The prophet Ezekiel made sure to indicate that the bones were very dry. Where was this place? A graveyard, a charnel yard for letting bodies decompose down to just the dry bones, so that these could be collected and placed in a small tomb?  Was it a battlefield half-forgotten, the violence of war or siege long gone, but the bones still here, only drier? We don’t get to know that just yet. Just that the valley was full of bones, and that they were very dry.

So, when presence of God, the spirit of God, the hand of God, asks Ezekiel ‘can these bones live?’  Ezekiel might plausibly have replied, ‘Maybe if they were nice fresh bones, but hmm, have you noticed that they’re very dry. I mean all the marrow is gone, not any red blood being made there in the hollow of the bones that can collect all the living breath and carry the life all around a living body, moved by that miraculous four-cycle engine you built and rebuilt with tears and fire and placed to run hot within in us. Uh,…these are very dry.”

But that’s not what the prophet Ezekiel says. What he says is “Lord, you know.” Rather humble, he knows that he doesn’t know. When the one whose glory approached like living creatures, wheels within a wheel way in the middle of the air, when this one speaks, human knowledge has reached its ceiling. Lord you know, show me, teach me, teach my heart to know and see according to your heart and way. Lord you know, teach me what to look for, work in me what you would work. And God says to Ezekiel “mortal” yes that is true “mortal prophesy to the bones” God bids the prophet to speak, to speak into the face of what was dead, beyond hope, beyond knowing. God brings the prophet into the power of the creative living word, witness bone join to bone, flesh grow, blood begin to flow, panting for lack of breath. and what’s more God says to Ezekiel “mortal prophesy to the breath.” The breath of life, the four winds, the completeness of creation enters these bones and gives them the breath of life. God’ renewing spirit restoring them to fullness of life. And God tells Ezekiel who these are. “These are the dead of my people, and I will bring them back from the dead, and place them in the land I gave them.”

In Christ we hope in the whole creation raised up from bondage to the forces of death. The dry bones aren’t lost to God. Death has an allotted place in this created order of things, but “death shall have no dominion.” The bones of deer and plants rot away, and bears eat the skunk cabbage medicine that rises out of the muck. In Christ we begin to see that in fact death becomes the gate to the fullness of life with God. Our hearts that love and grieve can see this.

Martha and Mary have begun to see that something in their beloved friend Jesus, even if they couldn’t understand it. “If you had been here Jesus, our brother would be alive.” Jesus has told his disciples that the illness and death of Lazarus would be an occasion for revealing God’s glory in the son. What would it look like? Like deeds of power, amazing healings, casting out demons, rockets to mars? No, the power that revealed itself in the vision of Ezekiel, who said ‘lord you know’, the power announced by the angel Gabriel, to which the mother of God replied, ‘Let it be according to your word’, this power, this glory manifested in tears, a word of life for our dry bones.