A word for a time of despair and hopelessness
On this fifth Sunday in Lent, we are presented with a vision from Ezekiel 37. It is concerned with the restoration of an exiled people to the Promised Land. Ezekiel receives a vision from God. It is a vision of dry bones!
Have you received a vision lately for Jamaica? If you had one, what might it look like? Might Ezekiel’s vision bear any relevance or inform any message for Jamaica in 2023?
Maybe Ezekiel’s vision bears an image that might readily be processed in a Jamaica, where a history of the transatlantic trade in Africans, the holocaust of chattel slavery, years of oppression, colonialism, racism, crime and violence, have left a trail of deaths over the years. “The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry.” A hopeless image indeed. The reality of mortality and the finality of death are not generally used as images of hope.
VALLEY OF DESOLATION
But what a vision! “He said to me, ‘Mortal, can these bones live?’ I answered, ‘O Lord God, you know’. Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord’”. This was a message for the Hebrew people. It is, however, a message from which any people of faith might draw inspiration even at this Lenten time. At a time when there is much division in Jamaica. At a time when there is much crime and violence and death and hopelessness, can these bones live? Can Jamaica return from the brink of despair and the valley of desolation?
“Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.” Sometimes when we hear some Jamaicans speak about Jamaica, all is gloom and doom. However, the voice of faith differs. An understanding informed by God, sees dry bones living again! The prophet Ezekiel sees otherwise. “So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them.”
O that Jamaica would awake and own the vision of restoration! Too many Jamaicans are yet to even process the notion of Vision 2030. The social media landscape is rife with cynicism, condemnation, anger, bitterness, and one may add, reasonable concerns about economic, social and justice issues. “Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.” Wow! What a word for a time of despair and hopelessness.
Is there a word for us as we reflect even on our history of exploited ancestors, victims of the genocide and holocaust of slavery? Interestingly, Ezekiel also sees the reunification of Israel under a messianic king. Jamaica’s king is interestingly not messianic. He actually belongs to a line of investors in slavery informed by an empire of white supremacy!
Can our ancestors live again? Can breath come into them again? I say a resounding “yes!” to our ancestors living again. They live on in and through us! They paid with their lives. We must now use our freedoms for a restoration of empowered peoples and nations across the African diaspora. We may live affirming the human dignity of everyone. The church interestingly provides an “Israel” to which we may return. We will not be preoccupied with the image of opening literal graves. Instead, we will refuse to be condemned to those graves and rise up in the name of our ancestors for righteousness, peace, love, and justice for all.
We will claim where we are as ours. This is our soil. We will vote in governments and vote out governments. We will employ and fire politicians. We will seek reparatory justice. We will affirm our own Caribbean appellate jurisdiction. We will, in our time, live and celebrate Republic Jamaica!
In exegetical truth, Ezekiel preached for the Jewish exiles. In our Caribbean reality, Ezekiel’s vision may be applied to our Jamaican downheartedness and despondence in these troubled times. May we see this in our vision for ourselves. May we perceive God’s word to Israel as a word to us too. “I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act,” says the Lord.”
Father Sean Major-Campbell is an Anglican priest and advocate for human rights. firstname.lastname@example.org. Send feedback to email@example.com