Fifth Sunday in Lent
March 21, 1999
|Ezekiel 37:1-14||The valley of dried bones||420: Breathe on Me, Breath
699: Come, and Let Us Sweetly Join
|Psalm 130||Hope of redemption in God||172: My Jesus, I Love
400: Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing
|John 11:1-45||Lazarus raised||303: The Day of
315: Come, Ye Faithful, Raise the Strain
|Romans 8:6-11||Death in sin; life in righteousness||354: I Surrender All
363: And Can It Be that I Should Gain
We continue our consideration of the human condition during Lent. We have seen the fall from grace in the Garden of Eden, yet God provided a rescue from the flood. Through the following generations we saw the continuation of human failings, yet God granted forgiveness and gave positions of leadership and honor to His people. This week we pick up where the nation of Israel returned out of Egypt to the land of Abraham, conquering cities and armies with the aid of God. Then Israel settled into the land flowing with milk and honey under the leadership of judges and kings.
But the human condition still prevailed. Judges would die, the people would stray, and God would send a new judge. Then kings were annointed and the kings and the people would go astray together. A new king might set a course back to God, but it seems that people just don't have the long-term will power to stay the course generation after generation. Instead, conditions deteriorated until finally God allowed His people to be defeated and taken into bondage. It was in this depressing state of affairs that Ezekiel came on the scene. The lectionary scriptures this week include Ezekiel's vision of the valley of dried bones. Be sure to take time to read it. To me, one of the remarkable things about this account is the fact that all of the bones came back together. All of the bones were covered with flesh. All of this happened at the word of prophecy that God directed. But no matter how perfect the assembly, there was no life in the bones. Life was promised at the outset and God had put everything into place, but one more thing had to happen. A person had to ask for the breath of life. Ezekiel did so at God's command, and life entered the bodies.
This week's featured hymn, Breathe on Me, Breath of God, was written by Edwin Hatch (1835-1889). Ordained in the Anglican church, Hatch spent virtually all of his years of ministry in academia. An interesting article on Hatch and this hymn can be found at http://www.stpetersnottingham.org/hymns/breathe.htm. Often associated with John 3:3-8, the hymn also ties to many other scriptures dealing with life and the Spirit. The words of God to the prophet Ezekiel certainly are not lost here. Contemplate the human condition and the valley of dried bones as you read these words:
|1. Breathe on me, Breath of God,
fill me with life anew,
that I may love what thou dost love,
and do what thou wouldst do.
|2. Breathe on me, Breath of God,
until my heart is pure,
until with thee I will one will,
to do and to endure.
|3. Breathe on me, Breath of God,
till I am wholly thine,
till all this earthly part of me
glows with thy fire divine.
|4. Breathe on me, Breath of God,
so shall I never die,
but live with thee the perfect life
of thine eternity.
Can you sing these words in your soul? Can you pray for the breath of God? Can you seek life and purity in God's light? All of these may be beyond the limits of our present human condition, but nothing is ever beyond the power of God's grace.
God bless you--
Lection at HymnSite.com
|Passages suggested are from The Revised Common Lectionary: Consultation on Common Texts (Abingdon Press, 1992) copyright © by the Consultation on Common Texts (CCT), P.O. Box 340003, Room 381, Nashville TN 37203-0003. Reprinted with permission of CCT.|