Can the dry bones of the Church live again?

At the beginning of the year, I heard the rattling of dry bones in the spiritual realm. I felt the wind of the Spirit blowing over God’s people, urging us to movement, to move with Him. He was urging us to get out of our comfy spots with their clearly defined boundaries and parameters. There was a call to be prepared to move into spaces that feel ill-defined and even unsafe or scary because we have never been there before, because we don’t know what it looks like and even how to live in those spaces. 

During worship recently, the leader shared how the words to the old song “these bones, these bones, these dry bones, now hear the word of the Lord” [sic] kept rising up in her mind. She sensed that it was the Word of God that brings life to the dry bones and the dry bones were numbers of people in the churches. 

As she spoke, I had a strong image of what God is doing at this time. 

We often refer to the idea of the Body of Christ as being made up of individuals. We can also see those dry bones as individuals. However, this time, the dry bones were about the various ‘parts’ of the Body which have become disconnected from each other. I felt that in our disconnection, just like limbs and appendages separated from a body, we have also lost our life.

In our disconnection, we have lost our life.

If we look back into the days of Acts when the Church first began with the coming of the Holy Spirit, it is painfully obvious that there were no denominations, no branding and no marketing.

We are given a picture of a Body that is fully alive, fully functioning.

That doesn’t mean they didn’t have their problems – Paul addresses this himself in 1 Corinthians 1-3, when it would appear people were trying to start factions based on whether they followed Paul, Apollos, Cephas or Jesus. He brings them back to the point that each of us should be followers of Jesus alone.

However, over the last two millennia, rather than working hard to keep the unity of the Spirit, (Ephesians 4:1-6) we have continued the practice of creating divisions. These have had their basis in offence, differences of opinion, and unfortunately, often due to power plays and a desire to ‘lord’ it over others or simply to have control.

What started as One Body in Christ, started to become many separate parts.

When offence or a difference of opinion occurred, *SNIP*, we hacked off a finger, or *SNIP* we chopped off a leg, and *SNIP*, we removed an arm. Over time, the *SNIP*, *SNIP*, *SNIP* has led to denominations and movements of every imaginable sort, and what started in unity is now a Body in complete disarray. (If you want some comic relief that illustrates this problem very succinctly, head here, but I’ll warn you, it is black humour!)
 
For some time I have been impacted by the prayer Jesus prayed for His disciples and for those to come (John 17). He prayed that we may be one, even as He and the Father are one. I guess He knew the temptations we would have toward offence and distrust of each other and that disconnection was all too easy.

But of course, when we pull it all apart, these disconnections are valid and important, aren’t they?

From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (1).jpg

We don’t want the Gospel message distorted or corrupted. We don’t want people being led astray by false doctrines, false teachers, those dread wolves in sheep's clothing. However, I am reminded of one of those little sayings that pop up in your Facebook feed: “Would you rather be right or have relationship?”.

Too often, our being right has become a reason to abandon relationship.

Perhaps this needs some re-evaluation in light of the lengths God went to in order to have relationship with us, not even sparing His only Son!

I know there is no simple solution to this problem. There are beliefs and practices that some people have that are unconscionable to others of us. Again, we are no different to the early Church, where practices such as circumcision and eating food offered to idols threatened to destroy the fragile unity of a bunch of people brought together who had a long history of distrust and dislike toward each other. (See 1Corinthians 8 and Galatians 6 for starters).

So what is the answer? 

Maybe it is time for each of us to be the first to take a step toward those we disagree with, not to beat them up with our point of view (which seems to have been the desire of many), but in love - to show the love of Christ toward them.

And when we look at what the love of Christ was like, we might like to remember how He treated people considered unholy, wicked and sinful in His day; people like the Samaritan woman at the well, lepers, tax collectors and others judged unclean, people who had the potential to make Him unclean.

What would it look like if we tried try to find those things we are in agreement about and start there? 

