A Bible Study for Lent 2020 – Tuesdays from 7:00-8:30 p.m.

WEEK 5: Who’d Have Thunk It?

March 31, 2020

To join the Bible study online, either click on the following link or copy and paste it into your online browser:

You can also join by phone by calling: 1-669-900-9128. When prompted, enter the following passcode: 718 454 4317 #


Introduction to Lenten Practices:

So what is a Lenten practice? A Lenten practice is anything we do during Lent that opens us up and brings us closer into God’s presence. A Lenten practice is like going to the gym for your faith. It may be awkward at first and difficult, but afterwards you feel good; and after doing it for a while, you notice changes and strengths, and it becomes so much a part of your routine that you can’t imagine life without it. Some common Lenten practices include prayer, fasting, generosity, confession, Bible study, hospitality, working for justice, and meditation.

The Lenten discipleship practices that we will explore are each tied to the Christian values of generosity, thankfulness, and stewardship. Each week, not only will we learn about a specific Lenten practice, but you will be given ideas about different ways that you can actually do it. Try it; play with it; see how it opens you up to God. By taking this opportunity and trying each practice, you will be making space in your life to actively live out the Way of Jesus.

Opening Litany:

Each step on Christ’s Way, each step of our lives, takes us to new places, new times.

Some of those are times to rest—like Jesus did, when he stopped to pray.

Some are times to be challenged—as Jesus was, by the woman from Syrophoenecia.

Some are times to celebrate, even in the face of grief—as Jesus did, when he shared his last meal with his friends.

Whether our bones are dry, our spirits weary, or we are filled with energy, ready to go…

This is our time to be together—

Listening for the Spirit…

Loving one another…

Worshiping God!

Worshiping God!


Witness of the Stewards:

Last week, we were asked to do an Appreciation Inventory. We were asked to walk around our homes either physically or in our minds eye and to feel appreciation for all that we had been given. We were invited in this way to find contentment in our exercise of gratitude. How has this spiritual practice worked or not worked for you to open you up to God?

For the stories we have shared, for the lives we have lived, for the love you have given—

Thank you, God!

May the stories of our friends remind us all that we are on the Way together!

Thank you, God! Amen!

Reading Scripture – Ezekiel 37:1-14

(The words of Ezekiel are in italics. The words spoken in God’s voice are in bold.)

I felt as if God’s hand was upon me. By the spirit I was carried to the middle of a valley—a dry valley, covered in…bones. God led me around that valley, around those bones. There were so many. Old. Brittle. Dry.

And then I heard God’s voice!

You. I ask you, can these bones live?

God, Most High, you know.

Then be a prophet, Ezekiel. Speak to these bones. Say to them:

(God’s Voice whispers in Ezekiel’s ear.)

So I did as God commanded me. I said to the dry bones, “O dry bones, hear God’s word! God says to you, ‘I will breathe into you, and you will live.’ God says to you, ‘I will put muscle and flesh on you. I will cover you with skin. I will fill you with breath. You will live, and you will know that I Am God!’”

And when I finished speaking, there was a terrifying sound. Bones rattling against stone. Bones rattling against other bones. Bones coming together, each finding its proper place. And, as I watched, muscles grew, and flesh grew, and skin covered the new bodies. But they were lifeless. There was no breath in them.

Speak to the breath, prophet. Say to the breath:

(God’s Voice whispers to Ezekiel.)

So I prophesied to the breath, I spoke the words given to me, like I had never spoken before, “God says to you, ‘Breath: come from the four winds, breathe into these who were killed, so that they may live!’”

The breath came into them. They lived. They stood on their feet. Thousands upon thousands of them!

Human? Listen to me. These bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, “Our bones are dried up, our hope is lost, we are cut off completely.” So prophesy to them. Tell them that God, their God, is going to open their graves, and bring them back to life, and back to the land of Israel, O, my people! In that moment, you will know that I am God! I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live. I will take you home, and you will know that I have spoken. I have acted.

So I did exactly that. And so did God.

This is the witness of God’s people.

Thanks be to God!


