Thursday, 5 July 2012

Ezekiel and the valley of the dry bones - SEAL theme Changes

Ezekiel and the valley of the dry bones
(Ezekiel 37)
Play “danse macabre” by Saint-Saens as children enter. I put up a powerpoint slide notice explaining that the music we were listening to was a dance done by skeletons and that if you listened carefully you could hear the bones rattling in the music (played by the xylophone).
I stook the school skeleton in hall. Yes, my local primary school has a school skeleton - full size, genuine article. It often seems to be in the YR classrooms. None of the children seem in the least bothered by it...
I don't know what those of you unlucky enough to be in skeletonless schools could do instead - a picture would have to do, I suppose. The skeleton isn't vital to the story, but he did rather bring it to life!

The Jewish people who wrote the Bible were once in deep trouble. An enemy army had come and destroyed their city of Jerusalem and taken then away as prisoners far away across the desert to a place called Babylon.

They thought they would never go home. They thought it was all over. They were very, very sad. There was no hope, and they might as well be dead.

The Bible says that God saw how sad they were and wanted to encourage them not to give up.

So he chose a man named Ezekiel, someone who would listen to what God said and tell everyone else.

One day Ezekiel had a sort of dream. You know how in a dream sometimes strange things happen…well that’s what happened to Ezekiel. He found himself in his dream far away from the city out on a deserted plain, flat and dusty, in the baking sunshine. But all around Ezekiel were bones, human bones. A lot of people had died here, thought Ezekiel. It was a place where a great battle had taken place, and the bodies had just been left. Now there was nothing but bones, dry bones, hundreds and hundreds of them. They were all scattered about and mixed up – a skull here and a leg bone there… What a muddle. And they were all as still as still could be, as dead as dead could be.

And then Ezekiel dreamed that God spoke to him.. “Well, Ezekiel – do you think these dry bones could ever get up and walk about and live again?”
What a daft idea – of course they couldn’t. They were dry and dead.
But Ezekiel said “I don’t know – you are God – you tell me…”

“Ezekiel” said God “What I want you to do is this. Talk to the bones and tell them to come together and sort themselves out into bodies again…” It sounded silly, but Ezekiel did as he was told. “Come on bones – sort yourselves out” shouted Ezekiel, probably feeling a bit stupid. Of course nothing would happen, would it?
But then he started to here a noise. First a faint scritch-scratching, then a rattling, then a clattering – the bones were moving! As he watched they moved themselves about across the desert. A skull found a backbone, a backbone found some legs and arms, and pretty soon there were whole skeletons lying on the ground.

Of course that was just the inside of the people. We’ve all got bones inside us, but we aren’t just bones. We need muscles and things to join the bones together. As Ezekiel watched in his dream the skeletons grew muscles and ligaments and then skin. There they were, lying on the ground, whole bodies.

But then God said to him. “they look pretty good, but they aren’t alive – they aren’t breathing, so that’s no good. Now I want you to talk to the breath – call it to come from the four winds and make them live.”

“Come on breath,” shouted Ezekiel “Come and make these bodies live!”. And as he waited he felt a gentle breeze sweep over the bodies, and… they all took a deep breath in, and a deep breath out, and another deep breath in again…And they all stood up…full of life from the tips of their fingers to the tips of their toes.”

(get the children to breathe in and out, stretch, wriggle their fingers and toes.)

And Ezekiel woke up from his dream…What a strange thing. What did it mean?
Ezekiel thought and thought. And then he went to his people and he told them this.

We feel just as hopeless as a bundle of dry bones. As if nothing good will ever happen again. As if it is all over for us. But God has other ideas. He can take us back to our own land again. We can start again. We mustn’t give up. We must keep going… God is still with us and wants to help us.
And the people believed him. And they were right – they did eventually go home, and rebuild their city.

Sometimes we all feel like giving up – there’s no point trying, we think, it will never come right.
Perhaps when we do we could remember Ezekiel’s dreams. If we keep going and keep trying, with help from others and from God things can change.

Prayer: In silence think of something you find hard and feel like giving up on.
Ask God to help us when we feel like that so that we can keep trying, and thank him for all the people who encourage us in difficult times.