“Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.”
The Christian faith is not afraid to look despair full in the face. It is not some Pollyanna belief system where ‘things can only get better’, but it embraces the reality of a world where things can often go wrong. We may walk with one eye on heaven, but at times the path will take a difficult turn.
Surely, though, there is no bleaker prospect than last Sunday’s Old Testament reading? Here Ezekiel is looking at a valley full of bones, and when he is led through them they are ‘very dry’. These are people long dead, whose life fled months before - if not longer. No hope of recovery for the dry skeletons strewn in the fields. This is no ‘valley of the shadow of death’ - it is a valley of the dead.
And yet hope there is. Ezekiel is ordered to address the bones and to tell them that they will once more be encased in sinews, flesh and blood. Life long gone will once more return. Hope will reign where hopelessness prevailed. Here we see an echo of Paul’s great future cry ‘O death where is thy sting”?
So it is that the Christian looks at life full in the face, but never as a person with no hope. Trouble may be great, but our God is greater. May we sing with Martin Luther his hymn now five hundred years old:
A mighty fortress is our God,
a bulwark never failing;
our helper he, amid the flood
of mortal ills prevailing.