Such a lovely room

Such a lovely room

Sunday, May 28, 2023

YEAR A 2023 feast of pentecost

Pentecost, 2023
Acts 2:1-21
1 Corinthians 12:3b-13
John 20:19-23
Psalm 104:25-35, 37

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

After what I’ve been through the past week, that sentence hits differently for me this year.  Two weeks ago, I gathered together with all the Clergy of the Diocese for our annual Clergy Conference.  We talked, and sang, and laughed, and ate together, and . . . breathed on each other.  And—to no one’s surprise in hindsight—almost half of us got infected with the covid 19 virus.  My three-year streak was up; it had finally happened to me.

However, since every single one of us was fully vaccinated, symptoms were universally mild, thank God and science.  And, prior to vaccines, we certainly would have had many tragic outcomes . . . that I don’t even want to think about.  Covid 19 is still a deadly virus.  And it is passed through through the air . . . by breathing on one another.

When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

And how disruptive this all was for me and the people in my life.  We had to cancel Vestry, and our Wednesday service, and we eventually canceled choir practice.  At home, I  had to sleep in a different bed, and spend my days wearing a mask in the sunroom.  Cristin and Leonard ate at the dining room table while I sat on the front porch by myself.  I couldn’t do any shopping; I couldn’t come to the office.  Even though my symptoms were mild, everything changed because someone had breathed on me.  Somebody breathed on me, and it turned the world upside down.

When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

Now, of course, the analogy breaks down quickly.  The Holy Spirit doesn’t kill people when Jesus breathes on them.  But the coming of the Holy Spirit changes everything for the disciples, and everyone they know, and everyone who will come after them.  Nothing is the same after the Day of Pentecost.  The disciples themselves go from hiding in fear to boldly proclaiming the gospel in the streets.  From being afraid of their own shadows, to being afraid of no one and no thing.  The transformation is dramatic, and it turns the world upside down.

So, did the breath of Jesus literally contain the Holy Spirit?  I don’t know, but it sure sounds weird to me.  And in a sense, it doesn’t really matter, because the metaphor is so great!  And it just grows as you think about the importance of breath.  In many cultures, a child is not considered to be born until she takes her first breath.  And—as I’ve told you before—there’s a connection in the Hebrew language between breath, and spirit, and wind.  In the very beginning, in the second verse of Genesis, the Spirit of God, the breath of God moves over the face of the earth.

And how does God create everything?  By speaking it into existence.  God says, “Let their be,” and there is.  The breath of God creates everything that is.  And at the beginning of John’s gospel, we get “In the beginning was the word,” the logos, the spoken word.  God speaks, and Jesus is the spoken word.  And then Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit onto the disciples, and they begin to proclaim the gospel through their own spoken words.  And it all happens through breath.  The breathing in and breathing out.

The Holy Spirit has been breathed into your life, and that is why you are here today.  If you think about it, you probably didn’t decide your way into Christianity.  I sure as heck did not decide to become a priest!  At some point in your life, or more likely at many points in your life, God’s Holy Spirit breathed into your life, and it changes everything.  Because, here you are today, brought back into this assembly, maybe not even knowing why you are here.

As I said a few minutes ago, “Even though my symptoms were mild, everything changed because someone had breathed on me.”  How much that describes our life in Christ’s Church!  Even though the symptoms may seem mild, everything changes when the Holy Spirit is breathed onto us.

And God’s Spirit keeps breathing into our community and into the world.  Every time we get a glimpse of things being how they were meant to be, the Spirit is at work.  When the hungry are fed with good things, when the captives are set free, when justice rolls down like a mighty river, when the lowly are lifted up, and the mighty are cast down, when the lion and the lamb lie down together, when swords are beaten into plowshares . . . when the world is turned upside down, it’s because the Holy Spirit is on the move.  Breathing life into our hearts, and bringing life out of death.

When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

Breathe on us today, Lord Jesus, and hasten the coming of your kingdom.


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