Come Alive

When all that’s left of a body is the bare bones, one would think that there’s no way that it can come back to life, and yet if God says, “Live!” then they will come to life. We gather together to celebrate the new life we have in Jesus and the life-giving breath of the Holy Spirit.

Read Acts 2:1-21, Ezekiel 37:1-14 here.

Listen here:

Today is Pentecost. It is so perfect that this year Pentecost comes right after we have spent the week teaching kids about God’s goodness at our community vacation Bible school.  Pentecost was an amazing event, and so was our VBS.  Each day we had a different theme, and all the themes were like this – When life is _______, God is good!  When life is unfair, scary, changing, sad, or good, God is good. Each day we talked about life situations and Bible stories related to the word in that blank, and whenever a leader said the first part of the phrase, the kids would shout, “God is good!”

It was so fun to hear the VBS kids all shout, “God is good!” at the top of their lungs.  And it was sooooooo loud!  Especially when all 200 of them were together!  It was so loud that I’m surprised that people out on the streets in Sterling weren’t running in to see what was happening, just like all the people did that day of Pentecost!  And I’m so glad that I was there to see and hear and Be a part of all that God was doing this week with all the kids and adults that were there, and I’m so thankful for all of you that helped make that happen, and for all of you that prayed for this.

We started praying for this VBS all the way back in January when Seneca Bates asked if we would take on the job of running the preschool part, then we kept on praying and we got to see how things came together, and we got to Be a part of all that God was doing.

Plea – See – Be  Three words. PleaseeBe. That’s what we did.  We made a Plea to God to help us decide and to help us accomplish this once we decided.  Then we watched to see how God would answer our Pleas.  And then we took the steps to Be the people God was calling us to Be.

PleaSeeBe     Let’s say that together.    PleaSeeBe.

That’s how things went down at Pentecost, too.  It started with the Plea.  We read in Acts 1 that Jesus told the disciples to go tell the world about all that they had seen and heard, but not until they received the Holy Spirit.  Jesus said,

“Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you Before. John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:4-5)

So while they waited, they prayed. (Acts 1:14)

See – And then on that day when they were all gathered for the feast of Shavuot, they heard a loud wind, they saw what looked like flames descending on their heads, and everyone gathered there was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages.

They knew that Jesus had said the Holy Spirit would come, and it happened in such a dramatic way that they were able to see that the Spirit had indeed come.

And then everyone came running to see what was happening.  But they didn’t understand what they were seeing and hearing, so Peter explained.  He told them about passages from the Book of Joel and from the Psalms that had said that this would happen, and that had prophesied about Jesus.

Plea – See – Be

Plea – ask, pray.  See – watch for God’s work.

Be.

The people asked Peter, “What do we do now?  How should we respond?”  And he said, “Repent and be baptized.”

Be changed.  Be renewed.  Be a part of what God is doing.

PleaSeeBe

There is PleaSeeBe in the story about Ezekiel, too.  He was a priest who was a prophet to Israel back in the days when the Babylonians had wiped out Jerusalem and taken a whole bunch of the people to Babylon. His prophecies and visions begin around the fifth year that the Jewish people were living in exile.  Some of Zeke’s visions are pretty trippy. He’s the guy that saw the wheel.  Some people think Ezekiel was a crazy dude, but he was living in the middle of some crazy times, and he had to do some crazy stuff to get the people’s attention in the middle of all that, like lying down on his side facing the city for 430 days (Ez.4).  God told Ezekiel, “These people are stubborn and hard-hearted and reBellious, but I am sending you to say to them, ‘this is what God says,’ and whether they listen or refuse to listen, at least they will know they had a prophet among them.” (Ez 2:4-5)

For Ezekiel, “PleaSeeBe” meant to listen and talk to God, see what God is doing, and be God’s voice to the people.  Ezekiel’s name is a reflection of his calling.  Whenever you see “El” in a name, that is God. Ezekiel means “God strengthens.”  Ezekiel had to rely on God’s words and God’s strength.  Ezekiel helped the people to hear God’s words and to rely on God’s strength.

Plea – Ezekiel gets a vision of a valley of bones.  This might have been what some places looked like after the armies had come through and wiped out entire cities.  The armies didn’t stick around to clean up the mess, and nobody was still alive to bury the dead, so they were left laying where they fell.[1]  Birds came and picked at the flesh.  Bugs came and had their feast.  Over time they rotted and decayed, and eventually all that was left were the bare bones.

God asks Ezekiel, “Can these bones live?”  When God asks, God addresses Ezekiel as “Son of Man.”  The NRSV says “mortal” but the Hebrew word there is benadam.  Son of humans.  A reminder to Ezekiel that he was called to be identified with the people he served.[2]  So it’s not surprising that Ezekiel doesn’t even attempt to answer God’s question.  He knows he cannot.  Only God knows the answer.

Then God tells Ezekiel how to resurrect the bones: Speak a prophetic message to them, telling them that God will put breath in them and they will live.  The Hebrew word for breath there is ruah.  It means breath, and wind, and spirit.  The ruah is the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit that came in the mighty wind and tongues of fire upon the disciples on Pentecost.[3]

See – Ezekiel watches to see what will happen, and immediately there is a rattling noise as the bones come together, and then muscles form on the bones and then skin covers the muscles.  Now there’s flesh on the bones, but there’s still no breath of life.

