We Have A Preaching God

Text: Ezekiel 37:1-14 and John 20:19-31

In the name of Jesus.  Amen.

There is nothing more dead than very dry bones.  You know, the kind of bones that you come across on the North Dakota prairie – dry, bleached white, dead bones – dead-dead. 
But imagine coming across a whole valley of dry bones – bones littered everywhere.  And not animal bones, but human bones.  Hundreds of dead human bones – skulls, arms, and legs! 
Immediately a bunch of questions would come to mind. Questions such as,
“Who are they?  Why did they die?  Why are they scattered over the valley?  Are they hear because of a natural disaster?  Are they a defeated army, left for dead without a decent burial?” 
But before any answers could be had, another question comes forth? 
“Can these bones live again?” 
Yes, can these dry bleached bones live again? 
That is the question Ezekiel faced when he originally saw the vision of the valley of dry bones.  Indeed, can these dead, dry bones live again? 
Now, our ordinary experience says, “No!”  Science says, “No!”  The medical profession says, “No!”  And morticians would say, “No!” as well.  If the bones had flesh and blood, maybe.  But dry bones?  No, they cannot live again. 
The prophet Ezekiel in our Old Testament reading, though, answers this question with a bit of wisdom, especially since the question is from God Himself. 
“Can these bones live?”
Ezekiel’s answer,
“O Lord God, You Know!” 
And, dear friends, the Lord does know. 
Yes, the Lord knows that contrary to our ordinary experiences, contrary to science, contrary to the medical profession, and contrary to morticians, these dead bones can be brought back to life. 
And what’s more? 
God shows Ezekiel how they are to be brought back to life.  The Lord commands Ezekiel to prophesy to the dead bones.  That is to say; the Lord commands Ezekiel to preach to the dead bones.  Yes, preach.   
That seems kind of silly, doesn’t it, to preach to dry bones?  A little duct tape and super glue would surely go a lot further in bringing bones back to life than preaching?  Right?  However, dear friends, do not underestimate the power of the preached Word of God. 
You see, the Lord God works through speaking - preaching.  We have a speaking God.  For example, in the very beginning, the world was preached into existence.  God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.  God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation and plants,” and it was so.  God spoke – He preached - and time, matter, and space were created.
We see the same speaking and preaching God in the New Testament.  In the New Testament, Jesus – God in the flesh – preaches.  And who does Jesus preach to?  He preaches to the wind and the waves, and they bow to His Word.  Oh, and let us not forget the demons, diseases, and death.  Jesus preaches to them, and they all obey – they release their grip on various people. 
And this morning, we hear more of the same.  In our Gospel reading Jesus breathes on His disciples calling them to preach.  Jesus breathed on them saying, 
“Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld.”

You see, by breathing on His disciples in the upper room after His resurrection, Jesus gives the disciples the Holy Spirit, and He sends them into the world armed with His Word of life and forgiveness. That is right; Jesus gives His disciples, and the Church the authority preach the forgiveness of sins to repentant sinners and to withhold forgiveness from those who are proud of their sins.
Now, dear friends, do you realize that this is what we do at the beginning of every Divine Service?  Indeed, we stand together and confess that we are poor miserable sinners in thought, word, and deed.  We stand and admit all of our sins before our Heavenly Father.  And then, the most peculiar thing happens – the pastor preaches.  Yes, the pastor preaches to you, saying,   
“In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you of all your sins!”
If you did not grow up with this, the first time seeing and hearing a Lutheran pastor stand in front of the congregation preaching the words of absolution might make you think that the pastor was an arrogant man.  You may have said to yourself: 
“How can a sinful man in a white robe forgive sins?!  That’s God’s job and His alone!  Who does that pastor think he is?” 
Ah, but not too fast! 
You see, Jesus breathed on His disciples and gave His Holy Spirit to them because He was sending them into the world to preach the forgiveness of sins that He had won by His death and resurrection.
What this means is this: those words of forgiveness preached into your ears in the absolution, they are Jesus’ words of forgiveness which He speaks to you, His people, through His chosen servant, the pastor.  That is to say; it is not the words of a man in a white robe that forgive your sins.  Do not ever think that the forgiveness of a sinful pastor carries any weight in heaven.  Pastors are poor miserable sinner like all of you in need of the same forgiveness from our Lord.  
It is all beginning to make sense now, isn’t it?  In thinking back to the vision of Ezekiel with the dry bones, we are starting to see how this all works together! 
Dear Baptized Saints, in Ezekiel’s vision, God gives life to dead bones through the preached Word!  That is to say; it was not Ezekiel who gave life to the bones in the valley, but God’s Word spoken through the mouth of Ezekiel.  Therefore, can the bones live?  Maybe an even better question is,
“Can we Christians who admit in the confession of our sins that we are like those dead bones - all washed up in our sins – can we live?” 
The answer to both is yes! 
So, dear Baptized Saints, when you hear the sweetness of that holy absolution preached into your ears, let the soothing sound of the Gospel comfort your soul for that which is preached to you is the Lord’s word of forgiveness.  What Lord speaks, He does.
So even when the Lord’s forgiveness is preached through the mouth of a sinful man, those words are life, because Jesus is life. Jesus’ words are life, and He speaks the sweetness of His new and eternal life into you to chase away death and fill you with His life and His forgiveness.
Dear Baptized Saints, your God is a speaking God; He is a preaching God. So, hear the goodness of God’s Word preached to you again! 
You are forgiven – never doubt that! 
You have been brought from death to life because the Lord says so. 
You live this day in Christ.  You will live for all eternity in Christ because the Lord says it is so. 
And if that isn’t enough, which it is more than enough; your Lord comes to you today to give you His very Crucified and Risen body.  He gives His flesh and blood into your mouth and with it comes once again eternal life and the forgiveness for all of your sins.
You see, Jesus loves you, and He makes sure that the mercy and grace He earned for you on Good Friday is preached to you, so that you need never doubt that His suffering and death and resurrection are for you, for your forgiveness.
Jesus has more forgiveness than you have sins.  And He preaches that to you personally this day, for you belong to Him, and He to you. 
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
The second half is borrowed in parts from a sermon by Rev. Joshua Reimche.   
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