  • In lesson 1 of our Lenten Bible study, we explored the practice of saying ‘No!’ to many things based on the values decisions we have made to say ‘Yes!’ to other things. The spiritual practice of consciously basing our Nos and our Yeses on our fundamental values is THE Stewardship and Discipleship question above all others.
  • In lesson 2, we looked into being a blessing. We have been blessed in order to be a blessing for others. We looked deeper into THE Stewardship and Discipleship question. As people of faith, it’s up to us to decide how we are going to use everything God has given us.
  • In lesson 3, we explored what it means to be stewards of our time… especially as we use our time to worship and follow in the way of God.
  • Last week, in lesson 4, we contemplated the beginning of Psalm 23 and the Lenten practice of contentment. We compiled an Appreciation Inventory.
  • Now, it’s less than a week before Palm Sunday, and Jesus enters Jerusalem for the last time. It’s less than a week before Holy Week and our remembrance of the last days of Jesus before he is handed over to the authorities and crucified. It’s less than a week before the powers of empire and greed seem to win again. It’s less than a week before the beginning of end.
  • We stand with Ezekiel and stare into a valley filled with dead, dried human bones. What a sight! There is nothing but bones as far as we can see: leg bones, ankle bones, arm bones, shoulder bones… And none are connected. The empty eye sockets of bleached human skulls stare into oblivion. Death reigns in this place of endings, of sorrow, of grief. This is a valley of futility and hopelessness.
  • And those feelings are feelings that many people know all too well: depression, grief, hopelessness. There are times when we ask ourselves, “Why bother?”
  • They don’t know it yet, but some of Jesus’ close followers will know this experience all too soon as they watch their messiah, their teacher, their friend, their hope hang on a cross and die. We are left to ask what it is that God might do in this impossible situation. This is a really good question. It may, in fact, be the only question that matters. What might God do in this impossible situation?
  • Think of a time in your life when you were confronted by similarly impossible situation. How did it make you feel? What kind of an impact did it have on your relationship with God? What did God do in that impossible situation?
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  • Jesus’ disciples watch in disbelief as he is arrested and everything they had been hoping for begins to unravel around them. They find themselves powerless to do anything to redeem the situation so they fall into despair and run away to hide.
  • Seeing his battered and abused body coming out of the Roman garrison and being led to the hill of the skull… watching as Roman soldiers strip him and nail him to the wooden cross; despairing as he dies a public and shameful death, most of his followers scatter and cower. But there are a few of his followers – mostly women – who have it enough together enough to take possession of his body and bury it quickly as best they can. Think about how you might have responded if you had been in the place of Jesus’ friends during these horrifying events.
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  •  So, what might God do in this impossible situation? Three days later, the answer is an empty tomb. The answer is resurrection. There is vindication, life, hope! God’s beloved people have a future after all.
  • This new and unexpected reality leaves us asking the question differently. Instead of asking it as a question of abandon and surrender (What might God do in this impossible situation that is beyond even God’s help?), it becomes a question of faith and hope (What might God who is greater than our deepest need do in this impossible situation? Hmmm… I wonder…. Let’s find out!)
  • Faith and hope invite us to watch and expect that God is at work to do something new, for God is surely in this place and time. God is surely about God’s mission in our lives and through our lives. We ask, what God might do in this impossible situation, because we believe and trust that God will do something. It may not be what we expect, but God will do something that brings new life… something that transforms and heals and renews… something unexpected and unforeseen.
  • When we ask the question “What might God do in this impossible situation?” we are activating our faith. We are opening ourselves to God. We are reaching out and grabbing on to hope, even creating hope for ourselves and those around us. Because as long as we can think of one answer, there is hope.
  • So this is our last Lenten practice, the practice of hope. Sometimes it’s tricky; sometimes it’s difficult, but always it’s worth it.
  • So, let us spend a few moments asking that question about our own current situation. Can we imagine even one answer that will let us believe that God is doing something new and life-giving in the face of COVID-19… that God is reassembling our dried and scattered bones, putting flesh upon, and breathing life into them? What gives us hope even now?
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Prayers of the People and the Prayer that Jesus Taught Us

Loving God, we thank you for the journey of our lives, with its ups and downs, with its questions and challenges, and with its moments of joy. We thank you for the beauty around us, for the hills and the trees, for the water and the weather, for all that reminds us of life, and life made new.

Today, we are especially thankful for…

Please share aloud your thanksgivings for the community and/or for current events.

In the quiet of this place, we offer you our celebrations.

A time for silent prayer.

Even as we say “Thank you,” we realize that there is brokenness in us and in our world. We realize that we have not always lived the love to which you call us. Sometimes by action or by inaction, sometimes by just going along with things, we have broken faith with each other and with you. We offer to you our brokenness, loving God, not only asking that we would be forgiven, but that, by your love, we would be made whole, living in new ways, living out Christ’s love. Receive the prayers of our hearts.

A time for silent prayer.

Knowing that we are forgiven, knowing that we are loved, we turn to the world to love it into wholeness. We pray for people living in desert times in their lives, people who are facing famine – of body or spirit, people who are tempted to turn away from what is right and just, people who are overwhelmed by impossible situations. And we pray for this world and for everything within it – all creatures and all places that are facing destruction.

We remember especially…

Name concerns about the congregation or about current events.

We pray for healing and wholeness, and we ask that we would be part of the solution, loving God, turning our prayer from words to actions. Bless our journey, we pray, sharing the words that Jesus gave all his disciples:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.

Announcements and Assignments:

  • Next week is Holy Week. So I invite you to take part in our online worship services for Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter. In preparation, take time to read through the story of Holy Week in the gospel of Matthew – Matthew 21-28.
  • As you go through the week ahead, ask what God will do in the impossible (or even semi-impossible situations) that come your way. Turn the question into a prayer: “O God, what will you do in this impossible situation? Or, if you feel especially creative, write some imaginative spiritual fiction about how God does respond in these impossible circumstances of life.
  • Are there any other announcements?

Benediction and Commissioning

Each step on Christ’s Way, each step of our lives, takes us to new places, new times.

Some of those are times to rest—like Jesus did, when he stopped to pray.

Some are times to be challenged—as Jesus was, by the woman from Syrophoenecia.

Some are times to celebrate, even in the face of grief—as Jesus did, when he shared his last meal with his friends.

With bones given flesh, and lives renewed, let us go into God’s world—

 Listening for the Spirit…

Loving one another…

Worshiping God!

And the peace of Christ that passes all understanding rest and remain with us, now and forever.


Based on “Called to Be the Church: Congregational Giving Program,” The United Church of Canada