Reading the passage on Ezekiel this week annoyed me, because it’s about waiting and being patient. It’s like going to the doctors and the waiting room is full. You look questioningly at the receptionist that said you’ll only be waiting for 10mins. Sitting in a busy traffic on Auckland’s rush hour trying to get home except longer.
I’ve always had a thing, about being on time and arriving well before a ceremony starts or understanding the Auckland traffic well enough to know when to take a break and when to get back on the road just before traffic builds up again.
It was only this year that I attended a concert at spark arena where we had to plan our entry and exit strategy. Making sure that everything was clockwork, my wife had it all planned out 6pm park away from the Arena, 6.30 grab some food, 7pm its only curtain-raisers so take our time don’t rush.
By the time we entered the Arena it was around 8.30pm, Sole Mio were getting on stage at 9pm so we planned it just right. A bit of space here and there for a few toilet breaks. We had Israel in tow he’s such a Sole Mio fan. Then the exit plan but you know what I mean. Timing was everything and I didn’t like waiting.
I believe I inherited this trait from my father, he never liked to be late to anything. It was everything church, funerals, weddings, birthdays he was never late. Always immaculately dressed. He calculated travel times before and after. If there was a rugby game in the evening and we had a church meeting, he was there tweaking some time off here and there. But he still managed to have an input in the men’s discussion around sport during Sunday sermon, I mean Sunday morning before worship begun.
Timing such a great thing when you have control of it. However, when it is out of your control, how do you manage?
I believe, in Ezekiel’s case the Jews in Babylon had waited generations. Waiting year after year but were prevented by the empire. Ezekiel’s vision dates back to the period of Israel’s history known as the Babylonian Exile. Around 597BC the armies of Babylon forced the capitulation of the rebellious city Jerusalem, deported the Judean King and many Judean leaders to Babylon. Ten years later 587BC Jerusalem rebelled again, razed Jerusalem and its temple and deported a second wave of Judean leaders. Scholars believe that a young Ezekiel was among that first wave of deportees, who God later called to be a prophet. These deportees were forced to live in Babylon, and the future for them was bleak because many were reported missing. The exile was more than just a crisis of physical suffering and communal identity. It also meant that their faith was compromised.
One of the important aspects of the Judean faith was its temple, its people and the Davidic monarchy these had been destroyed. Some biblical scholars believed that due to the exile the Israelites assumed that their God was defeated by a stronger God from Babylon, this created an uncertain faith towards God.
The vision was a reminder to the deportees that Gods promise to return was real and that it would breathe new life into them.
Ezekiel illustrates that the Holy spirit showed him a vision of an entire valley filled with dry bones. The vision here is seen as an echo of the people’s lament. The question is, “Can these bones live?” The key to the unfolding story, of course, is that in order to live, they need not only flesh, sinew, and skin. . . but also breath: “I will. . . put breath in you, and you shall live” (v. 6). The dependence of the people on the power of God to effect a change for them.
Then, in the vision, sinew, flesh, and skin cover the bones, but there is no breath in them (v. 8). So, Ezekiel prophesies to the breath, “Come from the four winds, O Breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live” (v. 9). And “the breath came into them, and they lived” (v. 10). The power around spoken word from the prophet at God’s direction, which as it was spoken brought the reassembly of the bones with the body, flesh and skin.
As noted, in Ezekiel’s explanation of the vision, he summarizes the point: “I will put my spirit with you, and you shall live” v. 14).
The prophet’s insistent use of repetition drums the point of the message into our heads: God’s spirit is the key. With God’s spirit, anything is possible. Without it, existence is just flesh and blood. But with God’s spirit, there is life–and what Jesus called fullness of life. And there is no place on earth, no when in time, and no what in sin or situation, that can keep God’s Spirit away from God’s people.
The account is done to maximise use of the vision so that it catches the deep feelings of the people, to change them from people of profound despair to people of confidence and sustaining hope.
I wonder if through our frustration, dried up by waiting and captivity, there is hope, and what might that look like?
As Ezekiel talks about the bones, I believe he’s referring to us as being the bones, for us to unite and come together, I don’t know for sure how this would look exactly although, I believe it requires us to re-shape our thinking, change the way we work, instead of being individuals we’re working together.
That we be open to a new story, a new beginning. What is hopeful about getting together? I know that when groups of people come together for a common cause, projects or events these are achieved and relationships flourish. I would like to share four key elements I believe bring people together by way of hope.
Power of relationships
Power of listening to one another
Power of finding common cause
Power of common action
I’m not sure if you have been keeping up with the happenings in Samoa around its election and how the movement of leadership has been scripted, re-scripted and re-scripted again. The current caretaker Prime Minister has served Samoa for 40 years, within this time he has held different roles, 23 as Prime Minister, he’s 76 years old. He formed the HRPP party which stands for Human Rights Protection Party.
One thing I’ve learnt watching and listening to news reported is that the Samoan people are coming together. It doesn’t matter which side you pledge your allegiance too. The elections have got people listening & watching seeing how things unfold and played out. You have a group of one side supporting the FAST party and the caretaker Prime minister, his cabinet and a group of people supporting HRPP.
The hopeful part is waiting and seeing if democracy eventuates. Whether a new government, a new leader (female) leader comes to power, the hope for a new Samoa, new perspectives, fresh insights. This at the moment is bringing the people of Samoa together. (The hope)
Watching the relationship between La’aulialemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao and Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, these two being the leader and deputy leader of the new FAST party has been amazing to watch. They always present a united front, there is respect between the two, it’s good to know the background story of how this party came about La’auli formed the party and decided to take a backseat to Fiame because she had served in parliament for many years.
She joined the party at a later stage of the campaign but her elevation to lead this party came with a lot of experience. I found La’auli a male leader moving aside for Fiame speaks volumes of the respect, mana he has of her. But more importantly of who he is and his own humility as a deputy leader. She built great relationships with other strong nations for so long. The common cause would be to re-build Samoa. There is listening to one another, but the common goal is to present a new way of leading Samoa.
I take it, this must be what hope looks like for us or rather how the Israelites felt, the hope of God’s return, the hope to return to Jerusalem. This must be what the breath prophesied to Ezekiel is for us to breath in a new spirit for this season. To remind us, to re-energise us of God’s grace of Gods return.
As we celebrate Pentecost today, may the breath of new life enter you, fill you with the spirit of hope, may the spirit bring promise in building our community, our connection with one another and working towards the return.
[Afioga Fiame Naomi Mata'afa] [A person smiling for the camera Description automatically generated with low confidence]