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"My Spirit Makes My People"

#86-41
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on June 9, 2019
By Rev. Dr. Michael Zeigler, Lutheran Hour Speaker
(Q&A Topic:My Spirit Makes My People)
Copyright 2019 Lutheran Hour Ministries


Listen (4mb)  Download (28mb)  Reflections

Text: Ezekiel 37:1-14 14:15-21

With God's blessing and with your help, we'll let this fourth lesson be an immersive experience in God's Word. So I need your help. I need your help. You have some lines. You are going to be the people of Israel. So your lines are: "Our bones are dried up. Our hope is gone. We are clean cut off." So I'll say those three lines, and I'll stop and have you repeat. So let's practice.

Our bones are dried up. Our bones are dried up.

Our hope is gone. Our hope is gone.

We are clean cut off. We are clean cut off.

Very good. And you know your part. "The hand of the Lord was upon me. I said, the hand of the Lord was upon me, and He brought me up by the Spirit of the Lord, and He set me in the middle of a valley, and it was full of bones. And He led me back and forth and back and forth. And I saw great many bones in the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And He said to me, 'Son of man, son of Adam, can these bones live?' And I said to him, O sovereign Lord, You alone know. And He said to me, 'Prophesy to the bones and say to them, dry bones, hear the Word of the Lord. This is what the sovereign Lord says to these bones. I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life, and I will attach tendons to you and put flesh on you and cover you with skin. And I will make the breath enter you and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am who I am, the Lord.' And so I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, I heard a noise, a rattling sound. And bones came together. Bone to bone and tendons and flesh appeared and skin covered them.

"But there was no breath in them. And He said to me, 'Son of Adam, prophesy to the breath and say to it, Come from the four winds, O breath. Come O spirit, and breathe into these slain that they may live.' And so I prophesied as I was commanded and as I was prophesying, the breath entered them, and they came to life, and they stood up on their feet. Behold a vast army. And He said to me, 'Son of Adam, these bones are the whole house of Israel.' They say,

Our bones are dried up. Our bones are dried up.

Our hope is gone. Our hope is gone.

We are clean cut off. We are clean cut off.

"And so prophesy to them, son of Adam, and say to them, this is what the sovereign Lord says. I will open up your graves and I will bring you out of them, and I will bring you back into the land of Israel, and then you will know that I am who I am, the Lord. When I open up your graves and bring you out and cause My Spirit to enter you and bring you to life, and I will settle you in your land, and then you will know that I the Lord have spoken and that I have done it, declares the Lord."

This is the Word of the Lord.

If you see 100 insects working together toward a common goal, it's a sure bet they are siblings: born of the same mother. If you see 100 human beings working together toward a common goal, you would be astonished to find out they were all blood related. If you see a hundred human beings building a construction site or marching off to war or organizing a rally and mass choir, you would be astonished to find out they were all related by blood. That's because human beings are the world champions when it comes to cooperation beyond kinship. Moral psychologist, Jonathan Haidt in his book, The Righteous Mind, made that observation. He said that human beings, we are the world champions when it comes to cooperation beyond blood relation. It's almost like we were made for this—like we were made to work together in community unified by a vision, working together like busy bees, all part of the same hive. Where have you seen human beings working together like a hive, cooperating like busy bees? Shout it out, where have you seen human beings working together cooperating like this?

In church. Church.

What? Football.

Corporations. Corporations.

Sandbagging to hold waters back.

Sandbagging to hold waters back. Great!

Assembly lines. Assembly lines, schools.

Military. Military.

It's like we were made for this and at the same time, human beings can be radically self-interested. Sometimes we act like busy bees working together, cooperating, but other times, we act like chimpanzees. Chimpanzees, as a biologist will tell you, are the most brilliant species on the planet, second only to human beings. Chimpanzees are incredible. They can make tools and use tools. They can learn sign language and communicate. They can anticipate the behavior of other chimps. They are extremely cunning, and they know how to get what they want. As individuals, chimpanzees are brilliant creatures, but they're lousy team players. One of the world's foremost experts on chimpanzees says it this way. It is inconceivable that you would ever find two chimpanzees carrying a log together. Inconceivable because chimpanzees are self-centered to the core. Even when they appear to be working together, they're not. Even when they appear to be hunting in a pack, they're just chasing the same thing, and when they catch up with it and tear it apart, they fight over the meat, and you will never see two adult chimpanzees sharing with each other.

