Fix Our Hearts

March 29, 2020

Church of the Servant, Wilmington, NC

5th Sunday in Lent – Year A
Ezekiel 37:1-14

The Collect for the 5th Sunday in Lent

Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

 

Sermon Transcript:

Hi everyone. I hope you’re doing well. And more than that, I hope you’re being safe. As we are embarking on the challenges that come with a brand new virus that no one has an immunity for, we have to take extra precautions. And one of those is for us to suspend worship together for a time. So while we aren’t gathering in person, I’m thankful we have ways to gather virtually.

At the beginning of our worship services together we say a prayer called The Collect, and yet we would normally pronounce it collect. It’s a prayer that gathers us, that collects us and sets a theme for our time together. And as today is the fifth Sunday in Lent, I would like to begin by saying today’s Collect.

Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners, grant your people grace, to love what you command and to desire what you promise, that among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found, through Jesus Christ, our Lord who lives and reigns with you in the holy spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.

As I was reflecting on this Collect earlier the week, the phrase that struck me most profoundly was “the swift and varied changes of the world.” We are certainly in an amazingly swift and varied change in our world – if that’s not the biggest understatement of the century, I don’t know what is.

It’s unimaginable. Every morning I wake up and I just think I can’t wrap my brain around this. And yet I realized as I reflected on the Collect that it doesn’t say anything about our brains, but it does say something about our hearts. In it, we are calling on God to help us fix our hearts where true joys are found. Fixing our hearts where true joys are found will help us navigate this time that is so anxious and fraught with uneasiness.

I am seeing many, many acts of true joy in recent days. It’s hard to believe it’s only been two weeks and we still have a way to go and I hope this creativity will continue.

I’ve seen true joys in those who have so musical gifts, they’ve created virtual symphonies and virtual concerts. The beauty of it is that they’re sharing it with us and we get to celebrate in their gifts and in that joy.

I see true joys from the people who go out on their balconies when they’re in cities that are in shutdown. I’ve seen it in Italy and in Spain and most recently in the UK, where they go out, they sing, they dance, or they clap and cheer for the health workers who are doing so much to try to deal with this difficult situation.

I see true joy in the nonprofits that are still finding creative ways, imaginative ways to still serve the people that need food and that need to be cared for, yet they’re doing it safely to protect themselves, and to protect the community they serve.

And my most fun, true joy of all in the last two weeks has been watching many of you in our Church of the Servant family sharing haikus with one another, not just in the morning, but throughout the day. As you let your creativity and imagination spill over into smiles to one another.

Creating joy and chaos, that is a beautiful thing and it is an act that holds promise.

The reading from the book of Ezekiel today also provides an act that holds promise and yet it begins very grimly. It says, “The hand of the Lord came upon me (that is Ezekiel) and sat me down in the middle of the valley. The valley was full of bones. God lead me all around them. There were very many lying in the valley and they were very dry.” A grim beginning, indeed.

And yet then the Lord commands Ezekiel, to prophesy to the bones and as Ezekiel prophesied, the bones started rattling. Bones that had fallen away from one another, came together and then sinews and flesh began to form around them, but still no breath. And then Ezekiel prophesied as God commanded him and the breath came into them and they lived and stood on their feet, a vast multitude. And while this message from Ezekiel was a prophetic word about the people of Israel, I believe it still rings true today.

Before this pandemic began, I would turn on the news and it felt like I was in the middle of a valley of very dry bones, just like Ezekiel.

  • We are disconnected bones – the people of this nation.
  • Disconnected bones – the cultures that span the globe.
  • Disconnected bones – between humankind and the earth itself.

And yet these joyful images we’ve seen in recent days and weeks provide promise. They show that we can be transformed. We have a common enemy in the COVID-19 virus and in it, through it, we may just find a way forward together.

I believe through these acts of joy, the bones have begun rattling. The question is, will we be willing to stay together long enough to let sinews and flesh begin to grow and hold us together over time? Because if we do, there is a promise of new life, of new breath, of God’s dream coming true of us being together and of us healing one another.

A poem was shared with me about a week ago. It speaks to that kind of healing. It was written by Kitty O’Meara and it’s called In the Time of Pandemic. You may have already seen it on social media, but for those who haven’t, I’d like to close with this poem.

In the Time of Pandemic

And the people stayed home.
And read books and listened, and rested and exercised,
and made art and played games,
and learned new ways of being and were still.
And listened more deeply.
Some meditated, some prayed, some danced.
Some met their shadows.
And the people began to think differently.

And the people healed.
And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless and heartless
ways the earth began to heal.

And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again,
they grieved their losses, and made new choices,
and dreamed new images,
and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully,
as they had been healed.

– Written by Kitty O’Meara, inspired perhaps by an Italian poem by Irene Vella (whose immuno-depressed husband has been ill during this period of Coronavirus)

 

Amen.

A Reading from the Prophet Ezekiel

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; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.”

So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.

Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act,” says the Lord.

 

One Response to “Fix Our Hearts”

  1. waltonius2@ec.rr.com said

    Dear

    Jody, I think this is your best one yet. Thank you.

    Xoxo

    Lucia robinson

Leave a Reply to waltonius2@ec.rr.com Cancel reply

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