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CPR for the Spiritually Dead

March 20, 2023

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give you life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who lives in you.”  Romans 8: 11

I grew up in the Coachella Valley desert in Rancho Mirage, California.  In 1959, when we moved to the desert, there were miles and miles of open sand dunes and flat desert.  Only the hardiest of animal and plant life can exist in that habitat.  When you hike in the desert, it is not unusual to come across dead animal bones, so I can imagine the valley of dry bones described in Ezekiel’s vision. 

 The dry bones were a metaphor for the spiritually dead souls in Ezekiel’s congregation.  The Lord asked him “Can these bones live?” (Ezekiel 37:3).  Can these people be restored to spiritual life?  Will God retrieve these lost, dead souls?  Ezekiel had faith that God would restore his spiritually dead flock to new life.  God told him to give his congregation CPR[1]: “’Breathe on these slain bodies. Breathe life!’ So I prophesied, just as he commanded me. The breath entered them and they came alive! They stood up on their feet, a huge army” (Ezekiel 37: 9-10, The Message).[2]  God wasn’t telling Ezekiel to literally breathe onto his spiritually dead congregation, but to breathe new spiritual life into them by communicating the word of God to them.   

In that sense, CPR can mean this:

Communicate with 

People to 

Revive/Restore them to new life. 

Ezekiel “prophesied” as God had instructed him—he communicated to his people the word of God.  He restored them to new life.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit living in him, Ezekiel was able to breathe new life into his spiritually dead congregation.

California was one of many states in “lockdown” for many months on account of COVID-19.  We were asked to stay in our homes, and when outside, to maintain a distance of 6’ from others and to wear masks.  In California, all but non-essential businesses and services were shuttered.  Churches were closed.  How does one communicate the Word of God in such an environment?   Most churches employed good old-fashioned American ingenuity coupled with modern communication tools to solve this problem.  Some churches offered drive-by confessions.  Most churches learned how to livestream services to their house-bound congregants.   We worshipped separately but together as one body in Christ with music, Scripture readings, sermons, and prayers, recorded in separate locations and joined together by the magic of modern technology. 

God gives us the tools to communicate the message to others—whether it be in person, or through other means.  Paul summarized the key message to be communicated: when you acknowledge that God lives within you–that the Spirit lives within you– you will be alive in Christ.  (Romans 8: 11).  But, as The Message version points out, “Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won’t know what we’re talking about.” If you don’t welcome Christ into your life, you will remain spiritually dead.  

These verses bring to mind the first line of an old church hymn that speaks of the new life we are promised in Christ Jesus: “Breathe on me, breath of God, fill me with life anew.”  When we ask God to perform CPR on our lost souls, he will.  He will send his Holy Spirit to restore us to new life.  Paul tells us that God will fill our souls with his Spirit of life: “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death . . .” (Romans 8: 1-2).  We need only come to Jesus and ask him to forgive our sins to be restored to new life. 

The psalmist echoes that promise: “If you, God, kept records on wrongdoings, who would stand a chance?  As it turns out, forgiveness is your habit, and that’s why you’re worshiped.” (Psalm 130: 3-4, The Message).  God forgives us whenever we come before him with a sincere and contrite heart, and fills us “with life anew.”

The theme of bringing the dead to life is repeated in the gospel lesson when Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.  He had been dead for several days, and in the tomb for four days, when Jesus came to his tomb, wept, and told him to come out of the tomb. Many of these Jewish eyewitnesses, who saw Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead believed and followed him, but others who were jealous of the attention he received plotted to kill him.

God gives us a choice, to ask him for forgiveness and be revived to a new joyful life with him, or to reject his offer and continue to live with our deadened souls.  What will you choose?  Will you ask God to perform CPR on you so that you may live in joy and peace?  Or will you choose to continue through your earthly life in a living grave?  

Choose life.  If you have acknowledged that the God of the universe loves you and lives within you, someone performed CPR on you to bring you to Christ.  Will you work with the Holy Spirit to help revive another lifeless soul to life?  God may be asking you to perform CPR on another to save a life.  Be ready. 

Prayer:  Gracious God, we are acutely aware that despite all of the advances made in technology, science, and medicine, we are still susceptible to plagues, terrorist attacks, earthquakes and other natural disasters that can kill thousands of people. We thank and praise you giving us the tools to contain COVID-19, and for all medical personnel and first responders who come to our aid when needed. Help us use all of the communication tools at our disposal to work with your Spirit to awaken those around us to the love and forgiveness you offer to all who come to you with an open heart.  In your precious Name we pray. Amen. 

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1] CPR is an abbreviation for cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

[2] The Scripture texts for the Fifth Sunday in Lent are Psalm 130; Ezekiel 37:1-14; Romans 8:1-11; John 11:1-45.  A similar version of this blog was published on this site on March 27, 2017.

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