August 10, 1865 a small group of people from Comfort, Texas made their sad way to
the Neuces River. When they got to the place, there were bones lying around everywhere.
Human bones. Exactly three years to the day before, a group of German Texans trying
to get to Mexico had been ambushed and shot here. Nine were hung. Seven more were
shot as they tried to cross the Rio Grande into Mexico. They gathered up all the
bones. They thought the bones represented 35 of their people. It was a sad day.
The bones now reside under a limestone obelisk in Comfort, Texas. On the obelisk
the words “Treue der Union” are written.
The feelings the people had as they picked up the bones of their dead relatives and
friends scattered around there on the ground near Comfort, Texas are the feelings
Ezekiel had as he looked at the valley of death and saw the great many dry bones
Buzzards circling in the sky is not a good omen. There is no hope or help for stricken
road kills smashed and broken on the hot highways of summer. There was a reason
why the skull and crossbones was the flag for pirate ships.
There has been a terrible battle. Many---everyone!---has been slain. Their bones
lie around. And it is in this hopeless place with these dry bones that the words
come to us today, “Breathe into these slain…” This is the place where we hear the
bones rattling as they heed the preaching of God’s Word. This is the place where
the bones stand up and are numbered, “A great army.”
On this Pentecost Sunday, this is what we consider…..
PENTECOST: PREACH TO BONES
1. They are dead
2. They are dry
3. It is done
1. They are dead
The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord
and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth
among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley.
That is exactly the picture outside the Texas town of Comfort on August 10, 1865.
What do you suppose would have happened in 1865 if someone had said there in that
picking up of dry bones, “What do you think? Can these bones live?” It was hot
on that day in 1865. It is always hot on August 10th in Texas. Sultry hot. Sweaty
hot. And it was terrible and hard work, looking for moldering bones of loved ones
in the dirt and grass. It would have been hard comfort indeed to have said, “I think
these dry bones can live.” They were dead bones! The people who owned them were
dead. They weren’t going to live any more. They were unable to do anything. They
couldn’t even bury their own bones. Their loved ones had to do that.
Death is about bones. Death is final. Death is debilitating. Death is deliberate
and deadly. Death is….death! Bones!
The only thing to do with dead bones is….to preach to them. Then he said to me,
“Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!”
When this preaching takes place, wonderful and miraculous things happen. The most
unexpected thing of all happens. The dead bones live. They move, they rattle, they
stand up together and God’s Spirit enters them and they live.
This thing happens---this impossible and unheard of thing happens--- through preaching.
The Bible says that it is through the foolishness of what is preached that people
are saved and that their dry spiritual bones come together in life. This thing that
is foolish and despised. This thing called preaching from God’s Word and preaching
to the lifeless and dead. This makes Ezekiel 37 happen again and again. It has
happened even here in this little valley of dry bones at 3800 Shell Road in Georgetown,
Texas. Here we don’t say derogatorily, “Don’t preach to me.” Actually, here the
people say, “Preach to me.” That is why you are here. Not to hear a particular
preacher of the Word but to hear a particular preaching of the Word. You are here
to hear God say, “Live! Live through my Son Jesus! Get his Spirit in you through
my words! Live!”
“Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are
dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’
The address is right. It is 3800
Shell Road, Georgetown, Texas. The date is right too: May 31, 2009. We are the
right ones too. We were dead. We understand what the sentence says, “We are dried
up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.” We too were slain by our sins in that
awful ongoing battle. That’s what we were. That is what was. But that is not what
is today because God’s Spirit has come again on this Pentecost Day and entered the
2. They are dry
I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He
asked me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ I said, ‘O Sovereign Lord, you alone
know.” Twice God mentions that the bones are very dry. Dry bones.
God’s Holy Spirit doesn’t come to us because we have just fainted in faith. God’s
Holy Spirit doesn’t come to us because we are just tired and resting our eyes for
a while. God’s Holy Spirit doesn’t come to us because we have a little touch of
something and don’t feel well. God’s Holy Spirit comes to us because we are dead.
That is as inert as inert can be. There is nothing that can do less than that.
Not only are people without Jesus dead, they are very dead. The bones are very
dry. Very dry.
But there it is! “Dry bones, hear the Word of the Lord…” There is a reason why
our God says twice in this reading from Ezekiel 37 that our bones are very dry. We
come to church to celebrate what he does for us. Our circumstance by ourselves is
not only that we are reduced to bones. We have been brought to the stage of being
dry bones. By ourselves, that is the way it is. We come as dry bones to “hear the
Word of the Lord.” Dry bones scattered and hopeless and dry. Over the limestone
obelisks of our graves it won’t be written, “This person hopes one day to get up
from here by his wonderful strength and attention to detail.” Some force---some
Holy Spirit of God, the only Spirit of God---has to do something to bones that are
very dry. It is just this Spirit Speech that gives us comfort today.
“Dry bones, hear the Word of the Lord,” is the command that comes from this Spirit
on this Pentecost Sunday and on every Sunday.
3. It is done
“Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the
Lord… ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come from the four winds, O breath,
and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’
So the preacher (who in this case was Ezekiel) did what he was told to do and did
the only thing he could do. He preached his sermon. “So I prophesied as he commanded
me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet---a vast
army.” The prophet prophesied and the Spirit acted and the result was there for
all to see. It was a done deal. It happened. God did it. God has done it.
Really God has opened our graves already. He has done it. He did it with that first
Easter…that event that happened seven Sundays before Pentecost Day. We have lived
under this fear of death. We have been saved and led out from that fear of death.
It is just as it says in God’s Bible, “…free those who all their lives were held
in slavery by their fear of death.” (Hebrews 2:15) When we hear our God say, “O
my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them…Then you, my
people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from
them” when we hear those words we know that our God will do this…and that he has
done this. It is so certain that it will happen because it is so certain that God
already did cause it to happen. He raised Jesus. Jesus spent his three days in
our graves so that we won’t have to spend three days and an eternity of days in those
We don’t celebrate Easter as only something God will do. We celebrated Easter seven
Sundays ago because of what God has done. The verse before us this morning is absolutely
and wonderfully true: “Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have
done it, declares the Lord.”
And what has been done is what will be done too. On that last and greatest Pentecost
when God’s great Spirit once more touches dry bones. Amen.