Worship on the Lord’s Day
Fifth Sunday of Lent
10:00 am March 26, 2023
Onsite & Online (Mixed Presence) Gathering as a Worshipping Community
Led by the Rev. Bradley Childs
Music director: Binu Kapadia Elder: Gina Kottke
Vocalist: Fionna McCrostie Guest Violinist: Rob Hryciw
We gather to worship God
L: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
P: and also with you.
Lighting of the Christ candle
Welcome and announcements
Silent preparation for worship
Call to Worship
L: Just as the Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness,
P: the Spirit sends us into places of uncertainty where we confront our weakness and insecurities.
L: Here we are taught to pay attention to those calling out for care.
P: Jesus knew that God is revealed at unlikely times.
L: Like him, sometimes we arrive too late, when tragedy has already occurred:
P: after the war has torn lives apart, after the earthquake has crumbled homes, after the drought has killed crops.
L: With Lazarus already in a tomb, Jesus cared for the grieving before turning his attention to his dead friend.
P: Let us pray for and support the medics as well as the injured, the aid workers as well as the homeless, the food providers as well as the hungry.
L: Tragedies may show us the worst of humanity, when greed and malice flourish.
P: Yet, we celebrate those who respond with love and compassion, bringing Christ to the places where death has brought devastation.
Opening praise: Here I am to worship
Prayers of approach and confession
God of the past, present and future,
in whom all things are renewed, we praise you.
In the face of all that grinds us down
and belittles the human spirit,
your healing words echo through the centuries.
Seeds of hope grow. Pictures of shalom become clear. Images of possibility fuel our passion. When we rest in You, Your people breathe again. Wondrous are your ways O God. Glorious is your working. Holy is the path of renewal. Deeply do we revere you. And so now we stop the break-neck speed of the week gone by. In this moment there is no report to be written, no class to attend, no paper to do, no work for our hands. In this moment we hold back the world and we pause. We find quiet and simple contemplation. We sit with you and with our thoughts. Like a cooling breeze, cover us with peace. Still our minds.
Lord, search our hearts.
Find for us those things we have not done quite right.
Seek out and remove the worries and the pain and the stress.
Take from us all that you would not wish us to have or hold onto.
Cleanse us and prepare us for a new week ahead.
Forgive us God. We seek only to follow you. We seek your kingdom. We seek heaven on earth. We seek freedom from temptation, rest for the restless, and hope for the world. Amen.
Response: I waited, I waited on You, Lord
Assurance of God’s forgiveness
Renewal is God’s response to human struggle. Bringing sight to the blind, bringing life where there is death, bringing forgiveness when there is sin. Hold on to your mistakes no longer. Leave your stress at the foot of the cross. Forget your wrongs just as God does and be at peace. Amen.
Musical Offering: I shall not want: Fionna, Rob, Brad, Binu
(words and music by Audrey Assad and Bryan Brown © 2013
worshipptogether.com songs/fortunate fall music)
For performance of this song by the originators, see
We listen for the voice of God
Gradual: Jesus, we are gathered
Story: This is a story is about a four-year-old girl. Are there any four-year-olds around? A 4 year old girl just like you was in the kitchen with her mom. Mom was baking some food, making some preparations for dinner, and the little girl was right behind her, like right behind her.
And whenever Mom took a step the little girl would take a step too. if her right foot moved, her right foot moved. If Mom’s left foot moved, girl’s left foot moved. She just walked along with her, following her around the kitchen.
Everywhere she went, and every time Mom reached for something or a drawer there was the little girl.
About 5 min into this, the mom goes. “Ouch!” And screams. The little girl had stepped on the back of her heel. So she tells her, “Can you just back up just a little bit?”
3 min later. Guess what happens? The little girl is walking around and she steps on the back of Mom’s heel. “Ouch!” Mom says, “Can you just back up just a little bit? That’s what happens when you follow too closely.”
3 min later, she steps on the Mom’s heel again. Again, Mom says: “Can you back up a little bit? What are you doing?”
“Well, I wanna be here with you,” says the little girl, The Mom says “Why don’t you just go somewhere else for a little while so I can finish making dinner?”
The little girl says: “But, Mom, the Sunday school teacher, told me that I was supposed to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. I don’t see him here right now, so I’m following yours.”
The thing about this story is, it’s actually what we’re all supposed to do. The little girl is actually doing right. She’s following her mom, who’s supposed to be following Jesus.
Paul says you act like me, but he’s only saying that because he acts like Jesus, or that’s what he says. Your job is to try and be in step with Jesus. If you see him take a right, take a right. If you see him take a left, you take a left. But your other job is to be Jesus for the people who can’t see him.
Let’s take a moment and let’s pray.
Prayer: Our God. We asked that you help us to follow in your footsteps, and to look for the mommies and the others in our lives, whom we can follow since we don’t actually see God. We pray that you would show us direction. Lead us where to go.
