…the Winter of our ‘Disconnect’
April 2, 2017
Scripture: Ezekiel 37:1-14
The hand of the LORD came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the LORD.”
So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.”
I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude. Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken and will act,” says the LORD.
The Winter of our ‘Disconnect’…or…can these bones still live? Only you oh Lord can know this…only you oh Lord can even begin to effect this…
I took today’s title from a somewhat similar and familiar quote of William Shakespeare found in the opening lines of his play Richard III. The actual quote cites, “The winter of our discontent”, which I modified slightly as ‘disconnect’. I did so in order to speak to the current state of affairs that seems to be all around us. Shakespeare’s opening poem finds the future King Richard reflecting on a difficult past now trending towards a more positive future for himself and his family who have recently come into power. He is speaking to the coming end of that hardship and those difficult times. For him at least, the message is that those times have now come to an end…for us however the winter seems to be lingering on somewhat…
For as I look around in these days…as I listen in close to the underlying sounds and murmurs, the rhythms which undergird the social conscience of our culture and society I find cause to be increasingly concerned. On the street, in the news each day, and in the whispered nuance of glances and subtle look-aways, it seems as though there is a strange admixture of almost apathy and deep fear…not so much within the same individual soul of course but within different groups of individuals and affecting profoundly different sectors of our community…and almost universally present in some form or other.
It seems that so many are now caught between hoping that their dreams of years recently past are somehow still real and soon attainable, and not the shimmering mirage others worry or predict they may be becoming…hoping that plans well laid and faithfully tended for long, long years will still allow and suffice for some measure of future rest and ease.
Others who have only ever dreamed of even having a dream are now convinced that this potential mirage of the fortunate is not theirs to reach for or to work towards as if it were in any way attainable. For it is these who are filled with a newfound fear of profound disruption and the tragic fragmentation that has been recently threatened…neighbors of ours who have come to feel as though they are no longer welcome, some even made to live out of sight and out of resource-availability in what can only be described as truly pathetic excuses for even mildly sufficient or healthy accommodations… spaces quite illegal and immoral but acceptable by those truly responsible as a result of shirking the laws that call for some reasonable portion within reach of all.
All these, all these on both sides of having, are witness to the slow death of hope that is no longer brightly shining but rather only flickering dimly. All these are dying of thirst, seeking the elusive yet divinely promised waters of assurance, or perhaps of equal justice, or even of some bare sufficiency within a place of dignified and noble struggle. All these…all these are dry bones in the Valley of Despair…a valley which is fully and truly around us now…filled with bones bleached of promise by the scorching hot sun of savings now seeming so meager, or the worthless deceit of assurances never meant to be true or lasting.
These are the bones that now lie on the valley floor of our society, disconnected, unattached, without purpose or direction…some still hoping against hope…others consigned to dwell solely in great fear and worry.
These bones are we…these bones are all of us somewhere…these bones are the broken body of our Lord…for we are all so much mired in this ‘winter of our disconnect’…
…can these bones still live? Oh Lord, only you know…
And this is no small number of searching or broken souls who are struggling and who gaze anxiously about, but rather the vast majority of those whom we know…those who have now been thrown all together into that vast and growing space between rock bottom and the middle of society…the top fading further from sight altogether.
There are so many of these dry bones lying about on the valley floor, and all growing dryer in the hot sun of despair, all so in need of God’s ‘green pastures’ and the clarity and coolness of ‘still waters’ that run deep. And so many of these bones are beginning to talk, to murmur and, softly or not to find a voice of protest…so many hearts and souls from so many places beginning to wonder things we never allowed ourselves to wonder before…fearfully gazing upon and starting to doubt the very structures that we all hold dear and which have always given some semblance of structure or at least understanding to life and community.
But tragically, and even in the face of such disconnection it seems that so many are still unable to find enough time or energy to stop for a moment and to truly listen to one another…to allow themselves to imagine again a family of all brothers and sisters, a family of difference so profound yet filled with the energy and diversity worthy only of our Lord himself.
