I found an interesting post from Rev. Dr. E Scott Jones from Oklahoma City’s Cathedral of Hope church.  Dr Jones asked the question “Now what are we going to do?”  It is a lenten lesson about restoration.  He uses as his text the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37, and readings from W.F. Lofthouse, a British Methodist and a Hebrew Scholar.

How, Ezekiel wondered, could this people live again? How, in the midst of this destruction, might they find new life? How if there were “no seeds of life or goodness from which the new obedience could spring up,” to quote Lofthouse?

The metaphor in the lesson is repentance, and Jones asks the question “How can a corpse repent?”   The answer is that it can’t, not as long as it is dead.  Once you die, your eternal fate is sealed and there is no more opportunity for salvation.  There is no more opportunity to beg forgiveness of a holy God before you stand for judgment.

Jones is making a point about punishment, that simply living with (or dying from) the consequences of your sin will not bring restoration.  No amount of punishment will bring repentance and restoration, but will only serve to highlight the magnitude of the offense.

The only way for a corpse to repent is if it returns to life.  Not until the breath of God came into their lungs did the bones in Ezekiel’s desert begin to breathe again.  Not until Jesus called power into Jarius’ daughter and into Lazarus did they begin to live again.  Elisha lay on the dead son’s body and prayed and breathed life into his body.  Action was taken by one with life to restore one without life.

And so for the dying church, the church that is functionally dead but has not locked the door for the final time, what is needed is the Breath of God and a spirit of repentance.  The restoration of the congregation will not come from programs or methods.  Programs and methods and surveys will identify areas that need to be repented from, and actions to be taken to seek restoration.  But it is the breath of God that is needed to bring healing to the struggling congregation.

p.s.  I appreciate this post from Dr Jones, even though I disagree with some of his church’s doctrine.  I’m glad our God is big enough for both of us to worship the core essentials of the Gospel of salvation, even if we worship in different ways, with different theology and with different outcomes.  May he continue in his service of God, and may God continue to teach and lead him.