The Lord’s Prayer (535)
Scripture readings: Ezekiel 37:1-14
Response: Behold the Lamb of God
Message: “These bones live”
My name is Bradley Roy Childs. That name Roy is a family name. It’s something that connects me to my family and it’s a strong reminder of who I am and where I came from. A s some of you know this name is a tradition in my family. It goes from first name to middle name, rotating back and forth with each generation. Tracy and I have continued that tradition.
Our first born son is named Roy Wesley after his grandfather and his great-grandfathers. It’s our hope that these names will remind us to tell the stories of his family to create some interest in his namesakes so that the people I have lost in my life can be remembered like they deserve to be.
My grandfather Wesley Applegate died in 2005 of a heart attack in the basement of his home in Arlington, Kansas. He was organizing a scrap book of our family at the time. When my grandmother found him, he had the book open to pictures of us kids as well as a set of the blueprints of the house he (a carpenter) had built for my parents; a house they needed very much when they found out they were pregnant with their second and quite possibly their most adorable child (i.e. me).
One of my most vivid memories as a child is of my other grandfather’s funeral. Edward Roy Childs died when I was about 8 years old. I had just come home from spending the night at a friend’s house. They were still in the driveway dropping me off at home when my mother met us. I remember that I was in the middle of asking to stay another day at Nathan’s house when my mother interrupted me to tell me what had happened. When she told me I couldn’t really say anything. I couldn’t really even breathe. It was the first time I had ever lost someone. And that inability to breathe didn’t go away quickly either. I remember standing in the graveyard listening to all the people’s best attempts to make me feel better about something that, no matter what, wasn’t ever going to be better. I can very vividly recall that feeling… it was like having a baseball stuck in my esophagus. Despite the fact that I had a million things on my mind, I remember not being able to get a single word out of my mouth.
The next time I felt that way, I was in my mid twenties. This time, it was my Grandpa Wes’s funeral and it was the exact same thing. I was kind of hovering around inside the entry-way to the sanctuary; trying to get up the nerve to go in and see his face. But I just kept pacing past the door instead. Every time I got past the wall and could see the casket at the corner of my eye I just had to turn and look the other way. I probably walked back and forth 15 times before I could get in the door. I ended up not going in until they closed the casket.
I had this huge swelling pain in my throat – the kind that makes it so you can’t hardly talk and you’re just struggling to take a breath and when you do it’s just a quivering mess.
Sometimes when we think of the biblical figures and authors, we tend to gloss over them as people (like many of us probably did today when that passage from Ezekiel was read). Quite often the words are just that, words on a page. But they’re more than that. They are alive and moving and human. Sometimes that’s too easy to forget. We don’t often stop to think about them as actual people… people who lived and suffered, laughed with friends, and ate with family and looked for God at work in their world; struggled though.
Ezekiel isn’t just some old dead guy from a dusty book; he was a real living; breathing human being. He was a person who was proud of his name and his heritage and his country and his history and his Hebrew people and he suffered in a way that few of us could ever understand.
Ezekiel was taken into captivity in Babylon in 597 BC. He was fairly young at the time. He was married. Briefly. Ezekiel’s wife was killed in the initial conquest of the city. She would have probably been in her late teens or early twenties when she died. There is no record of Ezekiel’s remarriage and there is no record of him ever having children. When we met Ezekiel on the pages of this book, he is utterly alone.
Ezekiel was from the Davidic family. In fact, he was in the process of studying to be one of the Cohen (priests) but you couldn’t actually take on that role until you had completed massive quantities of memorizations from three different schools and even then you couldn’t begin your work until you were thirty years old. (I’m going to repeat that because it’s actually a very important detail in his book that’s usually lost on us… Ezekiel would be ordained to the priesthood when he hit thirty years old.)
But of course, that was not to be. Ezekiel would not stand in the Temple for his ordination the way his father did. And he wouldn’t stand there the way his grandfather did when he turned thirty either. And he never would do it… the temple (the sight where all of this was supposed to take place) was now just a pile of dust and broken rocks. Not only would he not be a priest… there wouldn’t even be a priesthood anymore. They didn’t exist anymore.
For many people Ezekiel is a kind of an eccentric. Taken out of context he seems to be a fanatic. And in fact he was defiantly a tortured soul. So much so, in fact, that some have suggested Ezekiel to have been an epileptic. Others have suggested that he was a schizophrenic. Now if you have ever read Ezekiel before that second diagnosis probably seems pretty accurate. The reasons are simple enough.
Ezekiel became a kind of street preacher, the kind of guy you might see standing on a soap box with a sandwich board around his neck / telling people the end is near. In fact, that’s pretty much where those guys came from – they didn’t get the idea out of the thin air – they’re actually copying him.