Where have you seen people acting like chimpanzees? A former employee of a large corporation with 10,000 employees, having left the corporation, completed an exit survey, and this is what they wrote: "You are truly nothing more than a number to them, and they see you as an expense waiting to be cut. This creates a hostile work environment where the person next to you is waiting to throw you under the bus so that they can get your promotion or save themselves from the next round of layoffs." Sadly, sometimes our kind acts like chimpanzees, and even when we become a part of a group and we are lifted out of our selfishness, we can quickly lapse into groupishness: a hive mentality where we're suspicious of outsiders, and we're ready to sting anyone who doesn't look like us or sound like us, and we protect our hive, and we protect our turf.

A pastor friend of mine once told me a story about a ladies' group in his church. The purpose of the group was to provide a meal for the family after a funeral. That was the main purpose of the group. It happened that Alvin's wife Irma died, and Alvin wanted to have a nice luncheon for Irma for her funeral. And so he went to the pastor and asked if this could be arranged, and the pastor passed the request on to the ladies' guild. Well, Irma had never joined this particular group, so they weren't too happy about this request, and they said to the pastor, "Well, we'll do a luncheon, but we're not paying for the ham." So pastor relayed the message to Alvin and Alvin said, "I'll pay for the ham." The day of the funeral came, and they had a nice luncheon. They had Jell-O salad, potato chips, and a nice ham. But Alvin hadn't paid for the ham yet. The ladies' guild paid for the ham, and there was a buzz in the kitchen.

A week later, Alvin wrote a check for $200, and he gave it to the pastor, and he said, "Tell the ladies, thank you. And the pastor at the next meeting presented the check for $200 to the group, and the queen bee said, "Well, the ham didn't cost $200." Pastor said, "Well, Alvin said that the $200 is to cover Irma's ham and his ham, whenever he passes." And the queen bee said, "Well, how do you know that it's going to be enough? Who knows what the price of ham will be by the time Alvin dies?"

Sometimes our groups can become so groupish, right? And we're so hostile to people who aren't part of our little group. This is what happened in ancient Israel, and the book of Ezekiel tells the story. See, the people of Israel were a special group, but they weren't supposed to be special for themselves, but special for the nations. God was going to lift them up as a light to the nations on a mission to the nations that all the nations would come and all would know the Name of the Lord. But the people of Israel, when they got into the land, they got their heads and their hearts all twisted about, and they thought it was all about them and all about their turf and their sanctuary and their buildings. And the Lord warned them that they better turn it around or He's going to drive them out, but they rejected the Lord's spirit of generosity to the poor and the outcast among them. They rejected the Lord's spirit of hospitality to the foreigner and the stranger among them.

And so the Lord drove them out of their hive, and He turned them into a valley of dead dry bones. And you heard Ezekiel's prophecy. You heard his promise, and I tell you that this promise was fulfilled when God raised Jesus from the dead. God made the dead bones of Jesus come to life, and He stood up on His feet, the Captain of a vast army, and He breathed out His Spirit upon His followers, and He continues to breathe life upon all who trust in His Name, even today. But I look around at our congregations, sometimes I wonder—not this congregation—this congregation is doing pretty well, but I look at other congregations. I look at the congregation that I was a pastor of and maybe the congregation that you're a member of, and sometimes I wonder, are we just protecting our own turf, just protecting our buildings, trying to keep the doors open? Maybe we're just too old, too young, too tired, too busy. We don't have enough money. We don't have enough resources.

And here's what we do when we recognize this as followers of Jesus. We just confess it. We just confess it. So let's confess it. I'll lead you in this confession.

Our bones are dried up. Our bones are dried up.

Our hope is gone. Our hope is gone.

We are clean cut off. We are clean cut off.

Prophesy, son of Adam. Prophesy and say to them, "Dry bones, hear the Word of the Lord. This is what the sovereign Lord says to these bones. 'I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.'" And so I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, I heard a noise, a rattling sound and bones came together, bone to bone, and I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared, and skin covered them. But there was no breath in them. And so He said to me, "Son of man, prophesy to the breath and say to it, 'Come from the four winds, O breath. Come O Spirit and breathe life onto these slain that they may live.'" And so I prophesied as I was commanded, and as I was prophesying the breath entered them, and they came to life, and they stood up on their feet. Behold a vast army.

"My people, you are not chimps. My people, you are not bees. You are My people," says the Lord. "You have been brought together by the blood of Jesus. My people, you are brothers and sisters in the Spirit of God. My people, you are the hands and feet of Jesus in this world, and I am sending you out, and when you go out, you will see, and you will know that I am the Lord, and that I have done it." In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Note: The Lutheran Hour is produced for the ear and designed to be heard. If you are able, we encourage you to listen to the audio at lutheranhour.org, includes emotion and emphasis not reflected in the transcript.








