Saturday, May 16, 2015

Student-Teaching

About a month ago, a priest from our church and I went to a nursing home to share Communion and prayer with the residents there. It started with a worship service, which was smaller than usual on this day because many of the residents had come down with an infection and were quarantined on their floors. Those who did join us for worship were quiet.

During the service I spoke from Ezekiel 37-- a crazy story about a valley full of dry bones that the prophet sees God raise to a veritable army of new life. I talked about how reading this story again during the season of Easter makes sense of it, because Easter shows us how the story ends: 

"This story from Ezekiel is about God bringing the dead to life. At this point in their history, Israel felt hopeless. v. 11 says, “our bones are dried up, our hope is lost. We are cut off.” So God demonstrates his power and his love by giving Ezekiel a prophetic vision of these dry bones, being put back together again and restored to living, breathing creatures. It’s as if God is saying to Israel, no matter how hopeless things seem, no matter how dead you feel, God can breathe new life in you. He can do the impossible. 

Easter, too, is a story about God bringing the dead to life, is it not? It is the fulfillment of Ezekiel's vision; the historical resurrection of the man Jesus Christ-- Jesus who willingly went to the Cross to pay for our sins, who gave Himself over to death for our sake. And after three days in the tomb, God did the impossible; He raised Jesus to new life. And we celebrate Easter b/c this new life isn’t just for Jesus, but it’s for all who trust in Him. When we put our hope in the risen Messiah, we become united with Him in such a way that we too partake in this new creation, this resurrection life that He won. In Christ, we become the resurrected bones Ezekiel foresaw.

As I spoke these words, I looked at my fellow worshipers and wondered what this means for us, a collection of broken bodies gathered around a tiny Communion Table in a nursing home lobby. 

"Now what does that look like for us here today? First of all it means we can expect to experience new life now. Jesus is raised and we’ve been united with Him, which means we can enjoy renewal today. So I ask you, where in your life do you feel like the Israelites here? “Our bones are dried up, our hope is lost. We are cut off.” Jesus wants to bring healing to those very places. He wants to breathe new life into you, body and soul. So Easter gives us hope for today. 

And yet, we all know that healing in the here and now is incomplete, it’s temporary. We do experience emotional and spiritual renewal as we turn to Christ, we do taste physical healing as He pours out His mercy, but we won’t experience the fullness of it until we see Him face to face. And so today, our Easter hope also points us forward, to the day when Jesus Christ returns. On that day, new creation will be complete and our very bodies will be raised to perfection just as Christ Himself. The New Testament says that He is the first fruit of the Resurrection, which means we’re next. Us and all those who have gone before us, who are now asleep in Christ. On that day, the pain of our separation from them will be a distant memory and the whole creation will be caught up in this new life, breathed out by the power and love of God."

Easter is a story about God bringing the dead to life. It’s a true story, it applies to you and me, and it gives us hope for today and hope for eternity." 

I looked out at my fellow worshipers and was humbled to speak to them of truths they know far better than I do. They who have been walking with the Lord for longer than I've been on this earth know well the reality of new life; their stories of His faithfulness spans decades and generations. And they whose bodies are now frail and failing, who've seen not just one or two but many loved ones taken by death, know far more about the longing for resurrection that awaits.  

About a month ago, I was humbled to be the teacher who is being taught. Today I pray that this will always be so. 



  

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