Once Ezekiel laid on his right side in the busy street for 40 days in a row (he just laid there); and then he laid on his left for 390 days.
He locked himself inside his house and then he dug his way out of it though the side to make a point to those who were watching.
Once Ezekiel drew the city of Jerusalem on a tablet of stone, then built a miniature city wall to protect his picture and set up a miniature battering ram; set up a miniature camp of tents outside his little city and then he went and he dressed himself in full amour and waged war on his creation as a sign to Israel (kind of like a young child acting out a battle upon a sandcastle at the beach). It was sort of like an early version of performance art.
He has this vision of wheels within wheels and of a creature covered in eyes.
Now it’s quite unfair for us to try and diagnose a biblical figure and he is directed as a prophet by the Spirit of God, but I think it’s pretty fair to say that even with everything else aside, Ezekiel wasn’t entirely stable. But who could be? Would I? Would you?
Ezekiel saw everything he had taken from him. In 586 BC Jerusalem was totally ruined by Nebuchadnezzar and his great Babylonian army. Ezekiel’s church (Solomon’s Temple, which had been the pride and glory of Israel for almost 400 years), was stripped away. All the inhabitants of Jerusalem, (defeated in battle) had been taken either to Chaldea or to Babylon in captivity, including Mattaniah. Now that name might not mean much to us – but for Ezekiel that name meant a lot. Mattaniah was last king of Judah, and he was blinded and taken in chains to Babylon with his eyes gauged out – marched through the streets. (Imagine what it would be like if all the churches were destroyed, Canada in ruins, Her leaders beaten, chained, and paraded down the streets by an invading army.) Her survivors, young men and women were shipped away to a foreign land. Meanwhile the only people left behind were the extremely frail and the people who couldn’t possibly fight.
The people were slaves in captivity, seemingly rejected by God (“dry bones” as they would call themselves) asking if the gods of the captors were more powerful than the God who had brought them into the promise land.
In despair the people had become spiritually dead. And why not? Who wouldn’t be? They had no place to worship, they had no priests.
Ezekiel quotes what he heard the people saying. They said, “Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.” Now at the time saying “dry bones” was like saying “we’ve lost faith” or “we are in utter despair” as some translators have put it. But being “cut off” was considered to be the absolute worst thing that could happen to the Jewish people. The phrase “cut off” refers to being completely separated from God – it’s the ancient Hebrew equivalent to saying: “We’ve been condemned to Hell.” The literal meaning is that your contract or covenant with God had been torn up. “It’s cut off’”
The people thought that God would never take them back. They had nowhere to worship, no acceptable place to pray, no treasury, no ark, no tablets, no staff of Aaron, no Commandments, no homes, no land, no dead relatives, no hope, no covenant, and no faith. The world swirled around them seemingly out of control. They were “dry bones”.
And Ezekiel was no different. He was one of them.
In the begging of his book Ezekiel has a sort of flash forward moment. The dates are given in the Jewish calendar and the dates are also based upon the year of the King’s rule. That’s interesting because that means it can be checked against Babylonian sources. Most bibles just do a simple translation here but luckily The New Living translators do some nice things for us in their translation. One of the things they do is that they take the Jewish calendar, and they convert the dates to what they would be in our own Roman calendar so things make more since for us. Here the NLT translation reads, “On July 31of my 30th year, while I was with the Judean exiles beside the Kebar River in Babylon, the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.”
No in case you’ve missed it, something very wrong has just been stated. How old is Ezekiel? “On July 31of my 30th year” “while I was with the Judean exiles” “beside the Kebar River in Babylon,” “the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.”
Ezekiel’s family is dead, his father is dead, his grandfather is dead, his wife is dead, his life’s work and study is useless to him and on the day that he had dreamt about his whole life… the day he would stand in the temple and be ordained to the priesthood like his father before him and his grandfather before that… He turned thirty by the Kebar River, a captive and an exile. No celebrations, no crowds, no sacrifices, no family pride, no cheers, no respect, no accomplishment earned… nothing. It must have been the worst day of Ezekiel’s life.
But God was still doing something.
In the reading Ezekiel has a vision, the verse says, “Then the hand of YWHW came upon me” meaning that Ezekiel fell into a dream-like state. In his vision “The Spirit of the Lord” then transports him to a freighting place. It is a valley full of bones. It is a place filled with death; filled with only mismatched piles of his former countrymen. It’s both a battlefield from a lost war, and an open mass cemetery. It is a place that we are told contains “all of Israel” and “all of the people from both tribes” – the whole nation once divided now resting together as nothing but “dry bones”: all of the people from both sides of Israel (North and South), the fallen; the innocent, Friends/Family, everyone he has ever know. The Valley is a place of hopelessness and despair. It is the kind of place where you would try to speak… but find no breath.
