My grandfather was a preacher at Beaverdam, a black Baptist church in Alabama. Periodically, when his ministry would take him from the pulpit, the associate pastor would step in. The joke around my family was that every time the associate preached, he chose the same text: Ezekiel and the valley of dry bones (Ezek. 37:1–14). In the passage, the Spirit takes the prophet to a place where the remains of the dead are strewn about. God commands Ezekiel to preach to them, and when he does, the bones are re-enfleshed and resurrected.

According to my mother, the associate pastor preached on this passage for seven consecutive years. Every time he started in on “them bones,” she and I would give each other a knowing smile and chuckle. Looking back on it now, however, his decision to revisit this story over and over doesn’t seem unreflective or humorous. It seems wise. Maybe Ezekiel’s vision is the answer to the most important question we can ask, especially in this present moment. What will God do in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles? What will he do in a world surrounded by death?

By now, the entire globe is convulsing with death, illness, and economic collapse. COVID-19 has taken the lives of too many, and a certain dread lingers as we wait for the virus to make its way to our communities. There’s not much for us to do but take the advice of professionals, pray for and give to those in need, refresh our news and social media feeds, and wait for test results along with our friends, family members, and neighbors.

The somber season of Lent seems perfectly suited to the moment. This is a time of national lament. But as we turn the corner toward Easter, dare we say more? Dare we speak of joy ...

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