, 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.” 10 I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into…us, and we lived, and stood on our feet, a vast multitude.

            I got a little bit mad at a friend of mine the other day—someone from a large church—because he said something that told me that he didn’t think anything worth happening could happen in a small church.  God is not interested in the size of our church or the dryness of our bones or even the hope that we have for ourselves.  God is simply interested in whether or not we are interested in receiving the Holy Spirit—and it is the Spirit of God that is at work transforming the world and the Spirit is all that matters.  So, if you are feeling a little bit dried out, or maybe a little short on hope, then you are in the right place this morning.  God wants to pour out the Spirit all over your dry bones.  Thanks be to God!


Filled (Acts 2:1-13)


The Day of Pentecost.  The day known as the birthday of the church.  The first time that God sent the Spirit down to fill those who were following after Jesus Christ and the first time that many came to faith as a result of the Holy Spirit’s work.  Pentecost was an incredible time, but before we can understand what happened to give birth to the church on Pentecost we need to back up to the first chapter of Acts.  Acts 1(:4) records a conversation between the resurrected Jesus and the disciples.  Acts tells us:

4 While staying with them, Jesus ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,’ he said, “is what you have heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

The disciples response was to wait and to pray.  In fact, after reminding us of who the apostles were, Acts says (1:14):

 All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.

They didn’t just sit back and say, “well, Jesus said God would send the Spirit, so I guess we just wait…”  Instead they were constantly seeking God.  Maybe they remembered Jesus’ teaching on prayer, teaching that God works through prayer that prayer is God’s tool for touching and impacting this world. Maybe they remembered that he said:

9 Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12 Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:9-13)\

Maybe there were some there who remembered back to Jesus’ baptism by John and how the Spirit came upon Jesus when he was praying (Lk 3:21).

Whatever was going through their heads, they knew that they needed God’s Spirit if they were going to transform the world, and they knew that prayer was the tool for receiving the Spirit, so they poured out themselves in prayer, and then, for the first time, God poured out the Holy Spirit on the Church.  It was the first time that the same Peter who denied even knowing Jesus stood up to declare that there is Good News with a capital G and a capital N.  The Spirit changed everything.  We say that the church was born on Pentecost because the church is not just a group of people, or even a group of people gathering in Jesus’ name.  The disciples had that before Pentecost!  Instead, the church is the people of God, empowered by the Spirit of God.  If we are to be the church we must be filled with God’s Spirit and led by God’s Spirit. 

The beauty of it is that God has offered to Spirit to those who ask.  So, let us ask but beware, because the day of Pentecost was also the first time that Christ’s followers were charged with public drunkenness because of their boldness in speaking the Gospel in languages they did not even know (that is another sermon altogether!).  The Spirit will transform us—if we are willing. 

My friends, we have a great promise.  If we who are so far from being perfectly loving give good gifts to our children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask.  Let us ask.  As you hear the choir, ask for the Spirit.  As we bow in prayer, ask for the Spirit.  As you worship, ask for the Spirit and receive the gift of God. 

Let us pray.

Re-Filled (Acts 4:23-31)


So, did you catch it?  There is something a little bit off in our third reading today-did you notice?  It seems like Peter and John have forgotten something.  Maybe they got knocked around a bit too much when they were in that Jerusalem first precinct jail, but they don’t seem to remember that they had just been filled with the Holy Spirit on Pentecost only two chapters ago.  You wouldn’t think that God would pick two forgetful guys to be the leaders of the new church, but here they are just a few days after Pentecost coming back to God asking for more of the Holy Spirit.  Don’t they remember?

Or, maybe there is something else going on.  Maybe, Peter and John realize that, like all of us they are leaky.  As soon as God fills us with the Holy Spirit we start to leak, and so we need to come back to God again and again to be re-filled.  In fact, it turns out that Peter had been filled with the Spirit again at the beginning of this chapter (v.8) when he spoke to those who were accusing him.  Peter and John would say to us that we are always in need of being re-filled.  God always has more of the Spirit to pour into our lives.  The Day of Pentecost is never enough.  The book of Acts is Filled with stories of men and women being filled with the Spirit and re-filled time and time again as they continue to seek God.  Acts is a book that is all about the work of the Holy Spirit.  We call it “The Acts of the apostles,” but a more appropriate title might be “The Acts of the Holy Spirit,” because the apostles are simply getting on their knees and looking to God—the Spirit is the one at work!  Phillip’s story is the perfect example: God tells him where to go and he goes.  God tells him who to speak to and he speaks.  God zaps him to another spot and he hits the ground running preaching as the Spirit leads him (see Acts 8).

The same can be true for us.  There are some powerful times when God likes to pour the Holy Spirit on us—baptism especially, but also when we gather for communion.  God also likes to pour out the Spirit in times of repentance and confession.  I expect that many of you here have encountered the Spirit of God in your lives, but the word that I want to speak to you today is this: do not stop seeking the Spirit because once upon a time you encountered God.  My friends, our God is not a God of “once upon a time.” Not in our world and not in your life.  Once-upon-a-time is great for a bedtime story, but we are here for a living faith, not a bedtime story.  God wants to be at work in you and in our world today and tomorrow and the way that God wants to do that is through pouring out the Spirit on those of us who, like Peter and John and their friends are so committed to living as Spirit-filled people that God can fill us with the Spirit this morning and we will want to be back on our knees tonight calling out for more of God’s Spirit in us.  May we pray with them (4:24, 30):

“Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth, the sea, and everything in them…grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

Then, may it be said 31 When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.

            If we ever stop being filled by the Holy Spirit, then we dry out.  That’s how you end up in the valley of dry bones.  But God does not want us to end up as a dry people!