Or at the very least, to start behaving in a loving way with all people, rather than sitting in judgement, (a place that lacks humility and is filled with the belief that we do not deserve any judgement ourselves, that we are perfect and have it all right). 

One of the biggest detractors to the Christian faith for those outside it would have to be the way we fight and bicker among ourselves. Imagine what it would look like from the outside if we behaved in love towards each other, with respect, grace and honour even to those we believe deserve it least. 

Are we ready to be transformed from a pile of disconnected, dead, dry bones through the transforming breath that comes from the Living Word by allowing ligaments and tendons, muscles, skin, veins, arteries, nerves and all the rest of the mess that makes life to grow between us and the other parts of the body?

What would you be prepared to lay down to take that step toward someone local to you to start to rebuild unity?

"I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

John 17:20-23

How many apples in your seed?

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This summer, lobelias have miraculously appeared in my garden. Their pretty blue and white faces greeted me by my backdoor over a period of days until I finally recognised the irregularity of their existence there. I hadn't planted any for at least ten years.

Obviously, these plants did not grow out of thin air. The previous plants left their seeds behind. But why did they decided to grow right now? The weeds have not had a problem growing in the intervening years - why didn't the lobelias grow?

Two things stood out with the potential to suddenly spark new life from these old seeds. 

The first was that my husband replaced the retaining wall last year. Soil was shifted around, turned upside down. There was disturbance in the environment of the seeds.

The second was that we have had an unusually wet summer - more water to make it more suitable for these flowers to grow.

As is common for me, I felt God reveal something, to even give me a promise through what I see in my garden. It has a few parts.

The first is that we can feel as though we sow seed and sow seed and rarely, if ever, see much fruit or result from our efforts at times. I felt Him showing me that even when seeds we sow don't immediately produce a harvest, they are not wasted, that they can sit dormant in the 'soil' for many years until the conditions change - maybe someone's world is turned upside down; maybe there is a deluge - and then, suddenly, the seed grows and produces beautiful flowers.

Secondly, we are not the ones who can make the seed grow. The season needs to be right, the timing and situation need to be in the right order. We don't always know what this looks like, nor what will bring it about. 

Finally, I didn't need to do anything to bring about this growth. I may get to sow seed, or even water it, but it is God who makes it grow (1 Cor 3:6).

All of this tied into a sense that has been growing in me over the last months. It started in Spring with a promise of greater fruitfulness; that the season of working hard for little fruit was over. We are starting to see that happen in the ministries I am involved with (and further afield), along with another promise - that it will not seem like work at all, but fun! Do you want to play too?

"This is my prayer in the harvest
When favor and providence flow
I know I'm filled to be emptied again
The seed I've received I will sow"

("Desert Song", Hillsong United)

It's about to explode!

Spring is on its way!

Yes, dull, dreary, drizzly days may suggest otherwise, but the inevitable pull of life force tells another story. 

You can virtually feel the buzz of the energy of burgeoning life pulsating the air. Like a racehorse waiting at the gate, itching to burst forth, Spring is coming

Blossoms bursting forth on magnolias, rhododendrons, camellias and daffodils call out the news. Spring is coming!

Oh yes, the trees still hold their bare, dead limbs towards the heavens, pleading for sunshine, pleading for warmth, but their fingertips are showing signs of life as the first tips of green appear.

Spring is coming!

Approaching the end of a season of winter, it is easy to feel that this season will never end, that change and renewal are not possible, that it is all too hard. The idea that it is always darkest before the dawn doesn't seem to hold hope, but despair. Will this never end?

But I feel promise in the air. A change is coming, a big change.  A promise of fruitfulness, of newness, and not just a little bit, not just a regular amount. I hear the clarion call - get ready! Are you ready for all that this Spring will bring? For the inevitable harvest that comes from an abundance of nourishment and refreshing rain from heaven? 

The One who loves us is calling to us: come join Me, come join the fun! An abundance of new life is about to burst forth. Come revel in it with Me!

See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland. 
(Isa 43:19)