I picture Ezekiel with that same lump in his throat we all know far too well, a baseball or a fist where your breath should be. And he stands silently at this place described like no other place in the entire Bible. In a world where “water” was synonymous with “life”… It is described as “of utter dryness”.
And what does God want from this man?
God’s message to Ezekiel is simple. God wants him to do the one thing that he can’t do. He wants him to Speak. It’s like giving the eulogy at the funeral. It’s the hardest thing in the world.
God wants Ezeikel to speak. He says, “Prophesy to these bones and speak to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you… and life”.
When Ezekiel turns to God and does as he is asked, his vision of the valley is shaken. The scattered piles of dry bones changes and the bones begin to come together. The imagery is interesting and it’s extremely vivid. The piles begin to organize. They begin to form skeletons and then tendons snap them back into place, as decay reverses, muscles return, skin covers them and then finally in this place where one can barely breathe, God breathes for them. He breathes life back into the dry bones. And as Ezekiel looks out upon his vision he sees an army of living people; a people that God breathed new life into.
The word ruach, meaning breath, by the way also means wind and soul. And just like with the story of Adam in the garden God breathes into the people and they become living souls.
When the Spirit first takes Ezekiel to this graveyard He asked, “Son of man, can these bones live?” Do you happen to remember what Ezekiel’s answer was? What did Ezekiel say? He said, “O Sovereign LORD, you alone know.” Ezekiel had been considered a prophet of God for years now. He is described as being one of the most devout people in Jewish history and yet, even when confronted with the Spirit of God – the death and despair in his world has dragged him down so much that he can’t seem to answer. Even in that moment, when he knows and feels and sees God with him he still feels hopeless.
Ezekiel is standing in the entry way to the church pacing back and forth; he’s in the cemetery with a lump in his throat; unable to breathe. He has no hope. So God hopes for him. He has no words. So God gives him the words.
God sends His spirit to rest on Ezekiel. God breathes new life into the bones and in doing so He breathes new life into Ezekiel – and God can breathe new life into you too. The bones are all Israel. They are the dead and they are the living.
When people in Jesus’ time read this story they thought it was about God raising the dead to life. But for Ezekiel it was about lifting the living up so they could have life again.
And both interpretations are correct. Someday, God will raise the dead again, but first he wants to raise the Living.
Everyone’s life is in constant flux. We all have ups and down. We all suffer loss, face illness, have financial concerns, worry about our children or our parents or our grandkids or friends or neighbors or our selves. We all lose loved ones, have arguments we should have with people we love, face low times, hard times and all face death. But these dry bones can live, I promise.
If you are here today and you are doing great. God bless you. Find someone that’s not and do something for them.
For the rest of you: Today, are you standing in the entry way of the sanctuary. Are you pacing back and forth in life? Are you standing in the cemetery? Are you frozen and unable to move? Are you stressed out, depressed or lost? Are… your… bones… dry?
God is still here. And God’s message is simple. He is in the business of resurrection. He breathes new life. Whatever it is – don’t give up.
These bones can live. Amen.
Song: Breathe on me, Breath of God (389)
We respond to serve God
Reflection on giving: We have been giving faithfully since the beginning of the pandemic and we are committed to continuing the ministry and mission that define Dayspring – using the ways described below. Thank you all for your support of our shared vision and mission.
Prayer of gratitude and prayer for others and ourselves
God of all times and places we thank you that there is no place we can go where your spirit is not there already. We are grateful that your presence is not dependent on us nor on our faith. Long before us, you were. Long after us you will be. Here and now, in the sad and in the joyous, in fear and in confidence, in hope and in despair, in beauty and in horror, you are present.
Love is energized. Courage is discovered. We are grateful.
As we pray for our world and its people, rekindle our belief, not that you will do our bidding, but that you will purify our prayers making them serve your good will. Rekindle our faith that our prayers are significant in making possible the triumph of life and goodness.
Today we pray for those suffering.
Lord, speak us to the words we need, speak for us when we can not. Breath into our lives new life and raise us up.
Lord we also ask today that you might make us great tools in your hands, Tools for healing and caring for those around us. In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.
Song: O love that wilt not let me go (209)
Sending out with God’s blessing
Go without fear. Listen for the voice of the Most High. Look for God’s angels. Turn to the one that cures, find water and live. And may the blessings of God, creator, redeemer and Holy Spirit be with you all.
Response: God to enfold you
Numbers in brackets after a song/hymn indicate that it is from the 1997 Book of Praise of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. Those and other songs are being used in accordance with the specifications of Dayspring’s licensing with One Licence (3095377) and CLC (A735555).
The Rev. Brad Childs retains the copyright (© 2023) on all original material in this service. As far as Brad Childs is aware, all of the material that has not been attributed to others is his own creation or is in the public domain. Unacknowledged use of copyrighted material is unintentional and will be corrected immediately upon notification being received.