Wednesday, March 05, 2008

New Life

Ezekiel 37.1-14
This passage is probably about spiritual renewal and the rediscovery of hope in the face of overwhelming despair, rather than about the promise of resurrection from the dead. But, of course, what Ezekiel describes is a kind of resurrection. He was addressing the nation of Israel. Can we reapply this famous passage to the New Israel of the Church? Often the Church despairs of the possibility of resurrection and new growth, but with the Spirit there is always hope. Similarly, there is still hope for our nation, despite its secularisation and the spread of cynicism and doubt. Slaves in the American South took comfort in this story and composed the famous spiritual about 'Dem Bones' because of its promise that God can snatch victory even after defeat. The Easter story renews the same theme.

Romans 8.6-11
Paul develops the same theme as Ezekiel. Human nature by itself cannot submit to God's will and is, he claims, actively hostile to what God wants. The kind of radical selflessness which God demands is simply impossible for us to adopt - unless we are renewed by God's Spirit. If we allow God's Spirit to take control of us we can belong to God and find the life and peace which otherwise elude us despite all our strivings. This is a kind of mini-resurrection, paralleling what happened to Jesus on the cross and the more dramatic picture in Ezekiel's vision of a whole nation being raised to new life.

John 11.1-45
The story of Lazarus is an acted parable of the sort of resurrection experience which Paul and Ezekiel describe. Jesus knows this and reluctantly takes the decision to wait until Lazarus has died so that God can be glorified when he is raised back t life again. John makes clear that he story is not really about our final resurrection from death but about the new quality of life which God can give us right now - and which endures despite physical death.

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