Reflection on the Valley of Dried Bones

We are living in unusual times. This is the first Sunday of almost total “lock down”. We have been told to leave our homes only for important shopping, medical needs or if our work is important to the economy and cannot be done from home.

People’s reactions have been mixed including fear, apprehension, “panic” bulk buying, and generosity (over 1/2 million volunteers to help the NHS and social services

This Sunday’s Church of England readings for Holy Communion all have one theme: hope in time of trouble.  On first reading  Ezekiel 37: 1-14 doesn’t look hopeful at all. It is sometimes known as “The Valley of Dry Bones”

Ezekiel lived around 2,600 years ago at a time of tragedy for his people. Their nation had been invaded by an enemy and the people were in exile in the enemy’s land. They felt not just fear and apprehension but also despair. Into this situation God brings hope. God takes Ezekiel in a vision to, “…the middle of a valley; it was full of bones…there were many in the valley and they were very dry.” This was an image of fear, apprehension and despair. Ezekiel’s people were saying, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.”. In that situation God brought hope. He ordered Ezekiel to “prophesy” to the bones saying, “Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones…I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you and will cover you with skin.” The bones came together and sinews, flesh and skin came on to them, “…but there was no breath in them.” God gives another order to Ezekiel, “’Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath…Come from the four winds, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.’ I prophesied as he commanded me, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.”

The message of the vision was clear. God was bringing hope to people who thought that, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost…”.

Our situation with Covid 19 is very different from that of the people of Ezekiel’s time. But the message of the passage is timeless. Christians believe that God is always the God of hope, as much now as then. We have seen it this week in the work of our key workers and in the clapping on the streets in appreciation of our NHS workers. Perhaps this week when you are feeling as if you are in a valley of bones remember that there is hope. If Ezekiel saw in desperate and unsettling times; perhaps we can also.

God of hope, in these times of change and uncertainty, unite our nation and guide our leaders with your wisdom. Give us courage and generosity as we overcome our fears. Help us to look to a future in which all may prosper and share, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Gareth Lawrence – Reader St Mark’s Church