This week, although Holy Week is almost upon us, I remain on the beach. The tide has receded, the water’s edge is quite a walk, the sand beneath my feet feels firm. Yet already the surface is drying and as the wind blasts sand into my face I think of Ezekiel’s vision of the Valley of Dry Bones. (Ezekiel 37: 1-14)
Can these dry bones live? God’s people had turned their back on him. Slowly but surely, like the sand on a beach, they had slipped away; dried out and wind blown. Gone forever?
Here on the beach the waters will soon return (two tides a day) and the sandstorm will cease. Yet each tide brings more change. Slowly, grain by grain, the sand moves, the coast line changes. Occasionally a storm will bring dramatic change; the sort of change long remembered, immortalised in song and story. All the while, storm or no storm, tide by tide, grain by grain the coastlands change. It is as if the very landscape is alive.
Through Ezekiel, God promised Israel a return, but not yet. First they had to wait, finish drying, be patient. For Israel in Babylon, 70 years would pass before the tide turned and the cool refreshing waters of the Spirit of God returned; 70 years in painful exile.
Here on a Norfolk beach, the waters will return in just a few hours, then the dry land will become a shallow sea, the dry sand wet once more. It is easy to forget that, for all this steady ebb and flow, the coastline is constantly changing. Land and sea, wind and water, sun, moon and earth; all dancing a pattern of God given life.
My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. (Is 55:8). We live in an instant age; impatient for results. God is working his purpose out but we are often too preoccupied to notice. Then, the time comes when God waits until we stop being busy, stop going our way, because then and only then, can he be heard. Sometimes that means a lot of waiting.
I looked at the beach when the tide was out, and heard ‘patience, be still, listen’
Rev Philip Payne Palm Sunday 2nd April
The Notice Sheet for 2nd April can be found here