Sermon for Pentecost - May 20, 2018

Sermon for The Day of Pentecost, Year B
May 20. 2018
The Rev. Evelyn Wheeler, Rector

Ezekiel 37:1-14; Psalm 104:25-35; 37; Acts 2:1-21; John 15:26-27; 16: 4b-15

That which is broken shall be made whole. That which is dead shall bring forth life.  That which is lost shall be found.  That which has been left bereft shall be made welcome.

This reading from Ezekiel is a popular one for the Vigil of All Saints – but here at CEC we don’t generally celebrate the Vigil of All Saints, so we don’t get to hear this one very often.  And let’s face it, it’s really rather strange.  We understand that it’s a vision, but what a vision!  It’s like the opening scene in a zombie movie, when the bodies of the dead are re-animated and start staggering around, with the goal of conquering the enemies of the evil wizard who gave them this facsimile of life.

But in Ezekiel’s story, they aren’t zombies created by an evil wizard; they are the resurrected children of God – and they are not created to rule the world, but to praise God, and to testify in this earthly resurrection to the life-giving power of the living God to rescue, reclaim, and restore all people to hope and joy.

Or, as the 104th Psalm tells us: “You send forth your Spirit, and [all living things] are created; and so you renew the face of the earth.”[1]


Ezekiel was called to prophesy to Judah, but went unheard – as was true of many prophets.  Then the Babylonians came, and Ezekiel and many other people taken hostage.  The Judah-ites continued to not seek God, and then the Babylonians came and destroyed pretty much everything and everyone, and took the king and most of the people to Babylon.  No wonder Ezekiel had no answer for God as to whether the bones could live; he had seen so much destruction and the people had still not repented and returned to the Lord.  How could they possibly live now?[2]

Who are the “they” who say, “Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone”?  This would be the exiles, who despair of their lives and their future, as they mourn in Babylon. 

Ezekiel is charged with giving them hope, so they will have the strength to stand against all the death that surrounds them – the death of their armies, the death of their hopes, the death of their relatives, the death of their country, the death of their identity … everything they have ever had or hoped to have has been taken away, and they see no way forward.  And Ezekiel is charged with giving them hope.[3]

So we have the juxtaposition, that “This is the reenactment of YHWH's promise for a rebirth of those of us who are dry bones in a valley filled to the brim with dry bones. The valley of our lives is vastly more interested in death than the possibility of a new life.”[4]

We are, in other words, more quick to see the negative than the positive; we are more alert to threat than to promise; we are more focused on what is wrong than on what is right.

Insofar as this is our habit, we are doing the exact opposite of what Jesus was advising his disciples in the passage from the Gospel of John we just heard read.  This conversation took place before his arrest and crucifixion, even though we are reading about it after his death, resurrection, and ascension. 

He was telling them they needed to let go their sorrow, because his death, which they feared, was the way that his work – God’s work – would be completed.  It could not be fulfilled until the whole journey came to its intended conclusion.

And only by the fulfillment of Jesus’ path would the door be opened to the next stage of God’s great work of salvation and healing for the people of God: the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete.

What does Jesus say the Paraclete will do?

He will prove the world wrong about sin.

He will prove the world wrong about righteousness.

He will prove the world wrong about judgment.

Gail R. O’Day (Candler School of Theology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA) says that the word here given as “proven wrong” is perhaps better translated as “exposed.”[5]  The Paraclete will expose the world regarding sin., righteousness, and judgment.

What does this mean?  That the world doesn’t know what it is talking about, because the world does not believe in the Messiah.  I would ask you to bear in mind that the word “believe” also can be translated – and I think is better translated as TRUST.

The world does not TRUST God or the Messiah.

In what way does the world not trust God regarding sin?  The world does not trust that God is merciful and forgiving.  Sin is less about misbehavior and more about that lack of trust.  Where the world says to reject or disdain or betray or use or abuse another, we are to love as God loves – sacrificially, abundantly, and without limit. 

In what way does the world not trust God as regards righteousness?  To be righteous here means to be vindicated, to be found to be in the right.  It does not mean to be proud of following all the rules; it does not mean to turn our backs on those who mess up.  It means striving to find the good, to do good, to heal and to honor.

In what way does the world not trust God as regards judgment?  Instead of leaving judgment to God, we judge others.  We may find reasons to reject and degrade.  But Jesus asks us to remember that God’s judgment is merciful and kind, filled with grace.

Jesus told the disciples they would be persecuted because they followed the way he taught, the way of love, the way of healing, the way of mercy, the way of peace.

These are not the things of the world – but they are the things of God.

And the world fears them, because the world wants the power for itself to decide who is in and who is out, who is victor and who is loser, who is rich and who is poor.

And the world is very good at doing these things.

But God rejects them. 

If the world does not change after the coming of Jesus; then Jesus’ incarnation has no meaning; his suffering and death have no meaning, his resurrection has no meaning; and his ascension has no meaning. The Holy Spirit has no meaning.  The church has no meaning.

That’s why it’s important that we remember and tell this story of Jesus – because in God’s eyes, the world was made in love for love, in joy for joy, in grace for grace – and we are the messengers offering hope for a world that constantly flirts with death and despair, all because it cannot trust God.

Now some of you may have watched the Royal Wedding yesterday, and heard our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s sermon.  I particularly enjoyed his mention of the great Spiritual hymn, “There is a balm in Gilead to make the nations whole; there is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul.  If you cannot preach like Peter, and you cannot pray like Paul, you can tell the love of Jesus, who died to save us all.”

I cannot preach like Peter – and I cannot preach like Bishop Curry, either.  But I can tell you that the love of Jesus is the love of God, and the balm in Gilead can heal the sickest soul, and make the nations whole.

Trust that God knew what God was doing in the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus – that this act fulfilled the prophecy to Ezekiel that the dead dry bones of our lives can be revived and renewed, rejoicing.  Trust that God knew what God was doing in sending the Spirit to guide, comfort, heal, and, yes, testify, to this truth:  No love is greater but that The Divine One laid down his life for all, to heal and reconcile and restore, the power of sin is vanquished, that the lost are vindicated, and the judgment is sure: we are loved.

Come Holy Spirit, our souls inspire, and lighten with celestial fire.

Anoint and cheer our soilèd face
With the abundance of Thy grace;
Keep far our foes, give peace at home;
Where Thou art Guide, no ill can come.


[1] Psalm 194:31.

[2] Indebted to Margaret Odell, 4/6/14.


[4] John C. Holbert.  Accessed May 15, 2018.

[5] Gail R. O’Day, “Commentary on the Gospel of John,” The New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol IX, Abingdon Press © 1995, p 772.

  May 2021  
This Week's Events
Bible Search