Reflections for June 9, 2019

Title: My Spirit Makes My People


Mark Eischer: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour, and we just heard a message from Dr. Michael Zeigler, recorded live at a Lutheran Hour Rally held on March 17, at Hosanna Lutheran Church in Mankato, Minnesota. I'm Mark Eischer here in the studio now with Dr. Zeigler. These Lutheran Hour Rallies have a long history with our program. They began back in the mid-1930s, held at various sports arenas in different cities. This was your first experience though as a Speaker at a Lutheran Hour Rally. What did you think? How was it?

Mike Zeigler: It was a lot of fun, Mark. There was so much energy. I could tell that the people who were in charge of planning it, had worked on it for months, and maybe in some cases, a year out. There was just so much excitement coming to that day. They had a parade of nations, flags marched in that represent all the different countries that Lutheran Hour Ministries has ministry activities, and there was a huge mass choir that was directed by the choir director at Concordia University in St. Paul. I don't know if you could hear it in the message, but I gave them some rhythm sticks, and they participated in bringing to life of the Ezekiel 37.

Mark Eischer: The bones, yeah.

Mike Zeigler: The dry bones. So it was just a lot of fun, and wonderful music, and great people meeting them on the way out, people who had been longtime listeners of The Lutheran Hour.

Mark Eischer: The single largest rally took place on October 3, 1943, at Chicago's Soldier Field. It was estimated that 27,500 people turned out for that. It included a live Lutheran Hour broadcast by Dr. Walter A. Maier. The Chicago Tribune ran a frontpage story on it, and Time Magazine called that rally, "the biggest religious event of the year." Not meaning to cast aspersions on your experience, but what do you think of that when you hear about those kinds of statistics?

Mike Zeigler: The heritage of this program is incredible. To hear those numbers, it's exciting and also intimidating, because I think there were only about 500 at my rally. When you say, 27,500, it seems pretty small.

Mark Eischer: Would you see this as a statement on the place of the church in today's culture?

Mike Zeigler: I think it's part of that—where this is a common narrative we hear of the church in America losing ground and becoming less of a social force, and so people aren't as excited gathering together on a Sunday afternoon for another church service. I think there's a trend in gatherings as well. People can have more firsthand experience through audio, through their personal devices, and so I think that makes for smaller gatherings.

Mark Eischer: It's impressive to see a photograph of that rally, to see all of those people all gathered in one spot but, having said that, I believe there are more people listening to us right now than were at Soldier that day. It's hard to get an exact audience count, but we're told by most research that many, many more people are listening to us right now than were attending that rally.

Mike Zeigler: Yeah, that's a good point, too, that even if our listenership is, in terms of the mass gatherings, is not as big, the reach across 1,800 radio stations, plus online listeners, and then that's only about less than 1 percent of the total reach of Lutheran Hour Ministries around the world. I'm told about 137 million every week through all of our 30 different ministry sites around the world. When you put it like that, you see, well, maybe the impact is bigger; we just can't see it.

Mark Eischer: It's something we just have to take on faith.

Mike Zeigler: Right. It's helpful to remember how the Bible talks about numbers, too. God cares about numbers, because God wants all people to be saved—1 Timothy 2: He desires all men to be saved, all people. So, numbers are important. There's even a book of the Bible titled Numbers, and you have these counts in Acts. They start off as 120 disciples, and then they grow: 3,000 are baptized in one day, and then it's 5,000. Then all those folks are scattered around to the surrounding regions, and more are continued to be baptized and come to faith. God cares about numbers. Big numbers can be a sign of His blessing, of the church's faithfulness. But, God doesn't need big numbers to do His work. He can do it with just a remnant, remaining in Israel as He mentions to the prophet Elijah. There were just 7,000 in a country that was many millions. He would work through just those 7,000.

Another thing to remember from this Ezekiel 37 passage that was mentioned in the message is that the numbers can actually be zero. It can be a valley of dead, dry bones, and God can bring His people to life out of that—just the Word, calling them to life. That's helpful to remember, too, as God's got a perspective that transcends ours.

Mark Eischer: Looking ahead to next week's program, we're going to be starting a new series of messages. What would you like our listeners to know about it?

Mike Zeigler: We're going to be using these messages to grow in a deeper relationship. We're going to be using these messages to get to know Jesus more fully through six core teachings of the Bible. I'll leave it at that, and they can tune in next week to hear what those six core teachings are.








Music Selections for this program:

"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.

"Come, Holy Ghost, God and Lord" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)





Change Their World. Change Yours. This changes everything.

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