Only after disaster can we be resurrected. It’s only after you’ve lost everything that you’re free to do anything. Nothing is static, everything is evolving, everything is falling apart. — Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
Corruption has appeared throughout the land and sea as a result of people’s actions, so he will make them taste (the consequences of) some of their actions, so that perhaps they will return (to righteousness). — Quran, 30.41; and
The earth lies polluted
under its inhabitants;
for they have transgressed laws,
violated the statutes,
broken the everlasting covenant.
Therefore a curse devours the earth,
and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt;
therefore the inhabitants of the earth dwindled,
and few people are left. — Isaiah 24.5–6
Creation groans; and we are part of creation. So let me ask: did this last week frighten you? Like we’re on the edge of a precipice? About to fall into an abyss if we don’t burn to a crisp first?
The poet proposes a two-stage philosophy of history which is crucial for the full acknowledgment of exile and the full practice of hope in the face of exile. The negative has happened; the positive is only promised. The poem places us between the destruction already accomplished in 587 B.C.E. and the homecoming only promised but keenly anticipated. The oracle places us between a death already wrought and a resurrection only anticipated. — Walter Brueggemann, A Commentary on Jeremiah: Exile and Homecoming
The last couple of Sundays, we’ve been visiting the time of the Exile, which was around five hundred years before the birth of Jesus. Do you remember?—the people of Judah and the city of Jerusalem were taken as exiles to Babylon, and there they stayed until Babylon itself was defeated. Then they were allowed to go ‘home’, though of course most people who had known Jerusalem as home were dead by now.
It’s impossible to overemphasise the importance of the Exile—for Israel, for us as Christians, for the whole world.
It was in the Exile that they began to write much of the Hebrew Scriptures, or the Old Testament. They started to collect and put together the ancient stories of Israel were while they were in Exile.
Scribes gathered together the old traditions to write the stories of the past, stories like the Flood, or the life of Moses. At the same time, prophets such as Jeremiah spoke new words into the current age.
In Babylon, the exiles had to work out a theology that responded to a place of defeat. The old idea had been that Yahweh was Israel’s God, and the other tribes and nations had their own gods. Yahweh was just the best of the bunch. Until he wasn’t, because the Babylonian gods had defeated him and shown they were more powerful.
What could the exiles have done with this? I guess they could have decided the Babylonian gods with names like Bel, Nebo and Ishtar were the winners, so they should ditch Yahweh and pledge allegiance to them.
Haggai 1.15b — 2.9
In his argument with the Sadducees in today’s Gospel reading, Jesus says:
Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. Indeed they cannot die any more, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection.
What does it mean to be a ‘child of the resurrection’? Let me mention two things:
- It means to be a person who even in grief or disappointment lives in hope of the living God.
- It means to be someone whose way of life reflects the new life of Jesus Christ, the risen Lord.
A child of the resurrection is someone whose way of living is marked by the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. A child of the resurrection is not determined by the past, by its hurts and slights or even by its abuses. A child of the resurrection lives out of the future, God’s future, God’s new world.
A friend of mine, a child of the resurrection, recently wrote:
…we have the power to change the voices and rewrite the patterns and not make ourselves wrong or soiled or not good enough.…we have to have the courage and believe we are worthy.
A child of the resurrection receives the strength to have this courage and belief through the presence of the living Jesus within.
Can these bones live?
It was ‘only’ a vision, but still Ezekiel felt uncomfortable. He was standing in a valley of dry old bones. And God was asking him a very silly question.
Mortal, can these bones live?
What to say? Standing in a pile of bones bleached white by the sun was not inspiring Ezekiel’s confidence. If he said No they’re dead and dusted, he could be accused of doubting God’s power. But if he said Yes Lord of course, he might have to say how on earth that could possibly happen.
So he takes the cautious path:
O Lord God, you know.
Ezekiel tosses the ball right back into God’s court. But God has been around the block a few times more than Ezekiel and the ball is tossed right back at him:
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.
Ezekiel prophesies, and the bones become a mighty people. No one is more surprised than Ezekiel.