When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit…”
I speak with you in the Name of God, the speaker, the word, and the breath. Amen!
Everybody take a breath!
Not bad, but you can do better. Work with me a little bit. [Do breathing exercise.]
Thank you for participating.
I imagine by this point you might be wondering what has gotten into this preacher’s head? Why in the world is he trying to teach us how to breathe? I subjected you to this practice because breathing is a uniting force. More than anything other action on the planet, we all breathe. It doesn’t matter if you are black or white, Eurasian or Afro-Cuban, a law abiding tax payer or a flaming liberal, a school teacher or a lawyer, a barber, a senator, or a saint. We all breathe. I spent many a year in wind bands and symphonies and as any good music director will tell you, an ensemble that breathes together plays together. When we breathe together we are united together.
Breathing is also a uniting force on a personal level. The Buddhist Monk, peace activist, and dabbler in Christian Spirituality Tich Naht Hahn writes of breathing,
“Breathing in and out is very important, and it is enjoyable. Our breathing is the link between our body and our mind. Sometimes our mind is thinking of one thing and our body is doing another, and mind and body are not unified. By concentrating on our breathing, “In” and “Out,” we bring body and mind back together, and become whole again.”
I don’t know about you, but my mind and body are often doing two different things. Anything I can do to focus myself would indeed be enjoyable. Furthermore, I am elated to find out that something as inexpensive as breathing is helpful. Now, you might be thinking at this moment, this eastern philosophy, Buddhist mumbo jumbo is interesting and all preacher, but we’re Christians; so what do this have to do with Jesus?
Well, here it is. Breathing is a uniting force both corporately and individually because it re-members our creation. See, in our Gospel today Jesus breathes on the disciples. We should recall at this point that no matter what the disciples were they were Jewish. They grew up hearing and memorizing their ancient stories, and when Jesus breathed on them the Holy Spirit they could not help but think of Genesis, of the creation. They could not help but think of that great story where God forms Ah-dam, the first human, out of the dirt of the earth and breathes on him, breathes into him the breath of life.
Jesus did not give that breath to the disciples thoughtlessly. Jesus did not give that breath unintentionally. Jesus breathed into them in order for them to be the image of God to this creation. See, they had fallen from that image. The powers that be, the adversary, Satan, the devil, society, the world, fear, shame—whatever word you want to use to describe the fallen forces of this creation—had formed the disciples away from God’s intention. These disciples who had walked, talked, eaten, and rejoiced with Christ for years deserted him on the night he was arrested. These disciples had been sent out to heal and preach the God News of the Kingdom of God in the Name of Jesus, but that night Peter would not even admit he knew this man. The disciples of Jesus are dismembered from what they were created to be, separated from the image of God in Christ Jesus.
The breath of God, the Holy Spirit given through Christ re-members them, unites them with who they were created to be. These fearful, cowardly, sinful disciples are changed by the breath of God. They go from cowering in a locked room to traveling the known word sharing the gospel. They go from refusing to admit they even know this man to preaching Jesus Christ Crucified and risen from the dead in the temple. They go from unable to deal with their own grief and disillusionment, to healing the sick and raising the dead. They go from sinners to saints and their transformation happens in a breath.
God does not give us that breath thoughtlessly. God does not give us that breath unintentionally. God breathes into us in order for us to be the image of God to this creation. We have fallen from that image. But today we stand ready for transformation. Today we stand ready to breathe in Christ who will change us. Today we stand ready to breathe out Christ who will change the world.
we receive Christ.
we share Christ.