Most of the biblical stories and images we associate with the day of Pentecost are wrapped up in
the story from the Book of Acts…fifty days after Jesus’ resurrection—and ten days after his
ascension—we’re told that the disciples gathered together. A mighty and furious wind blew
through the house, shaking it. And then flames resembling fire rested upon each of their heads
for a moment….The energy and Presence that had just blown through their lives moved them out
on to the street, and the public proclamation of Christ’s resurrecting and healing power began.
Three thousand people were baptized that day, according to Acts.
Today, though, I want to spend some time with an earlier appearance of God’s breath of Spirit.
The creating and restoring wind-breath of Acts enlivens all from the very beginning of our sacred
scripture. God breathes and spirit enters humans. The prophet Elisha breathes into a dead
boy’s body and life returns. Job declares that the breath of God—the spirit—gives life. The
Psalms echo that knowledge. Jesus informs Nicodemus that the Spirit is a wind that blows
where it will. In the gospel of John the resurrected Jesus breathes Spirit upon the gathered
disciples….And more. If you’re looking for it, the action and presence of God’s Spirit threads
through the entire biblical witness.
To be without this breath—this Creating Breath of Spirit—is to be cut off. Dead and desolate.
Bereft of God’s presence and spirit. In the vision Ezekiel describes, the people of Israel exiled in
Babylon know this separation, this desolation. They feel ‘entirely cut off’ from the Holy One. The
nation has become a vast amalgamation of dried skeletons in a valley. Lifeless. Arid.
In this scripture the people know their condition…or at least how their condition in relationship to
God feels. They are without hope. There’s no effort to gloss it over or deny it.
Ezekiel is not permitted to safely view this devastation from afar. God has him walk among it. All
is still. Not even the slightest breeze stirs the air that seems dead itself. The devastation can not
be glossed over or denied.
Perhaps you know, or have known, places of similar desolation. Hope seems lost…death seems
to have won the day. Everything has dried up, metaphorically (or maybe even literally). Our dry
valleys may be personal, I suppose. Wrecked relationships. Grief. Emotional pain that seems
unending. Addiction. A dark night of the soul. Sometimes whole groups or nations experience
dry valleys as well. War zones and genocides and systematic poverty come to mind. Drought.
Oil spills. It’s hard to think that God might move us to walk around in the midst of such aridity
and lifelessness. But apparently we must, at least once in a while. Like Ezekiel, we’re not called
to ignore or deny desolation.
And perhaps Ezekiel shared some of our own sense of feeling overwhelmed or helpless amid the
awareness of so much pain.
Then, to make matters worse, God asks “Can these bones live?”
Ezekiel dodges the question. Like any of us might. He refuses a straight answer. “O God. You
But the deflection doesn’t go over very well with the Source of Life’s Breath. God hands some
responsibility and agency back over to Ezekiel.
Mortal: you speak. Speak to the bones. Speak to the desolate and devastated.
This happens twice. First the physical bodies come together. Then God has Ezekiel summon
the spirit-breath. Life enters those who were dead…hopeless…cut off…
Desolation then restoration.
Dislocation then the promise of true home.
Alienation then renewed connection.
The contrast could hardly be sharper.
This is a vision of new creation.
Breath has entered inanimate matter and come to life.
Those who were dead have become alive.
This is a vision of resurrected life for individuals and for peoples.
And it all occurs through the presence of Sacred Breath. Holy Spirit. Ruach. Wind. God’s
Remember, though, that Ezekiel cooperated in this process. God directly involves Ezekiel as a
mediator of a word and then as a summoner of the Breath…
At God’s urging a human calls upon the Spirit of Life itself. Restoration begins. Common life is
reinstated. Hope finds new ground for growing.
In Ezekiel’s vision of God’s Spirit acting, humans aren’t only objects receiving spirit. A human
participates in calling the breath of God to be present and active.
Ezekiel’s vision tells us that Sprit doesn’t only happen to us. We also are channels for making the
Spirit present in the world. We are agents of renewed life in the valleys, among the dry bones.
Few of us will be called to restore hope to an entire nation. But still, we are each called to invoke
the breath and spirit of God…We are each called, blessed, beloved, given God’s breath of life and
spirit, and given the charge to speak a word of life…
Speak, mortal, God says.
In a nation that deprives black men of breath every day, remember those such as George Floyd.
And speak so that others may live fully and without fear. Call in the Spirit of Life and Justice.
In a culture that abandons the dying, speak a word of love and companionship and of final
healing on the other side of this life. Summon in the Spirit of Solace and Companionship.
In a time of drought…a time of climate and environmental crisis, remember our
interconnectedness with all. Summon in the Spirit of Creation and Nurture.
In a time of recovery from pandemic, remember that we need not return to all our old ways.
Summon in the Spirit of Sacred Imagination and Hope.
In a time of division and anger, remember to love. Summon in the Spirit of Compassion and
The realm of what’s possible is endless.
God has brought us to this place. May we each know the infilling of Spirit and learn what we are
called to summon, and help draw in the Holy Breath of new life.
-Rev. Ruth Moerdyk, from Ezekiel 37:1-14