Posted by: jevcat | April 11, 2011

“Can These Bones Live?”

I was on the rota Sunday to read the first lesson at church.  It was Ezekiel 37:1-7, the Valley of Dry Bones story, and I’ve been thinking about it for days.

It’s an episode described with almost cinematic detail:  God takes Ezekiel to a valley filled with scattered, desiccated bones and asks him, “Can these bones live?”  Wisely, Ezekiel answers, “Lord, you know.”  (I might have been less diplomatic.)  He is ordered to prophesy, and, before his eyes, the bones are re-assembled, clothed with flesh, but as yet not alive (why do I always think Ray Harryhausen and Jason and the Argonauts here? – but I date myself).  After he is called to prophesy again, they are filled with breath and live.  God tells Ezekiel these are the people of Israel and that he will restore them to life and their land, and “you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act.”

“Can these bones live?”  In late winter/early spring, that’s a question many of us have asked, although perhaps not quite in those words.  The tree branches still look skeletally bare, and while, with Easter late this year, the daffodils were already up when this reading rolled ‘round, things can still look pretty bleak.  Certainly, for myself and far too many of my friends, life recently has been and continues to be way more challenging than any of us would like.

“Can these bones live?”  There are days I wonder.

The psalm was number 130: “Out of the depths have I called to you, O Lord.”  Yes.  A lot.  Especially lately.  It goes on, “I wait for the LORD; my soul waits for him; in his word is my hope … My soul waits for the Lord, more than watchmen for the morning.”  I’m waiting.  But I sometimes feel as though I’m looking at my watch.  Frequently.  Maybe even tapping a foot.  We’re supposed to be patient, but, if I ever was, I’m not now.

“Can these bones live?”

The Gospel was the story of the raising of Lazarus.  By that point, I was detecting a theme.  Mary and Martha must have been impatient for Jesus to come so their brother could be healed, but Jesus delayed.  When he finally arrived – too late – Martha wasn’t patient, she let him know.  In no uncertain terms.  Blunt, plain-spoken Martha (how come she and Peter never got together?).  She probably never did have much patience and she was out of it by then.

“Can these bones live?”

And then, when they get to the tomb, Jesus tells them to roll away the stone.  Impatient, grieving, exasperated – and ever the fastidious housekeeper (maybe she and Peter wouldn’t have gotten on together, after all) – Martha is the one who points out there will be a stench by now.

“Can these bones live?”

We all know the rest:  there is no stench, only a bewildered, blinking, breathing Lazarus, stumbling out of the tomb alive.

Maybe I can wait a little longer …


  1. Thanks. This is one-moment-at-a-time time. It’s good to know I’m not alone in feeling this way.

    • DEFINITELY not alone, Francesca.

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