Ezekiel 37: 1-6 & Isaiah 35:4-7a
"...But most of the hundreds who die crossing every year die in the desert, dehydrated, confused, abandoned, lost, or injured. The hundreds who die every year are aching for streams in the desert, for a tiny miracle, for a fresh start. These deaths are on US sand and soil, but the US takes virtually no responsibility for these undocumented workers, these fathers and mothers, these daughters and sons. Even if you call them illegal aliens, we're told throughout scripture to welcome and care for orphans, widows and aliens.
Then Jesus says that whatever you have done for the least of these, you have done for him - welcoming the stranger and feeding the hungry and so forth. And then Paul says to show hospitality to strangers, for in so doing we may be entertaining angels without knowing it. Jesus says that anyone who gives a cup of cold water to the thirsty ones will be eternally rewarded. A cup of cold water is the stream in the desert, the tiny miracle, the fresh start.
Taking the bible seriously, some folks in Arizona call themselves Samaritans and journey throughout the desert to save lives - offering water, food, first aid and kind words to those seeking safe passage. I think Beth might know something about that.
We have Good Samaritans combing the deserts and still, hundreds of bodies are found each year, and those on the border know that many more die and are never found. Ezekiel could raise a multitude in these valleys of dry bones.
When these bones are enfleshed and enlivened, the stories they tell are painful. A young woman I knew in Minneapolis remembers riding home from the grocery with her mother and sister when she was 8. Her mother isn’t a documented immigrant, so she can’t get a driver’s license. She got pulled over for a broken taillight and their car was impounded since she didn’t have a license. My friend remembers the three of them sitting on the curb with their bags of groceries, humiliated, exhausted, afraid of what would happen when their mother went to court. Their barren desert in the land of 10,000 lakes, their unquenchable thirst for freedom in this land of the free, their cracked hopes for this parched land of liberty that proclaims “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free....”
"This week our eyes were wrenched open and our hearts were broken by photos of Aylan Kurdi, the 2-year-old Syrian refugee who drowned with his 4-year-old brother and their mother as they fled a war-torn land into a sea of danger, toward a skeptical Europe. Just like some US Americans worry that migrants will make our lives harder, many Europeans worry about the rising number of migrants coming to their countries. But migrants and refugees risking their lives, leaving behind loved ones, venturing toward a foreign land where they don’t speak the language and don’t know where they’ll sleep, only risk and sacrifice this much because they are desperate. Whether through the economic violence of NAFTA or military violence of each new Middle Eastern war, rich people in the US and Europe are getting richer as poor people get more and more desperate.
And then poor people get pitted against poor people – and race and ethnicity are easy ways to convince poor people they’re enemies rather than comrades. Rather than offer refugees and migrants a cup of cold water, a stream in the desert, a tiny miracle, a fresh start, we have a 30 foot high concrete wall, we have border patrol and militia men with guns, we have dangerous low-paying jobs, we have racism and resentment...."
"Ezekiel's moment in the valley of dry bones is one of the most dramatic stories of scripture, and it tells a tale of restoration that can only begin with death. We practice this morning, in our prayer of confession and reconciliation, letting our fears turn to dust. Letting our prejudice die. Letting our despair decay. When we let it all go, we let God turn it all upside down, and bring new life from death, from decay, from dust...."