Dear St. John’s Friends,
Let me begin this week’s reflection by saying how excited Gay and I are about the new Rector of St. John’s Church! Jimmy and Cindy Bartz, along with Jas and Jade are perfect for this parish and community. The Search Committee and Vestry have discerned wisely.
And, I am now able to tell you that Gay and I will be moving to Denver at the end of June where I will serve as Interim Dean of St. John’s Cathedral. This will be a very different challenge and blessings you have given to us during our time with you will make a difference in our life there.
Now, let’s reflect on Pentecost.
Approximately 16 times every minute we human beings do something we all take for granted…we breathe. About 16 times every minute we inhale and exhale air, and we usually do it without a second thought. The process started at birth and will continue until we draw our last breath. Breathing was a deep mystery to the ancients, before we learned about the biological process. And, like all mysteries, breathing has been an integral part of the religions of the Tibetans, the Indians, the Chinese, and the Japanese. It was a feature of the cults of the Egyptians. We see it also in the Bible. The ancient Hebrews used the word wind, the breath, in context with soul. In the Biblical account of creation, we read that, “God breathed into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life and he became a living soul.” In the NT, the Greek word pneuma is used in speaking of the human soul. Our word, spirit, is from the Latin verb spirare, which means “to breathe.”
Jesus gave a breath of fresh air to his disciples. On the first Easter Day, he came into the place where the disciples were, breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” It was this same breath of fresh air the disciples received on the Day of Pentecost, 50 days after the resurrection. This Holy Breath in turn came out of the apostles that day as they witnessed and preached so that those around them heard in their own languages. On this Day of Pentecost, I’m here to tell you we dare not take this spiritual breathing for granted because the quality of our breathing affects the quality of our lives – our health, moods, energy, creativity. Likewise, our spiritual lives are dependent upon the breath of God supplying the invisible virtues that are necessary for spiritual health, moods, energy, and creativity.
If we are constantly putting ourselves in a place where we can breathe in the Breath of God together, it will not be long before we will be breathing out the Breath of God in the world around us. Magnifying Christ and proclaiming the good news of what God has done, offering hope in the face of despair, peace in the face of hatred, comfort in the face of pain and suffering, and the eternal God in the face of the uncertainties of human existence. Elizabeth Barrett Browning once wrote, “He lives most life whoever breathes most air.” Jesus breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Let us make a new resolve to join with one another in the greatest deep breathing exercise ever known – to receive the Holy Spirit, let our lives bear the Spirit’s fruit, dream dreams, see visions, and experience the mighty works of God first-hand by becoming one of them!
I’ll see you in Church!
P.S. Here is one of my favorite hymns about the Holy Spirit, "Come Down, O Love Divine," sung by the Choir of King's College, Cambridge. I've included the text beneath the video.
Come down, O love divine,
seek thou this soul of mine,
and visit it with thine own ardor glowing;
O Comforter, draw near,
within my heart appear,
and kindle it, thy holy flame bestowing.
O let it freely burn,
till earthly passions turn
to dust and ashes in its heat consuming;
and let thy glorious light
shine ever on my sight,
and clothe me round, the while my path illuming.
Let holy charity
mine outward vesture be,
and lowliness become mine inner clothing;
true lowliness of heart,
which takes the humbler part,
and o'er its own shortcomings weeps with loathing.
And so the yearning strong,
with which the soul will long,
shall far outpass the power of human telling;
for none can guess its grace,
till Love create a place
wherein the Holy Spirit makes a dwelling.
Words: Bianco da Siena, d. 1434; translation by Richard Frederick Littledale, Jr., 1867
Music: Down Ampney, North Petherton