Plea – There’s yet another step.  Ezekiel has to ask for the Holy Spirit to breathe into the bodies.  Just like the disciples had to pray and wait for the Holy Spirit to come, those dead bodies needed Ezekiel to ask the Holy Spirit to come, and so he does.

See – And then in Ezekiel’s vision, the Spirit breathed new breath into those bodies and they stood up on their feet.  Ezekiel saw the power of God at work in bringing new life.

Be – God sent Ezekiel to Be a message of hope to the people, to Be a part of changing the conversation.  The people were saying, “Our bones are dried up, our hope is lost, we are cut off completely.”  But Ezekiel was sent to Be encouraging, to tell them that although they had messed up and God’s punishment was this exile, and though it would last for 70 years, still God would bring them back.  Don’t give up.  God says, “I will put my Spirit in you and you will live.” (Ez. 37:14)

PleaSee – Be   Ask God for the Holy Spirit, watch to see the Spirit at work, Be strengthened and encouraged, Be the messengers and doers.

It’s not just what happens in the Bible.  It’s what happens now, today.  We need to PleaSeeBe.  We need to ask God to breathe new life into us, and then we need to watch to see how God is answering our prayer and to see the Holy Spirit working in us, and we need to Be a part of the new life that’s happening, Be the church, Be the body of Jesus Christ.  We’ve already been praying, today we’re seeing new life in a variety of ways, one of which is our UPC101 class this afternoon to welcome new people.  Be encouraged. Be thankful. Be a part of the new life and new work that God is doing!

Plea – One of the ways we’re going to do that is by getting together on Tuesday mornings at 9 am to pray together, to Plea, starting this Tuesday.  I know that time doesn’t work for everyone, but that’s the time that works for some who asked us to get together to pray. Come join us if you can, or If you want to get together to pray at another time, we can do that too.  Talk to me, or put a note on the yellow card, and we’ll help you make that happen.  It is powerful to pray together, and God will hear our prayers from home or work or school, or wherever we are, and at whatever time we choose to pray.  The most important thing is that we do pray.

But it’s not just about praying.  It’s PleaSeeBe.

See – We need to write down what we’re asking of God, and then make sure we watch for signs of God’s work.  At Pentecost the Holy Spirit made a grand entrance so that everyone could see and know the Holy Spirit was there.  Sometimes the Holy Spirit needs to get our attention because we’re stubborn and hardhearted, too, and life gets crazy for us.  And sometimes we’re too busy looking at the past or worrying about the future to see what God is doing in the present, so God has to do something dramatic to get our attention.

But sometimes the work of the Holy Spirit is more subtle.  Our memory verse for this week is Galatians 5:22-23 which tells us some of the ways we can see the Holy Spirit at work.  When we see love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness or self-control, we know the Holy Spirit is at work.  Especially if we’re seeing those things in situations where we might normally see something quite different.  We saw our kids and our leaders showing these signs of the work of the Spirit this past week at VBS.

Isaiah 11:2-4 tells us about some more signs of the work of the Spirit:

…the Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,

the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

He will delight in obeying the Lord.

He will not judge by appearance nor make a decision based on hearsay.

He will give justice to the poor and make fair decisions for the exploited.

Whenever we see these in somebody, we know the Holy Spirit is at work.

Be – And we can Be encouraged and strengthened to Be witnesses telling about God’s work, helping others to see that the Holy Spirit is working, and helping others to see that there are signs of life. Instead of focusing on signs of death, let’s focus on the signs of life.  God is always working.  We just aren’t always watching.

Plea – See – Be    We need all three.  We need to ask God to help us. We need to see that God is working. We need to see so that we can Be strengthened and encouraged to Be the people God is calling us to Be.

We read the Bible to see how God was at work long ago, but it’s not just about seeing what happened then.  God does not change.  Jesus is the same, and when we see the Holy Spirit at work in the Bible, it helps us to see how the Spirit is working today.  One of the ways we’re going to work on this together over the next 40 days is to read the book of Acts together.  In your bulletins there’s a reading plan, and as we do this we need to keep on remembering Plea – SeeBe.  Say it with me.

Plea – Ask God to help you see how the Holy Spirit is at work in what we’re reading.  Pray this every time before you start reading.

See – Watch for the signs of the life of the Holy Spirit in those stories – the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control, and the wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, respect, delight in obedience to God, fairness and justice.  Take note of what you see, thank God for what you see, and watch to see these same things happening in our lives today.

We’re going to be putting some of the things we see in the newsletter, so watch for signs of life there, too.

Be – And then use what you see to Be encouraged, to Be witnesses, to Be living examples of the life of the Spirit as you watch for these same signs in yourself and in the people around you, and as we say yes to the Holy Spirit, yes to new life.

God says in Isaiah 43:19, “For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I am making a pathway through the wilderness. I am creating rivers in the dry wasteland.”

Mortals, can these bones live?

Yes, by the power of the Holy Spirit, there is new life through Jesus Christ at work in us!

Let us Plea, See and Be the bearers of that new life to the world!

[1] Douglas Stuart, Communicator’s Commentary: Ezekiel (Word Publishing), p342.

[2] Bullock, C Hassell. 1982. “Ezekiel, bridge Between the Testaments.” Journal Of The Evangelical Theological Society 25, no. 1: 23-31. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed January 10, 2012).

[3] Stuart, Communicator’s Commentary: Ezekiel, p344.

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