Homily: Breath on Me

   The Sunday following Easter can be a spiritual high. We can breathe the energy of creation’s praises and feel Jesus giving us spiritual CPR for the journey. Only ‘Heaven or hell Christians’ believe that Easter solves everything. Christ is risen! Shout Hallelujah! Yes! But, we still have to confront global climate change, the gap of the wealthy and poor, child slavery and sex trafficking, unjust economics, political gridlock, and our own personal imperfections and mortality.   We need to breathe in the Easter spirit – we have been waiting to exhale too long and now need spiritual refreshment as Jesus breathes in and on us. Easter opens the doors, unblocks the tombs, and lets fresh air fill our spirits.

   The heart of today’s passage is the interplay of Jesus’ encounter with the disciples on Easter night and later with the missing disciple Thomas. Jesus’ resurrection message is peace and empowerment. He calms their anxious hearts with his loving presence. They are not alone, death has not triumphed, and new life bursts forth in surprising and unexpected ways. And, then, Jesus breathes on them…and they are spiritually revived. God still breathes through us, giving us life, insight, and energy. We are part of a profound divine energy that empowers us to make wise decisions and then act courageously upon them. In Jesus’ breath, we find the origins of a Pentecostal progressivism – a lively, open-spirited theology, manifested in open and affirming hospitality, and open-hearted and lively spirituality and worship.

   Today, with our Pentecostal brothers and sisters, we more moderate believers can affirm God’s living breath as we sing the gospel tune: “Let it breathe on me, Let it breathe on me Let the breath of God, Now breathe on me.”

   Thomas is often maligned as the doubter and shown even in this scripture as inferior in faith to the other disciples. In fact, Thomas is the first Born-Again Christian, the first Pentecostal believer. He is away on Easter night. He misses the resurrection. He’s left out of the celebration. But, he stays close by, trying to figure out what happened and why everything has changed among Jesus’ female and male followers. But, when Thomas encounters the Risen Christ, he too can exhale and breathe in life everlasting and love unlimited.

   Thomas’ encounter with Jesus joins right and left brain, judging and perceiving, sensing and gaining true insight. Frankly, we need more Thomases, people who don’t settle for half-baked doctrines, knee jerk theological positions, dangerous doctrines, and unexamined spiritual claims. There are too many Christian spokespersons, peddling best sellers, filled with half-baked, inch deep, and superficial theological opinions. We need to test the spirits to discover the Spirit.

   Today is a day for breathing good news! Ideally, every sermon should contain a vision but also a spiritual practice, breath prayer. And so I invite you to explore quiet prayer, breathing inward and outward, centering yourself on the God who dwells, not up There, or out There, but in Here. Let everything that breathes praise God!

   God is as near as our breathing. Wake up, breathe! Or, as Welsh poet Waldo Williams writes, ‘You are our breath. You are the flight of our longing to the depths of heaven.’

   Every breath reveals God’s Life in you. God’s presence in you is world-changing but it is different in you, different from anyone else.. Jesus is more alive than any book or doctrine, and Jesus’ impact in you can never be fully comprehended by anyone else.. God gives us breathing space to imagine Jesus’ ministry in new and creative ways, and to accept a variety of interpretations and practices as faithful to Jesus’ — and our — mission of healing the world. And we can truly cry: “My Lord and My God!”  (Bruce Epperly)

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