Acts 2:1-21 or Ezekiel 37:1-14
Psalm 104:24-34, 35b
Romans 8:22-27 or Acts 2:1-21
John 15:26-27, 16:4b-15
It is not surprising that the story of Ezekiel’s vision of a valley of dry bones is prominent in our Pentecost readings, as it is probably the most graphic account in the Old Testament of new life brought by God’s Spirit/Wind in answer to the prophetic word spoken in faith and obedience. In the OT “bones” often represent the essence of humanity, life: “our bones are dried up”, “my bones waste away”, “a downcast spirit is like dry bones.” Dry bones mean utter death: not a hope of revival, yet it is right here that a new community is brought into being by the Spirit of God.
The transformation from death to life goes on constantly in God’s church and world, in ways great and small, often unexpected. The story is told of a young woman pastor in the USA who was sent to an old inner city church which had been in decline for twenty years, with just a handful of faithful elderly left: “They won’t except much ministry from you – just go there, visit them, and do the best you can.” She was bitterly disappointed, for she had always enjoyed working with young children and young families, but she recognised this as a call from God, so prayed that she be led to fruitful ministry, even in this declining parish. A few months later she was visiting in the hospital and stopped to talk to a new mother with a newborn son. They talked about the experience of childbirth. “The worst thing is,” said the young mother, “is that we have had to have this baby by ourselves. Our parents live all the way across the country. Since this is our first baby, it’s a little scary for us; we have no-one to ask what to do next, no grandparents. Most of the people in our neighbourhood are young couples like us. I wish this baby had some grandparents.” Suddenly a light came on in the young pastor’s brain. Why, she had a group of ready-made grandparents sitting before her every Sunday morning!
To cut a long story short, she talked the congregation into visiting the home of every new baby born within a couple of miles of the church. These “Baby Visitors” turned out to be a wonderful evangelistic programme. Young couples needed someone to be excited about the birth of their children. The church had a surplus of wisdom, time and energy for this very purpose. So it was hardly surprising that soon these babies were being brought to the church for baptism, and a crèche was established, later a kindergarten. Today this church is reborn, with dozens of young families coming in. The church that was supposed to be on the way out has been resurrected. It has long been our concern in our various congregations that the Church we have known and loved is fading out. Can it be revived? Only if God provides the new life needed. Let us be in prayer, open to Him to catch the first glimmers of light as He starts to move us forward as He has planned for us.