West Point Grey United Church
May 19, 2024

The Coming of the Holy Spirit Makes Dry Bones to Live

Ezekiel 37:1–14/Acts2:1-11

Ezekiel 37:1–14 

37 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. 2 He led me all around them; there were  very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. 3 He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones  live?” I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” 4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and  say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. 5 Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: I  will cause breath[a] to enter you, and you shall live. 6 I will lay sinews on you and will cause flesh  to come upon you and cover you with skin and put breath[b] in you, and you shall live, and you  shall know that I am the LORD.”7 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. 8 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. 9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and  say to the breath:[c] Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath,[d] and breathe  upon these slain, that they may live.” 10 I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came  into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.11 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.’ 12 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. 13 And you shall know that I am the LORD when I open your  graves and bring you up from your graves, O my people. 14 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.” 

Acts 2:1-11 

2 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly from  heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where  they were sitting. 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on  each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other  languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.5 Now there were devout Jews from every people under  heaven living in Jerusalem. 6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because  each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7 Amazed and astonished, they  asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in  our own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and  Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging  to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—in our own  languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.”


I’ve been in WPG United Church for 13 years. Almost every Pentecost Sunday, the book of Acts  2:1-11 is our chosen reading, and we are so familiar with it. The setting of the story is the  aftermath of Jesus’ crucifixion; when all the disciples gathered in the upper room on the day of  Pentecost, they all felt confused, abandoned, fearful, hopeless, and had no life. And all of a  sudden, the Holy Spirit comes in wind, fire, and flame. The feared and hopeless community  became a spiritual home full of energy, passion, strength, and courage. The text tells us the Spirit  inspired on Pentecost day was communication and connection. All the disciples speak in  different languages, and the people passed by can understand them. This is the start of the spread  of the church. So, the Pentecost symbolizes the first Christian church that was born. That is why,  today, all Christians in the world celebrate the Church’s birthday together. 

Today, you may find out that we also chose Ezekiel 37:1–14 as our Pentecost Day’s  scripture reading. Both stories are all about renewal, new life from the old, and the restorative  work of God. The Acts text is about the coming of the holy spirit in the way of tongues of  flames, bringing life to the feared and hopeless community. The Ezekiel text is the vision of the  valley of the dry bones; God’s word and spirit make the dry bone rattling come together, bone to  bone and come to life. Today, I am going to use Ezekiel as my reflection. So, Let’s look at this  dramatic, vivid story. 

Ezekiel was a prophet. It is assumed that he went into Babylonian exile with the first wave of  deportees in 597 BCE. Ten years later, after the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple, a further  deportation of Jews—the second wave of deportees—occurred from Jerusalem to Babylon.  It was against this hopeless backdrop that God announces to Israel the work that will come. God  brings Ezekiel to a valley filled with dried-up human bones, and God says to him that these dry  bones represent the whole house of Israel. (verse 11). Let’s ponder and see what this passage  says to us as Christians today. I don’t know if you have ever experienced this in your personal  life, your family life, your church life, or maybe in the broader Christian world, where the  spiritual experience feels just like a valley full of dry bones. I heard one of the friends in the  church say to me, “Linda, I am just like these dry bones.” The scripture tells us that even in these  difficult moments, we can only rely on God, who will work to transform our lives. Ezekiel’s  story presents three patterns that we can learn from. 

The first thing God told Ezekiel to do was to walk all around the valley and see what was out  there. This means that when dry bones occur in our faith community, God commands ministers  to be close to the spiritual life of the congregation and find out whether the spirit is healthy or  not; maybe you will find that it looks pretty good on the outside, but when you scratch  underneath, it could just be a dead bone. If ministers do not know what happened in the spirit life  of the community, they will feel shame. 

The second thing that God commands Ezekiel to prophesy life to the bones. Can you imagine  Ezekiel preaching to the valley full of dry bones? Yes, I can imagine what the ministers do every  Sunday. You can picture the ministers standing before a congregation full of dry bones and  saying,” Hello, dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.” I am sorry I have to say that because, in  some way, we are all dry bones. Don’t you agree?

Like Ezekiel, preaching to the dry bones must be with a strong faith because these dry bones  have no ears. Every Sunday, ministers preach with full confidence in the power of God’s word,  and bible study meets week by week. The people in ministry never give up because they know  that God’s word is so powerful it can transform dry bones into life. Just at the moment of  Ezekiel’s preaching, all of a sudden, there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together,  bone to its bone, and then into human shapes, then they grow tissue, then flesh, then skin.  But they have no breath. They are only corpses – the dead bodies. All these corpses are waiting  for God’s breath to fill in. God has His own order process when He awakens us. As Christians,  we pray that God’s word shapes us. 

And the last thing God said to Ezekiel, “Prophesy to the breath, and pray to the breath.” In  Hebrew, the word for breath, the word for wind, and the word for spirit are all the same word.  Their meaning and interpretation are based on the context. In Ezekiel’s case, God said to Ezekiel  to pray to the Holy Spirit to come and fill those corpses. After Ezekiel preached the word, he  prayed that the Holy Spirit would use the word in a powerful way and that the Holy Spirit would  come upon those corpses that he had just preached to, and then all these corpses would be  transformed into live beings. Do you notice that on our church Sunday bulletin, the “Prayer of  the people and the Lord’s prayer” are arranged just immediately after the Sermon or Reflection?  I wonder if that kind of agenda is to pray the Holy Spirit uses the preaching word in a powerful  way to raise us up and transform us. 

Today is Pentecost, the 50th day after Easter. In Christian tradition, this event represents the  fulfillment of the promise that Christ will baptize his followers with the Holy Spirit, and this day  symbolizes the birth of the church. WPG United Church has been going through over a hundred  years. The architecture of this building witnesses the growth of our church. I invite you to look at  the two pictures on the screen; one is the cornerstone of our Church Building, you know that the  cornerstone is the stone that forms the base of a corner of a building, joining two walls. The  cornerstone tells us that this building was erected in 1941 to the glory of God. We know that  there is no better way to glorify God than to fill the church with the Holy Spirit. So the other one  is beautiful stained glass at the entrance door of this building, on the right side of the door frame,  which symbolizes the Holy Spirit. I wonder whether the architecture designers want to tell  everyone who passes by or enters this building that this sanctuary is filled with the Holy Spirit. 

The meaning of Pentecost is far more than the birthday of the church. God promises a rebirth for  those who are lifeless in the dry bone valley. God promises a rebirth for those who are fearful  and hopeless in the upper room. Let us keep praying that the Holy Spirit fills our faith  community, gives us strength, energy, and courage, and helps us live out today’s stories. From  prayer to action. From a small room to a world full of beauty and possibility. Amen