[Our guest preacher was Natalie Marionneaux, our seminarian from Drew University, who is currently discerning ordination to the diaconate in the United Methodist Church. Natalie is from Baton Rouge, LA] April 23, 2016: Jesus breathed on them. BREATH gives us life, God gives us existence.
You may or may not remember last week on Maundy Thursday, I talked about the beginning of John’s Gospel:
In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God… we were talking about Jesus, remember?… being with God from the beginning when God created the world…
So now, I want to reference the beginning again –
Creation in Genesis
Genesis 1: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
Did you get that – the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. (The Trinity-3 in 1–all there from the very beginning.)
Genesis 2: Then the Lord God formed Adam from the dust of the ground and ‘breathed’ into his nostrils the ‘breath of life’ – the Ruach, (Hebrew for breath/spirit) and the man became a living being (a living spirit).
Guess what? I want you to know that Easter Sunday’s resurrection story is hardly the end. It is the beginning, and we experience resurrection all the time in our daily lives.
The disciples are bereft over the death of Jesus and perhaps over their own failure to stand with him to the end, but now this woman, Mary Magdalene, is making the most incredible claim about the risen Lord. All might be made right after all; all might be healed. Could it be? Could it actually be so? Locking the doors and waiting. Not like that.
Gathered in fear and confusion, they lock the doors, and wait. And suddenly, he is there, in their midst. What are his first words? “Peace be with you.” No fear. No scolding. No turmoil. No doubt. Only peace. Those simple words Christians say to one another during worship services, perhaps without thinking: “Peace be with you.” And then–since, in the Gospel of John, this is Pentecost–Jesus breathes the gift of the Holy Spirit into the disciples.
It is their commissioning to go out and be peace and love and justice for the world. Just as God sent Jesus, so Jesus sends them into the world that God loves so well.
When Jesus visits the disciples, they experience another kind of resurrection. Jesus appears out of nowhere, a result of his resurrection body – go beyond the limitations of normal human bodies. Jesus encounters his disciples as embodied and still bearing his wounds. He breathes on his disciples, giving them a form of spiritual resuscitation, enlivening them by his power and energizing them for mission.
In this interdependent universe, could we breath Jesus’ Easter night breath?
Can we today inhale divine energy and wisdom with our breath? YES. We can. We are.
Let me tell you something – the fullness of Christ cannot be contained by any text, including our Bible. We cannot think small about Jesus; there is more to Jesus than we imagine or contain in the written word.
BECAUSE Resurrection has been expanding every day since that original Easter Sunday. John’s gospel invites us to be part of the resurrection story and become living witnesses to new life in our world. We are writing the resurrection story in our time by our faithful opening to divine resuscitation and willingness to go forth with good news of life-transforming love.
The Spirit and the Resurrection are gifts given to us so that we can share them with the world. It is not meant to be a personal private thing but a Spirit-filled community to be his gift to the world.
Poor Thomas being named the doubter, missing out on the mystical experience of seeing the risen Lord. How would you have reacted had you been Thomas? But we are Thomas and every generation sense the apostles are Thomas.
Just so you know: seeing is not superior to hearing. Mary Magdalene, Peter and other disciples, got to “see and believe.” But every generation since then has had to “hear and believe.” Including us, right here, today. It’s like a story in a bottle, sent out to us by our ancestors in faith long ago, so that we can share in their experience of Jesus, “if not in the flesh, then in the word.”
Think of it this way: with each breath we take, Jesus is alive in this world. The Holy Spirit fills our lungs every second of every moment of our lives. Is that not miraculous? The world, you and me are resurrected, recreated moment to moment, breath to breath – that is God, that is life, that is us.
In moments and ways, both big and small, all point to the One who gives us life and promises life eternal, the One who raised Jesus up on the third day.
Those disciples cowered in fear behind locked doors when good news was waiting for them outside. Good news came to them anyway, even in their fear. Even though they sought safety, the truth found them. And like Mother Diana said on Good Friday, Truth was crucified that day. But it rose on Easter Sunday and it still lives. And it is our Good News now.
People hate the truth. But thankfully, the truth doesn’t mind. It’s was truth that put Jesus on a cross. But it is also the truth that Christ is risen and every breath we take is a testimony to that – that God lives, that God is alive. God lives.
Every breath we take makes us Christ bearers, witnesses to the love of God in Jesus.
With each breath we take, we have been commissioned and sent into this broken world to be Christ bearers of love – holy flames of light in the midst of darkness, in the midst of suffering and injustice. We stand, we see, we believe and we bear witness to the God that created the universe, to the Word who is Jesus and to the Spirit that moves across the waters and in us.
In our day-to-day lives, we put our hands on the wounds of this broken world, on our broken selves and our broken neighbor, but we are also witnesses to a hope that sustains us in knowing that we too will rise again.
We experience divine resuscitations, breathing with Jesus, restoring spirits and communities in ways we never would have expected.
New birth, new life, new hope are ours as a result of our faith in God. We rejoice in what God has in store for us. Our present struggle does not exhaust nor will it deter God’s vision for our lives. This future comes moment by moment, and over the long-haul as companions in God unfolding world.
Are we afraid and hiding out, all locked up? God comes to us in the midst of our fear and says, “Peace be with you.” Whatever doubts churn in our minds, whatever sins trouble our conscience, whatever pain and worry bind us up, whatever walls we have put up or doors we have securely locked, God comes to us and says, “Peace be with you.”
Whatever hunger and need we feel deep in our souls, God calls us to the table, feeds us well, and sends us out into the world to be love and truth, justice and peace, light and hope for the world.
The Lord’s promise of resurrection is in every breath we take.
You are that living and breathing promise.
Breath it in. Give it away. Live it out.
As God sent Jesus, so God sends us.
For the audio from the 10:30am service, click here:
- The Adventurous Lectionary – The Second Sunday of Easter – April 23, 2017 Bruce Epperly
- The Rev. Kathryn M. Matthews retired in July after serving as dean of Amistad Chapel at the national offices of the United Church of Christ in Cleveland, Ohio. (http://www.ucc.org/worship_samuel_sermon_seeds_april_23_2017)