November 12, 2009

Encouraging Words 11/12/09-Strong at the Broken Places

Lori Heine writes for

The hand of the LORD came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them; and they were very dry. He said to me, "Mortal, can these bones live?"
(Ezekiel 37:1-3)

We are living in hard times. It seems the very atmosphere in which we live has been poisoned. We breathe air polluted by selfishness and fear, as politicians and pundits pit us against one another in competition for rights we are told are scarce. We feel we must fight for our survival.

These days, we are having a tough time being compassionate. Concern for others is a luxury we are told we can no longer afford. Though if we study our history, we quickly learn that the same people warning us what fools we are to love the marginalized, to work for the liberation of those held captive, have always said the same thing.

During the Great Depression, they chided us for sharing what we had. There wasn't enough, they told us, and we were squandering what little we had on slackers and ingrates. Those who were down-and-out, those who were persecuted and oppressed, were judged to deserve it. It was easier to forget them that way.

The bones God showed the prophet Ezekiel were unclean - those of a people held in such contempt they'd been slaughtered and left to rot in the desert. Broken and trampled by wild beasts, the names of their owners long forgotten. But God breathed "His" Spirit upon those bones, and as Ezekiel prophesied hope to them, they knit back together. New flesh grew over them, and they came back to life. What other human beings may despoil, abandon and forget, God never gives up on.

Those who hope for progress in any society, those who actively work for it, sometimes risking their lives to bring it about, are almost never the comfortable, prosperous or privileged. They are those who have themselves felt the sting of the lash, wiped the spittle from their faces and endured exile in the desert. They have been abandoned. Their belongings have been looted, and they've been given up for dead. This was true not only in Ezekiel's time, but even today. Both of the pastors at my church are openly gay. Everyone who joins our fast-growing congregation is warmed by their welcome. Steve and Jeffrey have known rejection, and are determined that all who have suffered as they have will find a home inside their doors.

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