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Sunday, April 12, 2015

Today’s Reading | 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 round 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.” (NRSV)

When have you looked out over your life and only seen a valley of dry bones?

For me it happened in the spring of 1985. I was graduating from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music with my bachelor’s degree and had nowhere to go next. I had made the mistake of only applying to one graduate school, Eastman, and had not been accepted. So as everyone else was moving on to graduate school or gainful employment, I didn’t have either. All I had was a couple of part-time jobs that were putting me through college and no good options ahead. It felt really awful, even humiliating; I was looking at a valley of dry bones.

It forced me into a time of discernment to seek what really mattered in my life. With God’s help, I realized I thought I wanted to be a concert organist, but my true calling was to be a pastoral musician and work primarily in the church. So when it came time to audition for graduate schools again, I applied to seven programs, this time to those that had a strong emphasis on music in the church. In the second round I was accepted to the Yale Institute of Sacred Music and was never so fulfilled and happy. The whole experience completely changed the course of my life for the better.

We all face a valley of dry bones at some point in our lives. Maybe it is with the loss of a job, a relationship, or the death of a loved one. When we encounter that valley, we need to set aside time to listen for God. God can bring new life to any challenge. If we listen for the word of the Lord, be open to where the Spirit is leading, and then actively go where that Spirit is leading, then that valley of dry bones in our lives can become alive, breathing, and dancing with joy.

Lord, when I see nothing but dry bones, help me listen for your voice. Let even the driest bones in my life have new flesh and new breath. Amen.

Written by John W. W. Sherer, Organist and Director of Music

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