New Life Through Unity

Crisely Melecio-Zambrano
5/23/21
Child, woman and man smiling together in a family photo outside

Spirit of the Living God fall afresh on us this morning. Amen.  

Happy Pentecost 8th Day!

Our readings this morning speak of a new creation, new life in the Spirit, God renewing the face of the earth. What hopefulness!

 

Our first reading which I didn’t have read this morning is the valley of the dry bones from Ezekial. I often feel like this scripture is following me around. It keeps resurfacing in my life at moments when I might not know I need it. I was looking back at the last time I shared a teaching with Michael. Can you all remember that? It was really our first Sunday meeting via zoom back in March. I remember assuming Michael would want to reschedule, and he said he would still like to figure out a way to make it happen. That was certainly before it became second nature for us to adapt to a virtual reality. We spoke about death leading to resurrection and Michael’s lesson of taking one thing at a time. 

You might remember I shared a song based on this scripture, and so I’ll sing it again now to remind us of this passage.

 

[Dry Bones]

 

Verse 1:

The hand of the Lord came upon me

And led me into pain

Pain filled with bones 

 

Made me walk among them so I would see

The masses of those dry, dry, dry bones

 

You ask can these bones come back to life

You alone know my God

 

Prophesy over the bones

Tell them to come back to life

 

Chorus:

Dry bones are crying out

Dry bones are crying out

Verse 2: 

They have been saying

Our bones are dried up

Our hope is lost

And we are cut off

But bones they rattle

And sinews cover them

As flesh and skin appear

 

Chorus:

Dry bones are crying out

Dry bones are crying out

Outro:

Breathe into our bones

Bring them back to life

--

 

Again, I feel this reading is incredibly appropriate for the time we are in. We are right at the crux of a feeling of beginning new life again. We can feel the warmth of summer, the hopefulness of seeing each other again, and here we are on the last day of the Easter season.

 

And the question I have for us in hearing these readings within the context of Pentecost is:

What are we moving towards?

What are we moving towards? Where is the invitation here? Over and over again I’ve heard the phrase recently (as I’m sure you have too) of “getting back to normal”

But is that what we desire, “back to normal” or are we called to something deeper, a new creation?

 

Another phrase of this time is, “What a year!” We can all acknowledge that this year at the very least has invited us into a new way of living. For many of us, this past year has been like a desert, and a valley of dry bones. In some painful ways like feeling loneliness and separation, grieving the deaths of loved ones, mourning the racialized violence that continues throughout the country (especially thinking about this on the anniversary of George Floyd’s death). And also like a desert, it has led to refining what is essential. In my own life, I’ve noticed more and more a movement towards feeding and watering what’s life-giving and allowing die what is constricting and draining. 

 

And so as we start to feel a huge societal pull to jump back into “normalcy”, I urge you to consider what new life might God be cultivating within you. Part of the danger and draw of toxic white culture in the US is to lull society through comfort into forgetting the pain and discomfort of others. And so we have a choice to consider: Where are those tongues of fire leading us? In a rush to leave the desert valley of dry bones are we running away or staying through to what could be the labor pains of a new creation?

 

Listen to these words from Romans again: 

“We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now;

and not only that, but we ourselves,

who have the firstfruits of the Spirit,

we also groan within ourselves

as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.

For in hope we were saved.

Now hope that sees is not hope.

For who hopes for what one sees?

But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance.”

 

All creation. All creation? Could you imagine if the new life that we are being invited to is that of a new creation for all creation? Imagine a new life that isn’t the same societal habits of self-comfort and numbing, but rather one of creativity, prophetic imagination, new life, the kin-dom of God in our midst. Imagine if rather than lack of surprise when another one of our black and brown siblings is killed at the hands of law enforcement, a broken health care system, or rampant gun violence, we closed that circle of trauma and moved towards a societal awakening rooted in restorative justice, human dignity, and celebration! Imagine if rather than simply brace ourselves for the inevitable climate change and each country chase for the scraps of what’s left, we came together as one human family, practiced the honorable harvest and made a global commitment to set aside a ⅓ of our seas to simply heal, trusting in the abundance of this incredible earth we’ve been given. 

 

Aliveness, awakeness, hopefulness within all of creation from each one to each one to each one! And isn’t that our central mission 8th Day? 8th Day of Creation. Our very name comes from the hopefulness and looking ahead at that new creation. 

 

I’ve had the absolute delight this year of planting a garden. Honestly, it’s been bringing me so much life that I had no doubt it would somehow weave it’s way into this teaching. The thing about the garden is it’s a wildly hopeful act. “For in hope we are saved. Now hope that sees is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance.” I put this itty-bitty seed into dark earth, water it, give it sun and love, and I don’t know what will come. I don’t know for sure if it will sprout. I don’t know if once I transplant that little sprout into the ground it will thrive. I don’t know if Santiago will come along and pull out the little seedlings while I’m not looking. And yet I hope. And that hope incarnates into a bunch of spinach, a head of lettuce or a radish. What a miracle!

 

We as a community 8th Day had the distinct privilege today of recommitting to that mission to hope and act in that hope of new creation. 

 

Those of us committing to membership spoke some of these words:

 

“I will seek to be open to God’s transforming power and love.” 

“I acknowledge we are united in God’s love and grace”

God, set a fire in our hearts. Let these words be true. 

In the reading from Acts we hear how each one heard in their own language. Somehow in the uniqueness of each person, in the cacophony of voices, there was unity in the Spirit! God’s love was speaking to each in their deepest heart language which was unmistakable.  

 

I’m struck by how this passage from Acts feels like a call and response with the Romans passage. The Spirit that spoke us into being speaks to each one of us in that most native tongue. And then in Romans, the Spirit intercedes for us with inexpressible groans back to God in response. God is so desiring communion with us that God speaks to Godself within each of us! How mysterious and beautiful!

In the Catholic church the Eucharistic prayer when the communion host is being consecrated is:

Through him, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen. 

God is in us, with us, through us in the unity of the holy spirit forever and ever. Even in the moments we don’t know how to put words to our desires, or can’t clearly see what that new creation will look like, God is with us. Even in the moments we’re standing in a dry valley of bones, God is with us. 

I’d like to close with a song I wrote at a moment where I knew I deeply desired union with God, but had no idea how to put that to words. I was praying night prayer one evening and heard the words we listened to today from Romans and felt such a weight lift that that desire for union was enough. And in response, I felt God within me beckon me into the unknown darkness where seeds grow.

 

[Walk with Me]

 

How does one convert inexpressible groans into words?

I don’t trust my words I only trust my thirst for you

You the one that sustains me that I cling to in the storm

Only for you to tell me that the water is new ground

 

And you cry

Walk with me

Rest with me 

Eat with me 

Just Be with me 

 

You beckon me to follow you into the sea of the unknown

Stripped of the strength gained from years of building walls

In order to be courageous as your most sacred heart

And before I know I’m ready 

 

You cry

Walk with me

Rest with me

East with me

Be with me

 

Die with me

So you can rise with me

--

 

Let us seek to stay with God in the valley through to the bone rattle, and sinew covering, let us groan with the rest of creation in labor pains, let us be open to God setting tongues of fire over us in a spirit of Unity. 

 

Amen.