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Revive Us Again!

by Frank Schaefer , based on Ezekiel 37:1-14 and John 11:1-45

The prophet Ezekiel has a pretty weird dream. A dream about sun bleached bones--human remains. As the prophet was looking at them, the Lord God asked him: “son of man, do you think these bones can live--do you think they can be restored to life again?”

Just imagine God had asked you or me? What answer would you and I give God. Well, on the one hand we do believe that God can do anything, even raise the dead. But on the other hand, neither of us have probably ever witnessed a physical healing, or even a resurrection.

Well, we all believe in prayer for healing and so we lift up to God our sick and weak brothers and sisters. But, honestly, would any of us seriously pray for the resurrection of a person in a casket? Would any of us had had faith that Jesus would be able to restore Lazarus from the dead? For goodness sake his corpse was already rotting after four days in the tomb.

Well, that’s the same kind of question God asked Ezekiel: do you have faith that I can restore life to these skeletons. Ezekiel, being an astute man, gave God a very safe answer. An answer that you or I would be likely to give, just to be on the safe side. He answered: “you alone know o Lord!”

And what does God say? God promises to revive all of these bones--to restore them to perfect health. Of course, God refers to the people of Israel in Ezekiel’s dream. What God was really asking was “do you think that I can restore your people Israel and make you into a nation again?” Well, that was about as hard to believe for Ezekiel than to believe that the remains of people would live again. Israel was a scattered people at Ezekiels time, they had no land, the temple which was to stand forever was destroyed and the people of God lived in exile, they were forced laborers to the Babylonians.

And we all know that God made good on his promise to the people of Israel. They returned from exile about two generations later, reclaiming Jerusalem, and restoring the temple under Nehemia and Ezra. It was a miracle of no lesser magnitude than the restoration of the nation of Israel in 1948 after being scattered among the nations for many centuries.

The resurrection of Lazarus in our gospel lesson as well as the restoration of Israel are signs to us this morning that nothing is too big for our God--we have an awsome God! And while it is true that God does not always restore us in ways that we anticipate, we may rest assured that God nevertheless will--in God’s time, in God’s way.

I’ll never forget what a church member shared a couple Sundays ago in our Sunday School class. He said: “we prayed to God to give mom perfect health, and He did.” Everybody in our group knew that he was talking about his mom who died less than a half year ago. You could have heard a pin drop after he said these words.

And that’s what makes faith in God so difficult--sometimes God heals, sometimes he calls home, sometimes, it seems to us, God is silent . . . Pause.

But no matter what we see happen or not, Lazarus and the restoration of Israel are testimonies of God’s power and proof of God’s concern for God’s children. God wants us to know that he really cares for us, and yet many people would rather stay dead in spirit than let God restore them to new life.

Reminds me a little of the story of the box man. Do you know this story? It really is a parable of how God calls us to new life, to life in the light. It’s all about a man who had lived in this box for a long time. He was fed through a little window, which was his only contact to the outside world. And noone could convince him that life on the outside is much better. For every argument he had a concern. Someone said to him: “you know, out here you’ll find light. Everything is so much nicer in the light. The world is full of beauty.” But the box man would retort: “well, how do I know that that’s true. What if the darkness in my box is better that the light you’re talking about?” And no matter how much people tried to get him to leave the box, the box man just wouldn’t. He hadn’t experiened these things that people told him about and rather wanted to stay in the dark, yet familiar box.

It takes faith to step out of the box, it takes faith to allow the Spirit of God to heal us and to restore us. All we know is life in the box, a life in darkness and sin-- but it’s the only life we know. Most of the people who witnessed the resurrection of Lazarus did not have the kind of faith that would allow Jesus to bring them new life, they too decided to remain in the box, to remain spiritually dead. I don’t know what kind of spiritual deadness or exhaustion you are experiencing in your life right now. Perhaps you feel entirely dead spiritually, wondering whether there can still be light at the end of your tunnel.

All I know is that God calls us afresh into God’s light, to a life in faith. Let us heed his call, let us trust him more than our human senses. Let us allow our Lord Jesus to touch our dead or tired spirits to revive us again. Lord Jesus, revive us again. Amen