Carolyn Park Presbyterian Church

From Dry Bones

Ezekiel 37:1-14

"The envelop please... and the winner is..". It's a tense moment... one of many... as someone opens the envelop... and the winner is announced. Of course... it's the Academy Awards... the "hottest" night in Hollywood... as the elite gather for the most coveted award in the movie industry. If you generally watch something on ABC on Sunday nights... it won't be on tonight!

Generally... when the award winner comes to the stage to accept the award... they have a long list of people they wish to thank. It's a way of acknowledging that this is an achievement they could not have earned alone. It took the efforts of many people with many talents to produce the movie... and it is certainly appropriate that this achievement should be shared with the many others who were involved in the project.

Sometimes... someone will hold up their Oscar and say that they wish to dedicate it to someone special in their lives... someone they feel has supported them in their career... or in some way made a significant contribution to their success.

Well... I'll admit... that's kind of a roundabout way of getting to the concept of dedication. Dedicating something we have earned for our work... like an Oscar... or something we have worked hard and long to achieve... like a book... or something we have given as a gift... like flowers for the sanctuary... is a common practice. We have at least one bouquet every Sunday that is dedicated to a loved one... and to the glory of God.

I checked Webster this morning and learned that dedicating a new building might mean that it is now open for public use... like a new library or a new civic center. Sometimes a new building is dedicated by way of a compliment... it is named for someone important in the community or for someone who gave a great deal of money to help build it. Sometimes a building... or part of a building... is dedicated for a specific use... such as a "fellowship hall" or "family activities center." Sometimes a building is dedicated to the glory of God... and it is to be used in the worship and the work of God.

Every Sunday we enter this church building... which is dedicated to the worship and service of God. We enjoy fellowship here... and we are more or less aware that there is a certain decency with which we conduct ourselves in this building out of respect for its purpose and dedication. We bring our offerings every Sunday... and we present ourselves... and our talents to God. In other words we dedicate at least a part of who we are... and what we have... to God... and to God's service.

Actually... our theme this morning is "hope." And it is not difficult to see how our passage in Ezekiel might have brought some ray of hope to the Israelites as their way of life... their kingdom disintegrated... and finally disappeared altogether. They were scattered far and wide... with little or no hope of ever being united again. And yet the "word of the Lord" comes to Ezekiel in this very strange vision about dry bones coming to life... and it is a word of hope... at least a breath of hope that the Lord will restore them once again.

Mary and Martha were grieving the death of their brother... and nothing in this world is more final than death. And yet... Jesus speaks... and breath returns to the lifeless body of Lazarus. There was great rejoicing among his family and friends... and once again... there is at least a breath of hope to all who read this story.

What impressed me most about both these passages is the message about where the gift of life comes from... our lives are a gift from God. In Acts Paul addresses the citizens of Athens after seeing an altar dedicated to "The Unknown God."

24 "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.
25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.
26 From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.
27 God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.
28 'For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.'

I suppose this idea about "belonging to God" has been on my mind recently because I am teaching catechism to four of our young people. The new catechism is called "Belonging to God–A First Catechism" and the first question asks..."Who are you?" The answer... "I am a child of God." The second question is... "What does it mean to be a child of God?" The answer... "That I belong to God, who loves me."

Now these words may not be new to you... they certainly aren't new to me... having studied the Heidelberg Catechism in my youth. But they have certainly made me stop and think about what it means to belong to God. This is an astounding statement... a life changing statement... and it calls for a life changing response. This is life-giving and life-changing information and it should make a big impression on anyone seeking a relationship with God.

You are God's child! You belong to God who loves you! Believe it... and live! There are no bones so dried up... no life so hopelessly lost that God cannot breath life into it once again. There is hope... there is life after death... there is salvation after sin. God can and will breath new life into everyone who wants to forsake their old way of life... to everyone who shares the vision of dried bones being reassembled and brought back to life by the power of God. Thanks be to God... there is hope for all of us to be the new people God wants us to be.

And now... just one more word about dedication. When we come to recognize that we owe our lives to the grace of God... that life is an undeserved gift from God... it becomes obvious that some sort of dedication to God is not only desirable... but also appropriate and necessary. I checked my thesaurus and found some other words that might be more helpful to you in thinking about the ways in which you might dedicate yourself and your new life to God. Commitment... devotion... involvement... faithfulness... and thankfulness were some of the synonyms I found.

It is my prayer today that each of us will daily renew our dedication to God in whom we live and move and have our being. Amen.

A Sermon Preached on March 21, 1999
The Rev. Shirley R. Frazier
Carolyn Park Presbyterian Church, Arabi, LA

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