15 December 2011

Sinew, muscle and skin

Part 7 of a series - 'The valley of dry bones'
< The bones come together | Index | Prophecy to the breath >

Ezekiel watches as sinew, muscle and skin transform the newly organised bones into complete bodies. What might be the sinew, muscle and skin of church and are these sufficient?

Complete bodies
Now the bones are all in order and correctly arranged, the stage is set for the next steps. Ezekiel is still watching and he tells us what he sees.

'Before my very eyes sinew and muscle appeared on them and skin covered them, but they weren't breathing.' (Ezekiel 37:8)

Ezekiel has seen a remarkable change! What began with dry, dusty bones has now become dead bodies. Although there is no life, the structure has changed. Lets see what we can tease out of this.

First we need to remember that the bones form the framework of a body, the first thing that happened was that the framework was restored to the way it needed to be.

This is no small matter! If we apply this idea to the church, can we say what the framework might be? What is a right framework? May I suggest that a suitable framework for church is what we often call organic church? It's family-sized groups living in close community. This framework is made, not of bones, but of people. Dry and dusty people who are in disarray or in isolation, such people are not a suitable framework for church life!

People who are correctly arranged, connected together and in right relationship are the basic requirement for something that will have the shape of church about it.

Then the sinews are added. In the body, sinews or tendons connect bones to muscles and sometimes attach two bones together (in the knee for example). All these tendons must be attached if the muscles are to make the framework move.

So perhaps the sinews say something to us about frameworks that are ready for movement. There is so far nothing to cause the movement, but the bones are now suitably equipped. So what might sinews suggest about church? Assuming the framework is in good shape, what might prepare it for movement? I would suggest there are many mechanisms that will do this. Prayer, Bible study, CO2, seven signs in John, eating together regularly, helping one another, spiritual songs. I'm sure you can think of more.

We can now imagine a good church framework (people connected correctly) well-equipped for movement (some good mechanisms, tools and habits). But more is needed, much more.

We need some muscle! Muscles (flesh) turn chemical energy into movement and warmth. What does church need for movement and warmth? Here I'm going to suggest spiritual fruit and in particular love - the Lord's love for us, our love for him, and our love for one another. 'Christ's love compels us', writes Paul (2 Corinthians 5:13-15). If we have love we are driven, but without love we will remain indifferent.

We need love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. This fruit will direct our energies into the mechanics of prayer and Bible study and the rest in ways that are useful. Now we're in pretty good shape - a framework of people in community, prepared with good mechanisms, and with the means to turn energy into movement and warmth.

And skin, so important but often overlooked. Skin provides the senses of touch, hot and cold, texture and so much more. What is the overlooked, protective boundary of church? It's so overlooked that we may not ever think about it, we are just aware of who is part of church and who is outside. We rejoice when someone is transferred from outside to inside, but how do we know? Might it be faith? Why did Paul and Peter both refer to faith as a 'great shield'? (Ephesians 6:16, 1 Peter 1:5) It is faith that defines our boundary, inside there is faith but outside there is not.

So Ezekiel has prophesied and the bones are now bodies that are complete in every way, yet are not breathing. And if this is where things had remained, over time these bodies would have decayed and  become dry bones again.

'Before my very eyes sinew and muscle appeared on them and skin covered them, but they weren't breathing.' (Ezekiel 37:8)

< The bones come together | Index | Prophecy to the breath >

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