And in addition, though much may be said to the contrary, it really is not just about the poor and oppressed, or the newly arrived or newly dispossessed…but rather our shared heartbreak is a problem for almost everyone…or at least a problem that will require the resources and resolve of almost everyone to begin to find wholeness and grace-filled unity once again. For virtually everyone below the very top tier feels under-represented, unheard, and without a voice.
…for in truth the structure we recently selected through much struggle and dark noise still does not work. Costs for basic needs keep going ever higher, income is less and less able to keep up, leaving behind these oddly distinct piles of disconnected bones…broken social relationships…all now dry and hopeless in some sort of perverse cultural paralysis.
And yet, to those who may protest such a dimness of view or talk of despair alone, indeed there are on occasion a few bright flashes of unity of purpose within the gathered body. Bright and holy are they, filled with grace and good…but far too few and oh’ so fleeting…not unlike flashes of lightning on a hot summer’s night which but for a moment illumine all with the brightness of day, but are just as suddenly replaced by darkness seeming even thicker and all-enveloping.
What do we do? What is it that can turn this despair into hope and joyful promise once again? Can these bones still live oh Lord? Only you know…
How might these scattered bones of despair and true hardship be given instruction and energy to begin to reassemble into the bodies of hope and purpose they once construed? Only by grace alone…by the hand of God…and by the breath of the Spirit which ultimately offers and sustains all of life. All three of these are given freedom to act…or are restricted, by our ability, no, our willingness as seekers to learn to truly listen…both to God and to one another. For it is only in listening, understanding, and laboring together that we can begin the reconstruction of true and loving ‘connection’, of community, and finally, of holy purpose…
The whole of the re-enlivening of the bones and ultimately of the ‘body’ of our community is ultimately by the hand and grace of the Lord…the one who alone will build if we consent to let it to take place around, within, and through us.
However God’s willingness and in fact deepest desire for the re-union of all these dry bones is no guarantee of true connection or reconstruction…for we are also able to tear down or to block God’s grace from its work if we choose to isolate ourselves or to turn away from the needs we witness. God’s grace will never force us into goodness; it will only lead the way. And it will all come to nothing if we continue to cross over to the other side of the roadway, away from one lying in need on the far side…or if we who are truly able to help, choose to remain in a place of stubborn self-minded understanding or a narrow view of God’s purposes…or possible ‘ways’.
Ultimately however…this truly is meant to be a story of good news! For though it seems as though there is little to hope in…and though the valley floor of our daily life is literally littered with bones and disconnection…the will and work of God is ever bent towards newness, and wholeness…towards reconciliation and the new life that only rises in relationship and thrives on the true communion of hearts and minds knit together in purposeful love…
This truly is a story of good news because it is God alone who can lead and build, and it is our God who still longs to do so. And it is our God who is calling all of the faithful, wherever they may be, in whatever station they may now find themselves, to allow themselves to be used as workers of this great and critical work of building the kingdom of our Lord…
It is the ‘winter’ of our disconnect…not the ‘spring’, ‘summer’, or the ‘fall’…it is the final season in which our struggle is forcing us to make a choice…and a time in which the only choice being revealed as good, right, and holy is the choice to turn finally and fully to the only voice remaining that is true…the voice of our Lord who is calling us to come to him, to begin to drink deeply of his healing waters, and together to reconstruct the sinews and ligaments, the joints and bodies of God’s family together again in loving and holy community.
Yes, as dry bones bleached and weary we are called to rise again by the grace of our God, to actively resist hopelessness and to celebrate that love that knows no bounds. Ours it is to let the voice of our God be spoken from our own lips proclaiming a new day of unity, justice, and the peace and compassionate uplifting of all who are weary, all who are faint, all who thirst and hunger for righteousness.
In this which needs to truly be the final season of our disconnect…let us all be that force of God’s love that causes dry bones to rise up, to be clad once again in God’s hope and in God’s promises, and to be presented finally unto our Lord, ready for the life-giving breath of the Spirit in order that our life as the one family of God might finally be lived in the fullness of peace and joy…that we all might proclaim the Lord’s favor once more on the work of our hearts and the labor of our hands…