Kolar: A need to come alive

Rev. Janel Kolar writes about the meaning behind Ezekiel 37:11, when the collective energy is low, spirituality is lackluster, moods are dark and heavy – the “dry bones” moments.

Rev. Janel F. Kolar is the pastor at First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ in Dickinson, North Dakota.
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Ezekiel 37:11: Then he said to me, "Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, 'Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.'”

One of the shortest and most profound sermons I ever heard was preached on this text from Ezekiel by a friend who was a member of the MHA Nation, Phyllis Hand (White Plume). I have often thought of that sermon and longed to have a copy. It was written out in long-hand, not typed on a computer, and beautifully called on the dry bones of her nation to receive the breath of the four winds and come alive.

All nations experience what I call the “dry bones” phenomenon on occasion. Those times when our collective energy is low, our spirituality is lackluster, our moods are dark and heavy – those are our “dry bones” moments. For Phyllis, the dry bones period in her nation started when the Garrison dam was built and her community of Niishu (near Fort Yates) was permanently flooded. It seemed to sap the energy from most of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara people, and the trauma of that event dried up their bones. Phyllis called on her people to receive the four winds, the body God provided, and for the dry bones to come alive.

We have experienced “dry bones” times as well – during wars, the Great Depression, and most recently, through the early stages of COVID. After each of those moments, there was a call – a need to come alive. I would argue we have yet to heed that call as those who were frightened into a dry bones state by COVID. We have not yet, in my humble opinion, returned to a healthy energy, spirituality or mood. We have not yet heeded the call of the Spirit in the four winds, or put on the flesh we need to return to “life”.

It is time to breathe again, to rise up again, to find our way back to walking as a vast multitude – a huge community with Jesus in service to God and each other.

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