In this week’s lectionary reading (Revised Common Lectionary) God finds Ezekiel in a valley of bones, a very dry valley of bones. God asks Ezekiel if he thinks these bones can live. Ezekiel’s answer is “God, you know." God tells Ezekiel to prophecy over the bones, to say to the bones, 'O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord'. "Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you and will cause flesh to come upon you and cover you with skin and put breath in you and you shall live,” (Ez 37:5).
In the Gospel story of this week’s lectionary reading, we encounter Jesus who hears of Lazarus’s failing health yet waits a few more days before heading to Bethany to see about Lazarus. Upon his arrival, his sisters inform Jesus that Lazarus has died.
In our world today, such stories of death, destruction and sorrow are not too far away. It’s not always a physically violent death or destruction; sometimes it’s the slow death of one’s soul, robbed of dignity in all kinds of ways. When we think about the way our society treats low-wage workers, there is something that seems to suck life out of them, something about the way their lives have been shaped by corporate greed and capitalism. Work is to be life-giving. I heard a worker lamenting on the radio recently saying, “We are supposed to work for a living; to support our families and a lifestyle, but now it feels more like we live to work." This is the reality of so many low-wage workers who have to work many hours to make ends meet under all kinds of stressful working environments.
The end of both the Ezekiel’s encounter with the dry bones and Jesus's visit to Bethany are journeys from death to life. Ezekiel prophesies and the bones come to life, and Jesus calls Lazarus out of his tomb.
It is easy to remain in a place of "death" and "destruction," but with faith we are able to speak life into situations where death seems to be the only prevailing sentiment. Christians are called to speak to this culture that is out to get every last drop of sweat and blood from workers, to stop such injustice, and once again remind us all that work must be life giving.
We, as people of faith, continue the struggle for justice and dignity for all because we know, at the end of the day, it is possible to seek life even if all we see if death and destruction around us. Together, let us start by demanding an adequate wage that restores dignity in work. Join us by signing the faith-based letter calling for a raise in the minimum wage.
This year, each Friday during Lent, IWJ's Organizing Director, Sung Yeon Choi-Morrow, will share reflections based on her pastoral education and experiences in the field helping to move the work for worker justice and a fair economy.