Shekinah Glory


Dry Bones
March 9, 2008, 12:34 pm
Filed under: Bible, Christianity, Church, faith, God, Holy Spirit, Inspiration, Life, Religion, Spirituality

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Ezekiel 17:1-7

On Thursday my daughter Calla was home from school in anticipation for parent/teacher conferences on Friday. This meant that either my daughter would could to work with me or I could play hooky and spend a day playing. Which do you think I chose?

“Let’s go to a museum,” Calla said.

It takes little prompting to get me to one of the various Smithsonian museums with my daughter. On deeper conversation we decided on going to the National Museum of Natural History. Upon arriving we calibrated our watches so that we could return to our parking space before the meter ran out. Walking the two blocks Calla revealed that this was in fact her favorite museum in D.C. I wondered why this museum had such popularity amongst children. I remember walking amazed through the University of Nebraska’s Anthropology museum and wondering at the dinosaurs and Wooly Mammoths that peered down menacing upon all who would enter their domain.

“Bugs!” was the loud response that was made when I asked what we should see first. Slyly I hurried us through the invertebrates and reptiles on our way to the mounds of spiders and ants. Room after room of skeletal webs stared out from glass cases. We both slackened our pace to look at the Gorillas, Calla squealed as she pointed to the giraffe and I was slack jawed at the intricate webs of tiny bones covering the wingspan of a common stingray. We passed the bleached bones of llamas, mice, carp, pythons and turtles. Each was posed in a position that simulated how they would look if they were not merely bones, but the organs, muscles and skin were still intact.

We did eventually see bugs, but I found them to be quite anti-climactic after the dramatic rooms of bones we had just exited. After finishing with the insects we thought that it would be good to make a trip to the restrooms. As we twisted and turned through the exhibits to the only bathrooms on the second floor we passed exhibit halls that I had not actually ever seen before.

We walked through a section called Western cultures and there were the wonderful life sized wax figures painting on cave walls. On our way back we stopped to watch a few films for a while to rest our legs. First, we learned the intricate wrapping job of the ancient Egyptian mummy. We were mesmerized by these ancient burial techniques. The next movie was on how these mummies were ex rayed at George Washington Hospital to unlock the secrets of their lives and death. Finally, we watched a movie about the valley of the dead. In this grainy 1979 film an excavation site was uncovered with ancient burial tombs. We were told that around the corner of the museum recreations of these same tombs had been erected to show us the way these ancient people had been buried. Looking through the oval Plexiglas we saw more bleached bones.

One of the final exhibits that Calla wanted to see was not at the Natural History Museum, but at the National Gallery of art. As Calla and I hustled through the National Gallery of Art we passed through the bronze and red wax sculptures so that we could stand immediately between two wonderful little ballerina girls by August Rodin. These two were the reason we had decided to put 45 more minutes in our meter. We didn’t want to go home without seeing those majestic ballerinas. Before we left Calla and I ventured into the next room filled with Degas paintings and sculptures of dancers so full of limber life. They twirled, reached and stretched. It was quite a shock going from the dry bones of dead animals to the exuberant forms of women and girls dancing.

As we weaved our way toward the exit I asked Calla if we could look in one last gallery quickly before we left. It was a small show of woodcuts from the Baroque period. As we moved from the first to the last woodcuts one of the final three woodcuts caught my attention. There stuffed between a woodcut of Jesus’ betrayal by Judas and the serpent in Revelations was a wonderful representation of our dry bones text from Ezekiel. In it the prophet Ezekiel sits horrified as bones morph into loose forms and then into full-blown humans. These re-animated humans look like the zombies from a George Romero horror movie. They are stiffly walking on limbs that had long since lost the spring in their steps. The bones have sprung to life and this vision of new life in front of Ezekiel is a foreshadowing to hope that culminates with the ending of the Lenten death march with the triumphal craving form resurrection. Even in its grisly theme it is apparent from this woodcut that this vision is one that is moving from impossible death to life. It is the hope of life where none exists.

It is a hope that is desperately needed today when we are confronted on all sides with desperate news. The economy is slumping, gas prices are hitting our pocketbooks, bankruptcy is growing and homeowners are merely leaving the keys on the front doors of their once grand houses in record numbers. All the while our current president condones brutal, violent and degrading torture saying it is a “valuable tool.” While scientists debate whether it is too late for us to turn back the environmental clock on our own specie’s extinction. It is news that is tinged with desperation and death.

Yet, in the midst of this life sapping new we are left with the frightening vision of Ezekiel of life coming from the depth of death. This is not merely resurrection, but a recreation of life in a place that only has the darkest possibility of death. The promise is that God’s spirit will give us life, a sense of place and we will once again clearly see the actions of God. We are called to be a people when surrounded by the bleached bones of death to see the vision of the possibility of dancing and stretching ballerinas. When we are told that the situation is impossible we are to offer the comfort that comes from the hope that the same God who makes bones into life will also be the one whose rod and staff comfort us, even deep in the valley of the shadow of death. It is the hope that when God’s spirit is forced into our darkest graves they will burst open with life and then we will once again know our God.

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