By The Very Rev. Sherry Crompton
March 9, 2008
Read: Ezekiel 37:1-14 and John 11:1-45
Close your eyes and look around you. You are dropped into the middle of a deep valley full of bones. The bones are dry..very dry..bleached white from the hot sun. There are a lot of bones. Dry bones everywhere. You feel a sense of hopelessness.
Now you are at the graveside of someone you dearly love. He died. He has been dead now four days and you can begin to smell his decaying body. He is gone. You will never see him again. You feel a sense of hopelessness.
Out of the depths have I called to you, O Lord.
Today’s lessons are filled with death. God seems to understand our pain, our anger, our fear in the face of death.
Dr. Randy Pausch appeared on Oprah. He recreated his final lecture from September 2007 at Carnegie Mellon University. There is an academic tradition called the final lecture. Hypothetically speaking, if you were dying, what would you do for your final lecture? In Dr. Pausch’s case is wasn’t hypothetical. He is dying of pancreatic cancer and he chose to give his final lecture on the topic of Childhood Dreams instead of on his field of study—which is virtual reality. I was sent the youtube video link to watch and hear this final lecture. It was about more than achieving your childhood dreams, it was advice on how to live your life. Here is a man who only has months to live. His pancreatic cancer returned, it’s spread to his liver. He is dying. He knows he can’t control that, but he chooses to continue to live his life to the fullest possible.
He talked of his childhood dream of working for Disney. At age 8 he went to Disney World in California and just loved it and he dreamed of being involved in Walt Disney Imagineering – an imagineer is one of those people who makes the magic. As he got older, and went to college and graduate school, he pursued his dream and was rejected several times. He still has those rejection letters.
As an assistant professor he got into virtual reality research and wound up creating something of interest to Disney. His first job Imagineering at Disney was working on Aladdin’s Magic Carpet Ride. It took him 15 years to do it and lots and lots of tries.
He believes brick walls are not designed to keep us out, but to show us how much we want it.
Some other lessons from Randy:
Have a sense of fun and wonder in your life.
Remember that people are more important than things.
Decide if you are a Tigger or an Eeyore in life. Even though he is dying, he chooses to have fun. He chooses to be a Tigger.
Work and play well with others. Tell the truth. Say I’m sorry when you’re wrong. Show gratitude.
Dr. Randy Pausch concludes by saying that he didn’t really give this lecture for the 400 and so students who were there that day at Carnegie-Mellon University. He gave it for his 3 very young children. And someday they will watch it. (2007 Harpo, Inc.)
So why am I sharing that story? Because Randy knows that death is certain for all of us. And we can’t control that. What we can do is choose how we live our life.
So let’s go back into the valley of the dry bones. Do you feel the wind? Do you hear the unexpected sound of transformation? Thousands of rattling bones reforming into skeletons: bones and joints coming together. Hear the rush of God’s breath sweeping down in gale force upon those bones. The sound is deafening—they clatter and clack. Smell the unexpected scent of life. Brown grass, bent and bruised is blown by the Spirit: green grass again carpets the valley floor: nature again sings and soars and pollinates and dies and resurrects in the endless, life cycle of creation. Smell life.
And go back to the graveside of your loved one. Jesus says “I am resurrection and I am life”. The Good News is that God promises us not just life after death, but life before death.
“The Good News is that there is constant hope, that the valley of dry bones in our own lives is not the end. Keep watching and listening for that hint of life, for new creation. The Good News is that God continually creates life in ways that we cannot imagine. The Good News is that God’s promises are kept and that God promises us not just life after death, but life before death. Abundant life. Empowered life. Life that is buoyant with hope. That is what resurrection life is—life in the midst of graveyards and dead ends and [brick walls]. Hope in the midst of hopelessness. “Can these bones live?” “O Lord God, you know”. (Rev. Thomas Hall)
If you know the story by C. S. Lewis – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – after being in Narnia, a magical world, the three children re-emerge from the wardrobe into the room where it all began. Everything is the same, yet nothing is the same.
Lazarus came out of the tomb and the community took off his bindings. He came back to the life he knew, yet I doubt he was the same. The Good News is that God continually creates life in ways that we cannot imagine. Expect the unexpected. Live with a sense of wonder.
And, may the Spirit of God sneak up on us from behind! Amen.
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