Last week I visited a field of bones. Not literal bones, but artistically created bones. Have you heard of the One Million Bones project? I encourage you to click on the link and learn more about this important project. The goal of this massive artistic endeavor, which culminated in the display of one million handcrafted bones on the National Mall in June, 2013, is to create “a powerful visible petition against ongoing genocide.”
I was fortunate to be able to visit this art project’s new, permanent home outside Silver City, NM, last week. My visit got me thinking about Easter and death and resurrection and despair and hope. Here are some of my thoughts.
The Easter/Paschal Vigil service is one of the earliest and holiest of liturgical observances in the Christian church. One of the readings in the Liturgy of the Word portion of that service, where we “hear the record of God’s saving deeds in history,” is Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones. In that vision, God’s people say that their bones are dried up and their hope is lost. God responds by telling Ezekiel, “I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and…I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act.”
Sometimes it is difficult, in our individualistic culture, to look beyond our personal losses toward a broader cultural redemption. However, when it comes to the issue of genocide, this is what we must do. Individual bones may not be resurrected, but a people can be. It is up to us—as individuals and collectively—to speak up for those who are, individually and collectively, being persecuted and killed. It is up to us to take a stand, do our part.
The partners of Bear Mountain Arts saw an opportunity to do just that when they heard a lecture about One Million Bones last fall. They offered some land at Bear Mountain Lodge to be the final resting place of the remaining 300,000 bones. This coming Saturday, April 14, there will be a formal dedication day (if you live in the area, please consider attending!)—although the installation itself is still a work in progress. My hiking buddy and I took bones up to the site last week and unloaded some boxes which had already been transported. Then we wandered the area, taking in the beautiful and haunting display. (I will post more pictures on Instagram over the coming week.)
God does resurrect us—not individually, as Jesus was, but culturally, as a people. We are also called to be partners in this work. Where there is despair, we are called to bring hope. Where atrocities have been hidden, we are called to bring them into the light, and work to prevent their recurrence. We all have a part to play in this resurrection of the bones of others, around the world and in our own back yards.
One of the ways I’ve been called is to accompany two women here in Tucson, who are both refugees, unable to return to their homelands and learning to make their way in a new and strange land. Another way I’ve been called is to walk among those bones on Bear Mountain and spread the word that genocide is still taking place around the world. We still need to remember, and work for, the resurrected miracle of Ezekiel’s dry bones.
What is yours to do in this endeavor, in this season of both dry bones and resurrection?