March 29, 2020 – Pastor Teressa Sivers
Exekiel 37:1-14 (NRSV)
Last Sunday we used Psalm 23, shared from the Common English Translation, to center ourselves as we entered into our time of message and exploration of the scriptures. This week, the psalm from the lectionary is Psalm 130. Let us begin by praying this beautiful prayer.
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my
If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with you,
so that you may be revered.
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits
and in God’s word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than those who watch
for the morning,
more than those who watch
for the morning.
O [Church], hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is
and with God is great power
It is God who will redeem us
from all iniquities! Amen.
There is this rather touching scene in one of the greatest movies of all times—a movie frequently quoted and dearly beloved by millions. In this scene, toward the end of the film, one of the main characters cries out with great passion, “I am waiting for you, Vizzini! You told me to go back to the beginning so I have. I am here and I will stay. I will not be moved!” The character is Inigo Montoya and the film is “The Princess Bride.” Inigo had been instructed by Vizzini, that if all their carefully designed plans were to fail, if everything fell apart, he should go back to the beginning…back to where it all started. And it was good advice.
So…In the beginning…God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep. A wind from God swept over the face of the waters! Wind…in Hebrew ‘Ruah.’ Isn’t that a lovely word! Roooo-ahhhh. Sounds like wind blowing. Rooo-ahhhh. This lovely word has multiple meanings in Hebrew, it can be translated as wind, but it can equally be translated as ‘breath’ or as ‘spirit.’ The earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind…breath…Spirit of God swept over the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light!” And there was light! And God saw that the light was good! Remember my first Sunday and our time spent with this beautiful word ‘good’ in Hebrew? It is ‘tov!’ Tov! The very goodness of God! Tov!
Vizzini was indeed wise. When the best laid plans fail, when everything falls apart, it is good—Tov—to go back to the beginning. And for connecting with these beautiful, powerful and deeply visual biblical passages here before us today, it is good, very good, to have ‘the Beginning’ echoing around them, to see the story of ‘The Beginning’ reflected in Ezekiel’s story, and then again for Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. In the beginning, the Wind-Breath-Spirit of God moved (Ruah), the Word of God was spoken, and that Word became reality.
The people of Israel, the people of God, now eons after ‘The Beginning’ have lost everything…EVERYTHING! The beloved and beautiful temple of God has been utterly destroyed. The holy city, Jerusalem, has been decimated and reduced to rubble. All the leaders of the people have been either executed or exiled. Babylon rules supreme, or so it seems. In exile with his people, Ezekiel the prophet repeatedly offered God’s word to God’s people, and, as we witnessed in today’s reading from David and Lisa Lennox, experienced these out-of-body, the virtual experiences of God, with God. How easy it is to visualize this virtual encounter with God and Ezekiel from chapter 37. We can picture in our mind’s eye the deep, long, wide valley of dust and rock and dead vegetation…and bones…bones upon bones upon bones…very many and very dry. It is a dead, dead landscape. “Can these bones live?” In the 14 verses of this reading, that beautiful word from “The Beginning,” that word ‘Ruah’ appears ten times! Ten times!
“Come from the four winds (ruah), O breath (ruah), and breathe (ruah) upon these that they may live.”
Ezekiel speaks forth God’s Word as commanded, and that Word becomes reality. ‘Let there be life! And there was life! And it was good! Tov!
Eons later, outside of a now unsealed tomb, a few short miles from the holy city Jerusalem, The Word made flesh, the Word of creation now in the person of Jesus-with the tears of his grief still wet upon his face—breaths (ruah) a prayer to God. God’s Word then speaks forth, “Come out!” And God’s spoken Word becomes reality. With Martha’s powerful and faithful confession still echoing in the distance (Even now…I believe), and with Mary’s sobs still sounding in the background, the Word of God issues a command and Lazarus emerges from the cave. Let there be life! And there was life! And it was good! “Unbind him and let him go!” Tov!!
O breathe on me, Breath of God! Breathe on us, Breath of God! O Ruah! All of our best laid plans—for today, for this coming week, for the foreseeable future—are gone! So much seems to have fallen apart. Today we have returned to The Beginning, or perhaps it is more accurate to say, The Beginning keeps returning to us—again and again and again. God is creating anew each day, every moment, all around us and within us. Breathe, my beloved family in faith!
Take a deep breath in…and out. Again, in…and out.
That is the Ruah of God-the Wind, Breath, Spirit of the divine in you wherever you are joining us from this morning, in me. That is the Ruah of God connecting us across any distance. Breathe!
This virus, the pandemic of fear, seeks to steal our breath in more than one way, our ruah. Though we cannot prevent completely the physical aspects of this pandemic, we can deny it its spiritual effects. Breathe! In…out…in…out. Feel the beat of your heart set its rhythm with your breathing. Feel how that Ruah connects you to all ‘gathered’ here today, and to all humanity, to all creation, and especially, to God.
In the beginning, the Ruah of God moved over the deep, and then moved again over a valley of dry bones, and then again outside of an open tomb, and again here today among us, regardless of distance. Let there be life—resilient, abundant life! And there IS life! And it IS good! So very, very Tov!