Can These Bones Live?
Updated: Mar 31, 2020
The Rev. Sara Cosca-Warfield
Scripture: Ezekiel 37:1-14
I have to be honest with you. As I was thinking about this sermon, it was really hard to get much further in the Ezekiel passage than, “Mortal, can these bones live?” In fact, the furthest I got was the next sentence. “Oh Lord God, you know.” Which I can only read as, “I have no idea, God. Only you know.”
You see, I’m looking around this Valley of Dry Bones—this valley full of daily updates on cases and deaths, full of news about hospitals running out of the protective equipment they so desperately need, full of some of our leaders worrying more about money than human lives. And I wonder, can these bones live?
I don’t know.
What I do know is that I’m tired. Not sleepy tired, exactly, though my sleep patterns are way off track, and I know I’m not the only one. The exhaustion I’m feeling is deeper than that. It lives at the very center of me. It’s nestled into my very spirit like a brick that I can’t lift.
But I didn’t know how tired I was until I started talking to some of you. Until you laid bare to me your own truth of this moment, which is exhaustion.
I don’t know if I have much to give right now, one of you said. Brokenhearted because all you want to do is help, but your body, your spirit is telling you to slow down.
All I can find right now are tears, another person told me. Their anxiety, they said, is paralyzing them, and all they can do is pray for others suffering from anxiety.
You told me your stories, your struggles, and it broke something open for me.
I’ve already told some of you this, but I’m coping by overfunctioning, overworking. Trying to get everything perfect, so our community can be connected, so we can worship together somehow, so we can see each other even when we can’t be with each other. And I’m glad I did, obviously. There was an emergency, and I responded.
There’s been an emergency for all of us, and the adrenaline of that emergency helped each of us to respond with our gifts, with our skills. But inevitably the adrenaline wears off, and the exhaustion of pushing through sets in.
And I was only able to see my own exhaustion when you let me see it in you. Only when you told me that you don’t have much more to give did I realize that I needed to slow down or I wouldn’t have much more to give.
Your vulnerability helped me to see my own. Your honesty helped me to get honest with myself. We often think that community is all about helping one another in tangible ways, and it is. But community is also about being honest with one another about our exhaustion, about what we can give and what we can’t give.
A few years ago, someone posted something about protest fatigue on my facebook, but I also think it applies to what we’re facing now. Some of you saw this on my page last week, but I want to share it again here:
This morning I have been pondering a nearly forgotten lesson I learned in high school music. Sometimes in band or choir, music requires players or singers to hold a note longer than they actually can hold a note. In those cases, we were taught to mindfully stagger breathing (meaning everyone takes a breath at a different time) when we took a breath so the sound appeared uninterrupted. Everyone got to breathe, and the music stayed strong and vibrant.
Let's remember music. Take a BREATH. The rest of the chorus will sing. The rest of the band will play. And when you’re able, rejoin so that others can breathe. Together, we can sustain a very long, beautiful song for a very, very long time. You don’t have to do it all.
These bones can live. And they will. We will speak hope into them day after day. But it might take a long time for these bones to even quiver and rattle, let alone become flesh and breath again. It might not even happen two weeks from now when the calendar says it's our day of resurrection. Only God knows.
And while resurrection might be held off for awhile, hope is ever present. It just might look a little different right now.
Right now, hope might look like being honest with each other about what we can give—or not give. Right now, hope might look like honoring our exhaustion and taking loving, gracious care of ourselves—the same way we’d take care of someone we love if we saw that they were struggling. Right now, hope might look like singing—but it might also look like taking a breath and letting the people around us sing.