Going again with one of the RCL passages for today (this time the OT reading) because the BCP passage skips to Romans just for the Sundays in Lent.
This is a fascinating passage concerning the (seeming) demise and impending restoration of God’s people. It’s got me thinking about the church.
I look around the church landscape about me and I see a lot of bones. Or at least, churches that look at themselves as a bunch of dead, dry bones. In the vision, God asks the prophet, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
I think there’s good news in this passage for the church… The answer is yes, but there’s a catch:
They can’t live without help.
They can’t do it on their own.
When God tells the prophet to speak to the “breath” in verse 9, the Hebrew word is ר֜וּחַ, “Ruach.” Same word translated both “Wind” and “Spirit” elsewhere in the OT. The same word is used interchangeably as both wind and Spirit (capital “S”). For these bones to live, they must be given life by the Spirit. They can’t do it on their own. That means all the church growth, church health, re-visioning, restarting, refocusing, re-branding, re-marketing, restructuring, re-organizing and re-anything-else-you-can-think-of strategies in the universe can’t bring these bones back to life. Only the Spirit can do that. It means we have to quit trying to solve theological problems with systems answers.
It’s going to take a miracle to raise these bones from the dead.
And I’m really OK with that (though it matters not whether I’m OK with it or not), because it takes a miracle for the church to truly exist in the first place. The true church never was a human-made endeavor to begin with.